Proponents of “vaping” claim that e-cigarettes are a “healthier” (or at least a less harmful) alternative to combustible cigarettes. The exploding popularity of JUUL since its products entered the market in 2015 have only caused a growing debate over whether those claims are actually true.
On the one hand, the World Health Organization noted that the manufacturers of e-cigarettes (and JUUL in particular) are among the “new industry players” that are subverting public efforts to reduce smoking in general. There have also been numerous reports submitted to the FDA of young people suffering symptoms of nicotine overdose, especially seizures. On the other hand, industry apologists claim the jury is still out, as vaping has only been around for a few years – which they claim is not enough time to determine whether or not it is actually a health danger.
Here is brief summary of what medical research has found so far:
- Cardiovascular disease: a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that fumes from “vape juice” can raise the risk of heart disease by injuring the endothelial cells making up the inner lining of veins and arteries as well as the lymphatic system and the heart itself. The damage was noted even without the presence of nicotine: cinnamon and menthol flavorings were the most dangerous.
- Heart attack and stroke: research published by the American College of Cardiology in May 2019 found that people who “vape” were 56 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack. The risk of stroke was 30 percent higher for e-cigarette users compared to the general public.
- Nicotine and reproductive harm: The connection between high doses of nicotine and seizures have been well-documented in recent months. It has also been established that smoking while pregnant can result in premature births, low birth weight, birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For men, smoking can cause sperm damage and erectile dysfunction. Now, a reproductive specialist says that e-cigarettes may pose the same risks. The U.S. Surgeon General has noted that “babies born to mothers who used nicotine during pregnancy show long-lasting effects to both lung and brain development and function” – and vape delivers nicotine in prodigious amounts in a very short amount of time.
- Brain damage: A report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health confirms the concerns many have had over heavy metals found in vape. In addition to causing lung damage, vaping can lead to manganese toxicity, which in turn can result in cognitive impairment, memory problems, and even hallucinations.
- Depression: the American College of Cardiology study also found evidence that vaping can increase the risk of depression by 50 percent. However, it is not clear that there is a causation link, as many people who use e-cigarettes may already suffer from depression and find comfort in nicotine.
- Respiratory disease: while vape does not produce tar as combustible tobacco, the numerous chemicals in vape juice can still cause extensive damage to lung tissue, including lung scarring (fibrosis) and inflammation of the bronchial passages (bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung”).
Much of the research into e-cigarettes and health is preliminary, and more time and research will be required before definite links are established. Nonetheless, considering the evidence currently available as well as some of the similarities to regular tobacco and reports on the known effects of vaping, it would be wise for those considering taking up JUULing to exercise extreme caution.