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Is Vaping Bad for Me?

Vaping is bad for health. Illustration of an electronic cigarette behind a red "prohibited" symbol.

We’ve previously reported on the oral health risks of vaping (the use of electronic cigarettes). While vaping was once believed to be an acceptable alternative to smoking regular tobacco cigarettes, there is new evidence that this practice presents its own serious health risks. Moreover, in August 2019, the CDC confirmed the first-ever death caused by vaping.

Why vaping is bad for your mouth and teeth

According to a University of Rochester Medical Center study published in 2016, the vapors from an electronic cigarette can cause inflammation of the cells in your mouth, increasing your risk of oral disease. In addition, flavoring chemicals in some electronic cigarettes may also inflame and/or ulcerate your gums and palate. A newer study, published in 2019 by University of Connecticut researchers and controlled for the use of other tobacco products, conclusively associates electronic cigarette use with an increased risk of periodontal disease development.

Electronic cigarette users may experience dry mouth (xerostomia), which can speed up the process of tooth decay. Some electronic cigarettes include nicotine, an addictive ingredient found in regular cigarettes. Whether you smoke conventional or electronic cigarettes, nicotine can damage your gum tissue and lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can exist without symptoms in its early stages. However, as it progresses, it can:

  • Affect your bite
  • Change the fit of your dentures
  • Cause bleeding gums
  • Cause receding gums
  • Lead to bad breath and pus between teeth and gums
  • Result in gums that are red, swollen, and tender
  • Lead to bone loss around the teeth, resulting in early tooth loss

Why vaping may be bad for your blood vessels

In addition to its harmful effects on your mouth and teeth, vaping may also take its toll on your blood vessels, according to a 2018 study. Within that study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania evaluated a group of healthy adults in their 20s who had never smoked previously. They found that after just one use, aerosol from nicotine-free electronic cigarettes caused temporary blood flow changes among the study participants. After a few minutes, the participants’ blood flow normalized. While researchers acknowledge that more studies are needed, the findings are important because such changes are similar to those that occur during the earliest stages of cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis) development. Atherosclerosis can take years to develop to a point where it adversely affects health. Similarly, blood flow changes resulting from long-term vaping might eventually not resolve as readily as they once did.

Why vaping is bad for your lungs

Scientists are working to fully understand how electronic cigarette use affects the lungs. In a study published in 2018, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found electronic cigarettes to be a potential source of exposure to the toxic metals chromium, nickel, lead, manganese, and zinc. The last two of these are known to be toxic when inhaled, and can damage the lungs as well as the brain, heart, and liver. Long-term exposure to toxic heavy metals can also interfere with immune system function and increase cancer risks.

It is notable that during a 56-day period in summer 2019, the CDC received nearly 200 reports of “severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use” among patients from 22 states. While there is no evidence to suggest that an infectious disease was the cause of this illness, the patient had used electronic cigarettes in every reported case. Breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain are among the commonly reported symptoms of this lung illness. Some patients have also experienced gastrointestinal illness (vomiting and diarrhea) and fatigue.

How to quit vaping

Truth Initiative is a nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use a thing of the past, and its scope now includes e-cigarette use. The organization’s website provides numerous articles and information on how to quit vaping.

For teens—who comprise one of the fastest-growing groups of e-cigarette users—the National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree website also has helpful information on quitting vaping.

The American Academy of Pediatrics additionally provides valuable information on teens and vaping.