What is Vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling a substance that has been heated to the point of vaporization but not combustion. Although the term is most commonly associated with e-cigarettes that vaporize e-liquid (nicotine or non-nicotine), it can also refer to devices that vaporize other substances, such as cannabis.
E-cigarettes and vaporizers can be found in many different shapes and sizes, including small pod systems, pen-style vaporizers, and box-style devices.
Vaping vs. Smoking: Is Vaping Bad for You?
There has been much medical, political, and public debate around the topic of whether vaping is bad for you.
Since the US Surgeon General’s report was released in 1964, it has been understood that smoking has many negative health effects, and contains thousands of harmful chemicals that lead to the development of cancer and other diseases. But since vaping technology was only released in the mid-2000s and has had an enormous amount of innovation over the years, there has been a lack of medical studies to definitively indicate the negative repercussions of modern vaping.
However, in August 2015, Public Health England released an expert review of e-cigarette use, indicating that e-cigarettes were “around 95% safer than smoked tobacco”. And in May 2018, the Government of Canada announced that while vaping does have some associated risks for those who have never smoked, enough empirical evidence exists to consider vaping a less harmful option than smoking.
Side Effects of Vaping E-cigarettes
When switching to vaping for the first time, you may experience new physical responses, some positive and some negative (but normally only temporarily). If you are making a complete transition from tobacco, many of the negative symptoms can be attributed to withdrawal from smoking and not to e-cigarettes themselves.
But aside from the body’s withdrawal from smoke, here are the common side effects that you can expect when you first transition to vaping.
E-liquid contains the ingredients vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG), and while these scientific terms can seem a bit scary, the compounds themselves can be found in many items you already consume, like foods, skin products, and household products. However, VG and PG are known to be humectants—substances that absorb water from their surroundings. So when you inhale vaporized e-liquid for extended periods of time, it’s common to experience a dry mouth, dry lips, or a sore throat. The easiest way to combat this is to drink small amounts of water consistently during the day to rehydrate yourself while you’re vaping. You may also benefit from taking breaks from vaping if you’re feeling especially dry or irritated.
An interesting fact about vegetable glycerin is that it metabolizes as lactic acid in the body. Lactic acid is the compound that is responsible for muscle pain and cramps during high-intensity exercise. When your body is first adjusting to vaping e-liquid, you can expect to feel a bit more sore than usual. Many people who have experienced this symptom have reported that drinking more water helped to flush the lactic acid out of their system in addition to providing soothing and hydrating effects. Any soreness experienced should be temporary and only noticeable within the first two weeks of switching to vaping. If you find that the soreness or cramping persists beyond that period, it’s recommended that you speak to your doctor.
General illness or malaise, also known as the “Vape Flu”
Many people who’ve switched to vaping have reported symptoms of general illness within the first few weeks, including headaches, nausea, and an increased heart rate. Apart from tobacco withdrawal, these effects are associated with a spike in nicotine level within a short period of time. Symptoms should ease within the first month of vaping, but if you find them to be uncomfortable or severe at any point, it’s recommended that you decrease your nicotine concentration immediately and seek medical attention.
Sensitivity to Propylene Glycol (PG)
If you experience persistent muscle pain or a sore throat, even after the first few weeks of vaping, it may indicate that you have a sensitivity or allergy to propylene glycol. PG metabolizes in the body as alcohol, so those with alcohol allergies or sensitivities may find that they experience symptoms such as a sore throat, body rash, night sweats, and diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms with a level of severity, it’s recommended that you immediately refrain from vaping and seek medical attention. E-liquid with a high ratio of vegetable glycerin (VG) can be a great option for those who are sensitive or allergic to PG.
*This information is based on anecdotal evidence and not medical research. It should be considered as non-comprehensive, and symptoms can vary for each individual.