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Why is vaping dangerous?

Vaping is on the rise, but doctors and researchers are still learning about its long-term effects. Though there’s still a lot of work to be done, one thing is for sure: Vaping is dangerous. 

Although it’s sometimes marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, vaping has many risks of its own, explains Piedmont pulmonologist Khushboo Chokshi, M.D. 

“So far, we know that majority of the e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has been shown to harm adolescent brain development (which continues into early adulthood until mid-20s) and it is toxic to fetuses,” she says. Nicotine products can also cause lung cancer in the long run, she adds. 

Vaping dangers have been in the news lately thanks e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). Doctors are still working to understand how EVALI develops, but they know it can quickly be deadly. 

Dr. Chokshi explains what we do (and don’t) know about these vaping dangers, as well as EVALI warning signs to look for. 

Is vaping THC more dangerous?

“Identification of THC-containing products, in addition to cannabinoid oil and vitamin E oil, have been leading by 10-15 percent in reported EVALI cases,” Dr. Chokshi says. 

However, she adds, nicotine-containing products have also been identified in more than half of EVALI patients, so avoiding just THC won’t necessarily keep you safe.

“I would recommend that products containing either be staunchly avoided,” she says. 

EVALI is a serious condition that can lead to death. Lung tissue evaluated from 17 EVALI-related deaths, Dr. Chokshi says, revealed damage similar to what’s seen in patients exposed to chemical fumes from a toxic spill.

What are the symptoms of EVALI?

Patients with EVALI may show a wide variety of symptoms, Dr. Chokshi says. They can include: 

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fever 
  • Chills

“The symptoms are very similar to viral respiratory infection, flu or a community-acquired pneumonia, so it may be difficult to differential EVALI from these common ailments,” Dr. Chokshi says. 

Because the symptoms can mimic other illnesses, you should stay alert if you have a history of vaping.  

“The lung injury can progress fast and be deadly if misdiagnosed,” Dr. Chokshi says. Because EVALI can be difficult to diagnose, she recommends meeting with a pulmonologist if you have concerns. 

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