Vaping – Is it all the Same? What Are The Risks?

September 19, 2019  |  Vaping – Is it all the Same? What Are The Risks?

By, Lauraine Kanders, ANP, ACNP-BC

There is a growing question in patients’ minds after the spate of vape related deaths across the country. You may be asking too: What is Vaping? What are the risks? This article attempts to answer that question based on my practice with medical marijuana in New York.

First Off, Why Did Vape Become Popular?

Some say Hon Lik invented the modern vape in China which is one of the world’s most populous countries. However, the very first vape patent filed was in America. Herbert Gilbert tried to get a patent for a “non-tobacco cigarette that was smokeless”. He got the patent granted in 1965. The main idea behind the vape was to take away the smoke of tobacco (and its harmful effects on lungs) whilst retaining the flavor or tobacco/nicotine.

The e-cigarette and the US based vaping industry has grown rapidly in the past decade or so. Today, the United States is the world’s largest vape market ($ 10.26 billion), with over nine million users spending $3.7 billion per year on vape-related products.

So, is Vaping Safe?

The main advantage promoted by active Vapers is that e-cigarettes do not produce smoke and hence are not cancer causing or harmful to the lungs. However, what is not known by all is that breathing in second-hand vapor is not “harmless”.

The aerosol from e-cigarettes contains many potentially harmful chemicals, including lead and other heavy metals. It also has flavorings including diacetyl, which has been linked to lung disease.

The chemicals found in e-cigarette liquid, known as “e-juice,” may also be a potential cause of popcorn lung. According to the American Lung Association, using electronic cigarettes or vaping, particularly the flavored varieties, can cause popcorn lung.  In the UK, for example, diacetyl has been banned in e-cigarette liquid as a flavor ingredient.

Even without these extreme effects, there are these common side effects:

Irritation. Because they are heated to a high temperature, components in vape juice may irritate the mouth and airways.

Inflammation. Nicotine-free vaping also appears to trigger an immune system response.

Toxicity. Nicotine-free e-cigarette liquid may be toxic to cells.

Recent Trends That Amp Up The Dangers Of Vaping

A spate of recent deaths in the US have been linked to the use of Vaping mechanisms including e-Cigarettes. These deaths raise even more concern about the safety and regulation of e-cigarettes. At the time of writing this article, there have been at least 450 cases of lung illnesses associated with vaping across 33 states and the US Virgin islands.

The federal and health official investigations are ongoing but the jury is still out on what has led to so many deaths and illnesses related to vaping in recent times. However, the initial investigations do show a clear link between the use of e-Cigarettes and cannabinoid products like THC.

Tocopheryl Acetate, or vitamin E-acetate, is a common and easily obtainable chemical used in skincare products. New York state health department officials identified that extremely high levels of vitamin E acetate are found in nearly all cannabis-containing vaping products (especially the candy flavored vapes) that were analyzed as part of the investigation. Vitamin E Acetate is currently implicated in BOTH the legal and black-market industries and is being linked to many of the rising health issues.

If You Vape, Know This

First off, just to be very clear, e-cigarettes should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

Next, notwithstanding all investigations into the recent deaths, the American Lung Association has categorically warned that e-Cigarettes are NOT safe – they cause irreversible lung damage and all manner of complications.

Third, the American Medical Association has urged the public to avoid the use of e-Cigarette products – at the very least they will lead to coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain, or at worst death.

Cartridge makers for e-Cigarettes use anything between MCT oils to vegetable glycerin emulsifiers in their production. The FDA determined recently that these “food grade” items are actually toxic when inhaled into your lungs. Everyday, tests are showing that newer kinds of odorless and tasteless chemical thickening agents – no one knows what these ingredients are capable of when burned at such high temperatures and what effects they have on our bodies.

Conclusion : If You Vape For Any Reason

The E-cig vaping industry is vastly unregulated today. It is best to play it safe and avoid e-cigarette vaping until better controls, certification and regulations are in place. You can rest reassured that medical marijuana dispensaries in NY manufacture vape cartridges without Vitamin E acetate, the ingredient suspected to cause adverse pulmonary reactions in reported cases.

If you choose to Vape cannabis products, learn how to spot the differences in the appearance of the oil and how it affects you in the first use. If you experience wheezing, coughing, short of breath, or experience any chest pain, immediately discontinue using the product and consult your provider.

Secondly, make sure that the brand manufacturers are completely transparent on how they source or manufacture their cartridges and check whether they have external lab results indicating that all the ingredients are safe. Do your own safety checks before purchasing any brand – especially since in this unregulated market it is easy to knock off popular label names and filling them with low-grade , toxic ingredients. Stay safe – ask for lab results. You need not worry about this aspect for medical marijuana. It is a highly regulated industry in NY.

Lastly, it is best to become a medical marijuana certified patient – that is the only regulated section of the entire cannabis market. Medical Marijuana is regulated and in accordance with strict state-based regulations that go through mandatory 3rd party testing to verify safety and purity. You owe it yourself and your loved ones to take care of yourself in light of the recent vape lung disease episodes.

At Medical Marijuana Recs NY, we provide our visitors with online video chats to become certified for Medical Marijuana in New York State. Our group of NPs and doctors strive towards helping get certified. Click here to see if you qualify!