The act of smoking an e-cigarette/vaping device has apparently proven to be costly for an Illinois (USA) resident who, on August 23, paid for it with their life. According to various reports, the patient was hospitalised with a serious respiratory condition, after having used an e-cigarette.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 193 people have been afflicted this year, with conditions similar to a lung infection between June and August.
A handheld battery-powered vaporiser, the e-cigarette simulates smoking by providing some of the behavioral aspects, including the hand-to-mouth action of smoking, but without combusting tobacco. This may give ‘vapers’ the idea that the vaping is, perhaps, a healthier alternative to smoking.
Closer home, while there hasn’t been a sudden surge in maladies linked with vaping (yet), the situation is not too encouraging either. We asked a leading pulmonologist from a Delhi-based hospital to weigh in.
“Vaping is not a healthy alternative to smoking, as is believed. Though not as much as smoking, vaping is also injurious to health. Besides nicotine, it contains many chemicals, which upon burning, produce various by-products that can be harmful. The worst part is, not too much information is available about them,” Dr Vikas Maurya of Fortis Healthcare tells indianexpress.com.
The symptoms of vaping are largely that of breathlessness. While some patients complain of chest pain, others experienced diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
“Around two-three patients come to me with some kind of vaping-related illness in a week. Predominantly, it is for nicotine addiction with adverse effects like palpitation, headache, muscular pain, gastric and respiratory issues like cough and occasional breathlessness,” adds Dr Maurya.
How does vaping work?
Vaping devices like e-cigarettes heat liquids that are then inhaled as aerosol containing nicotine. Examples of said devices are: vape-pens, hookahs, box mods and JUULs (the most popular of the lot). The liquids that are heated, do not comprise water as many are led to believe. Instead, they contain glycerol, propylene glycol (found in antifreeze products), nicotine and flavouring.
“As there is very little clarity regarding the by-products, it is difficult to say what exactly would cause illness. It could be related to nicotine or other chemicals and their by-products,” he explains.
The ills of vaping
Smokers continue to vape despite getting sick because they get addicted to nicotine. Studies have found that the e-liquids — which have aerosols — enter the lungs and leave massive chemical residue behind. Some other negative health effects include increased heartbeat causing cardiac arrhythmia, lung damage even without the toxins of cigarettes, acid reflux and insulin resistance.
Just like smoking, the withdrawal symptoms of vaping are due to the pull-out of nicotine. “But the symptoms are not as intense. The common withdrawal symptoms are fatigue, headache, irritability, digestive and blood pressure issues, and sometimes even depression,” says Dr Maurya.