Vaping devices, also known as electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or vapes, heat liquid into an aerosol for inhalation into the lungs. Although some people may consider vaping a better alternative to smoking, it can still lead to lung damage.
According to a 2018 study, over 7,700 e-liquid flavors were available that year from more than 1,200 vendors in the United States.
When the chemicals in e-liquids aerosolize, or convert into a fine spray, they can affect cells, altering cell growth and causing inflammation, among other changes.
This article examines what lung damage vaping can cause, whether secondhand vaping is safer, when to contact a doctor, and frequently asked questions about vaping.
Popcorn lung, also known as obliterative bronchiolitis, is a form of lung disease. It occurs when the smallest airways of the lungs, called bronchioles, become scarred, and air cannot pass through. It is an
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), chemicals such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and diacetyl can contribute to the development of popcorn lung.
A 2021 study suggests that electronic cigarettes also produce 2,4-butanedione and 2,3-pentanedione as byproducts when they heat the sugars and flavor additives present. These can also contribute to the development of popcorn lung.
According to the ALA, vape liquid can contain nicotine, propylene glycol, and flavoring, among other chemicals.
In a healthy lung, the ciliary apparatus, mucus layer, cough reflex, and lipid layer of the alveoli all work together to clean the airways.
Pneumococcal bacteria readily bind to PAFR receptors, meaning that vaping may increase a person’s susceptibility to pneumonia.
Pneumothorax occurs when air collects in the pleural space outside the lung, causing a partial or complete lung collapse.
Nonetheless, vape fluid contains chemicals associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein.
The ALA highlights the risk of secondhand vaping.
The secondhand vapor a vape user exhales still contains a volatile mix of chemicals. This might include:
- heavy metals such as nickel, tin, or lead
- ultrafine particles
Much remains to learn about the impact of vaping on the body. Understanding whether the lungs can heal from any damage vaping might cause may depend on the extent and type of damage.
How long does it take the lungs to heal from vaping?
Further research will determine how long the lungs take to heal from vaping. However, the
Lung function starts to improve 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting. From 1–12 months after quitting, symptoms such as coughing and breathing problems should improve as lung structures heal.
If people wish to quit vaping, they can speak with a healthcare professional.
Early treatment is critical for respiratory diseases, including:
The ALA recommends people contact a doctor as soon as possible if they experience the following symptoms:
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about vaping and lung disease.
Many individuals believe vaping is a step toward reducing or quitting smoking. However, the ALA points out that the FDA does not recognize any e-cigarette as an aid to safely and effectively quit cigarettes.
Many of these nicotine replacement therapies are
Young brains build synapses between brain cells faster than the brains of older adults. Nicotine changes how synapses form, potentially affecting mood, impulse control, and attention.
Exposure to the liquid in a vape device through drinking or contact with the skin or eyes can cause adverse health effects such as:
Vapes are popular devices that some people consider a healthier alternative to smoking. Vapes heat a liquid and aerosolize it for the user to inhale. The liquid is usually flavored with some additives and contains nicotine.
Many of the chemicals in the liquid created during the aerosolization are toxic to the lungs. They can coat the lining of the airway passages, potentially leading to serious disease or a collapsed lung.
More research is required into the long-term effects of vaping on the body.