Vaping and Pneumonia
Vaping and Health
Vaping is a popular alternative to smoking. It involves inhaling and exhaling the vapors from e-liquid produced by a device called vaporizer. E-liquids usually contain propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin or both. What makes vaping so popular is the abundance of different aromas and flavorings with or without nicotine, giving it a better taste than regular cigarette smoke.
Although electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity as a substitute for the notorious tobacco cigarettes, evidence on their precise effect on the entire body are pretty inconsistent and unsupported by facts. It is thought that vapors affect cardiovascular and respiratory systems the most, and may damage blood vessels, hearth, airways and lungs. Potential cancer development is also associated with vaping.
Vaping and Pneumonia
Since vaping has become increasingly popular worldwide, the American Lung Association called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to extend its jurisdiction on e-cigarettes and every other tobacco product. The FDA decided to do so and reinforce its authority. In general, inhaling of any chemical substance can have a negative impact on airways and lungs. One of the respiratory system health conditions related to vaping is pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a disease manifested as a lung infection. Along with influenza (flu virus), it is among the eight leading causes of death in the U.S. The factors which contribute to the development of this illness are numerous and the consequences can be serious and life-threatening.
Pneumonia usually starts with viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. The infection leads to lung inflammation and the tiniest airways in the lungs – alveoli, fill up with fluid.
Harmful Substances In Vapors
Professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, Johnathan Grigg, stated: “People who vape should consider vaccination against bacterial pneumonia”. Why is it so? What is the harm in vaping?
The first step professor Grieg and his team performed was exposing airway cells to different e-cigarettes brands vapor (mostly with nicotine and propylene glycol). Subsequently, the same cells were exposed to bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, associated with pneumonia development.
The result showed that cells priorly exposed to vapors became more vulnerable to Streptococcus.
- Nicotine – It can be found in almost all e-cigarettes. The biggest risk of using nicotine is lung and brain function decrease. Especially in newborns of mothers who tend to smoke or vape.
- Carcinogen chemicals, like those used in anti-freeze – propylene glycol or formaldehyde. Find out more about propylene glycol here.
- Flavor ingredients – some of which are disguised by their FEMA GRASTM status for use in food, but only in food. Not by inhaling, when they can have a negative effect on lungs.
- Diacetyl – chemical which can cause serious and irreversible lung disease – popcorn lung. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation from 2015. found high levels of these chemicals in some e-liquids. Diacetyl affects airways in the lungs, and causes tissue damage and airflow blockage.
Lipoid pneumonia is a rare subtype of pneumonia which develops as a result of aspiration or inhalation of lipids in the bronchial tree. Respiratory physicians in the United States suggested that this disease is a direct consequence of vaping, since active ingredients of plants can be vaporized (oils and wax).
Other side of the vaping-pneumonia story
Regardless on the negative influence vaping provides to lungs, common cigarettes are much more harmful. There are some who emphasize the potential benefits of switching from smoking to vaping, and in fact say pneumonia can actually be alleviated by this switch. Here is why:
- Although propylene-glycol is a harmful substance, if used in small traces (like in e-liquids), it can act as a bactericidal agent and produce lung health benefits.
- Cigarette smoke contains significantly more diacetyl and the amount in e-cigarettes is negligible.
- Aerosols from e-cigarettes have different physical and chemical properties than environmental pollution or cigarette smoke, so they do not cause pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.
Who Is Right?
Hard to say. What we can say for sure is that if you do not smoke or vape, the smartest choice would be not to start either. Find out more on the pros and cons of vaping here. Pneumonia causing substances in vapors are less prominent than in smoke, but why take a chance? Traces of nicotine and foreign substances in your lungs may lead to future health problems, and pneumonia is just one of the many.