Mind and Body

3 reasons why vaping can be unhealthy

In the next decade, we may finally what happens after years of vaping.

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In the last two years, record numbers of teenagers started vaping. In 2019, 1.8 million more high schoolers said they picked up the habit.

E-cigarettes haven't been around for very long, and we're only just starting to uncover what happens after years of vaping. Early-stage studies are giving us a glimpse of that future.


A quick disclaimer:

Some of these studies come with major caveats. But here are three ways that scientists believe that vaping could harm the body if this research pans out.

Lung Diseases


A December 2019 study showed that vapers were 1.29 times as likely to have emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis or obstructive pulmonary disease.

Those effects were seen after only three years of vaping.


Where does this connection come from?

Some research suggests that nicotine is behind the connection between vaping and emphysema.

A small study on 14 people released in August 2019 found that vapers had elevated levels of protease enzymes in their lungs. Those enzymes are a marker of emphysema in smokers.

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Importantly, nine of those vapers had previously been smokers.

Still, when the team introduced nicotine into lung cells outside the body, they found that those protease enzymes still increased — underlining a link between nicotine and emphysema that could play out over years of vaping.


Meanwhile, in September 2019, scientists showed that mice exposed to nicotine laden vapor could get lung tumors.

22.5 percent of the 40 mice exposed to nicotine vapor got adenocarcinoma — the most common form of lung cancer.

But this team has been criticized for the way they conduct their research.

The mice in this study were exposed to vapor using a method called “full-body exposure.” They were surrounded by vapor for four hours per day for five days each week.

That's not comparable to the way people actually vape.

Because of that, some scientists argue these results don't translate outside the lab. But in an interview with Inverse, the author behind this study defended his results.


"Our results show that e-cigs are carcinogenic in mice."

Moon-Shong Tang, the author of a controversial study linking vaping to lung cancer.

Heart Disease



How does vaping harm the heart?

A November 2019 review suggests that vaping harms the heart in several ways, including increased inflammation, DNA damage, arterial stiffness, oxidative stress, and altered blood flow.

Those scientists argued that some vape flavors could be harming the heart.

Some flavors have been linked to cell death. But those scientists also said that they were testing vape flavors in high concentrations that aren't comparable to real-life vaping scenarios.


Meanwhile, in March 2018, scientists surveyed 96,000 vapers.

They found that vapers were 34 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 25 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease compared to non-vapers.

Mental Health


A December 2019 study found that vapers were 1.6 times more likely to have a depression diagnosis compared to non-vapers.

That statistic was based on data collected from 892,384 people between 2016 and 2017.


Why does this connection exist? Right now, scientists aren't sure.

There's a similar connection between smoking and depression, which suggests that nicotine could play a role.

But the study's first author previously told Inverse that assorted trace metals in e-liquid (like aluminum or lead) may be responsible for this connection to depression — but, for now, that's just a theory.

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