The biggest problem facing the vape industry and vape users is the fact that the long-term potential health effects of vaping are unknown. Although testing is being done on the health effects of vaping, the practice is simply too new to draw anything conclusive. It may be decades (or more) before any potential health risks come to light.
That being said, there are some things that we do know about vaping and how it compares to traditional cigarette smoking. First, and foremost are the ingredients in vapes versus the ingredients in cigarettes. As we’ve already discussed, pretty much all vape juice is made up of three basic ingredients: vegetable glycerin (or “glycerol”), propylene glycol and flavoring. E-liquid may also contain nicotine, if the user wants a nicotine version. That’s it.
Cigarettes, on the other hand, have a long and somewhat terrifying list of ingredients. That list includes:
Acetone: Used in the cosmetics/beauty industry, primarily in nail polish remover.
Ammonia: A corrosive gas that is compressed into liquid and used in household cleaners and refrigerant. When it makes contact with liquids in the body (through the eyes, nose or throat) it is immediately converted into ammonium hydroxide. In this form, it causes tissue necrosis (death of the cells that make up body tissues). The damage begins a vicious cycle that is cumulative.
Arsenic: A blood thinner, used to manufacture rat poison.
Benzene: A solvent and a major ingredient in the making of other chemicals, including plastic, rubber, dyes and pesticides.
Butane: One of a group of liquified petroleum gases (LPG’s). It is used as fuel for combustion as well as for heating. Butane is what makes the flame on a lighter.
Cadmium: A naturally-occurring metal that is toxic to humans. It is one of the ingredients in battery acid.
Carbon monoxide: A gas that is poisonous to humans. It is the same kind of gas that your car’s exhaust system releases.
Formaldehyde: A chemical compound that is considered to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). It is used as a preservative for scientific specimens and for cadavers (it is the main ingredient in embalming fluid). It is also used as an ingredient in a surprising number of common and household items, including certain glues and wood products.
Hexamine: An organic compound formed by combining ammonia and formaldehyde. It is commonly used in barbecue lighter fluid.
Lead: A poisonous metal with many industrial applications. However, lead has long been banned in most consumer products in the US because of its toxicity.
Naphthalene: A chemical made from crude oil and also a by-product of burning. It is used to make mothballs, which are solid objects that, when making contact with air, turn into toxic gas.
Methanol: A simple alcohol that is highly toxic to humans. During the time of prohibition, people sometimes made their own alcoholic drinks through distillation of wood. This process produced methanol (“wood alcohol”) which often ended up killing whoever drank it.
Nicotine: A chemical that contains nitrogen and which is found in some plants, particularly those in the nightshade family, a family which includes tobacco. It is a parasympathomimetic stimulant, meaning that it starts out by stimulating and then depressing autonomic ganglia and myoneural junctions of the brain. It is considered to be addictive. Nicotine is a common ingredient in pesticides.
Tar: A thick, dark, flammable liquid that is made when coal or wood is distilled. It is a chief ingredient in the stuff that they pave roads with.
Toluene: A solvent that is used in nail polish remover and paint thinner.
It is important to note that, when looking at the ingredients in vaporizers, there is not much consumer information readily available when it comes to what the vape juice “flavoring” is made up of. Additionally, different flavors have different ingredients and chemical compositions, so not all flavorings can be painted with the same brush, so to speak. The American Lung Association urges caution when it comes to evaluating the potential health risks of so-called “flavorings.” While many e-liquid manufacturers make the claim that the flavorings they use are considered food-grade and safe for human consumption, there are no studies that indicate that “safe for consumption” correlates to “safe for inhaling.”
Anti-smoking organizations such as the American Lung Association and others are not willing to deem vaping as safe. However, many other organizations and even some medical professionals feel that vaping with nicotine is safer than smoking cigarettes and can be an effective means of quitting smoking.