Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) became a popular substitute for their traditional paper counterparts when links between cancer and tobacco use became undeniable. Today, a lot of people use e-cigarettes purely for recreation.
Inhaling vapors for medicinal, spiritual, or entertainment purposes dates back to the dawn of humans. More recently, in 1927, Joseph Robinson envisioned a modern e-cigarette. The practice became popular in 1963 when Herbert Gilbert introduced a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette.” Forty years later, a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik rolled out the first modern e-cigarette in 2003. The U.S. mass market debuted vapes in 2007.
Inhaling the aerosol vapors (“vapes) was thought to be safer than delivering toxic tobacco into the lungs because no smoke was involved. All aerosols are actually fine solid particles suspended in liquid droplets, air, or some other gas.
A new industry was born, providing hand-held inhalers that heat liquid inside hot enough to turn into a gas (vaporize). The e-liquid (or e-juice) is generally composed of nicotine, flavorings, propylene glycol, and glycerine. Some e-liquids contain no nicotine, the highly addictive stimulant that makes regular cigarettes hard to kick.
In addition to e-cigs, there are vape pens and “mods” – personal vaporizers. Pretty much all vaping devices need a mouthpiece, battery, e-liquid cartridge, and a heater (powered by the battery).
The health risk posed by regular, long-term vaping is controversial. Some say it poses no threat; others claim dire consequences. In the latter camp, the Center on Addiction revealed that e-cigarette aerosol particles “contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease.”
Other research has shown that, when inhaled, the vaping condensate (particles released from the aerosol) damages immune cells in the lungs and amp up the production of inflammatory chemicals that can cause lung diseases. The immune cells that keep the lungs and airways clear of harmful particles like bacteria, allergens, and dust, were impaired by e-liquids.
Cells exposed to vaped condensate also produced more free radicals which can cause cancer, aging, and other illnesses. These cells did not do as good a job killing bacteria, weakening the user’s ability to prevent infections. Vaping even triggered the effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): severe bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema.
Basically, vaping e-liquids was shown to be just about as harmful as smoking tobacco.
For non-recreational users, medicinal vaping is being offered by some pot shops which sell e-cigs that deliver health-giving CBD (Cannabidiol) oil. Rather than feeling high, patients report relief from pain, inflammation, spasms, anxiety, seizures, and numerous other medical conditions after vaping CBD. Physicians prescribe it for alcoholism, arthritis, diabetes, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, epilepsy, and antibiotic-resistant infections.
Although still in its infancy, medical vaping promises great potential, including a vast reduction in the number of syringes needed to introduce pharmaceutical drugs into the bloodstream. Fewer hypodermics means fewer needle-borne diseases like Hepatitis and HIV.
Asthmatics already use inhalers to vape medicines directly into the blood capillaries in their lungs. Likewise, inhalers for diabetics that deliver powdered insulin became available with the mass production of e-cigarette technology in the 1990s.
Given the mixed reviews for vaping, proceed with caution. Check out the literature yourself before getting habituated to or hooked on e-aerosols.