Dangers of Vaping:
As our generation moves away from tobacco and toward marijuana legalization, the vaporization of both drugs has grown in popularity. However, the dangers of vaping are now being discovered.
This new practice has medical and cultural ramifications that have only recently been acknowledged and examined.
The goal of this article is to analyze the scientific and sociological literature on marijuana and tobacco vaporization, as well as the potential medical and cultural consequences of this new phenomenon.
Also see the Dangers of Smoking.
What is vaping?
Herbert Gilbert, a cigarette smoker and scrap metal merchant from Pennsylvania, is credited with inventing vaping.
Gilbert’s gadget, similar to modern electronic cigarettes, used a battery to evaporate a liquid for inhalation.
He acknowledged to Smithsonian magazine that he thought it was a game-changing alternative to cigarette smoking that would rescue people from the ill consequences of tobacco, because it didn’t contain nicotine.
The gadget was never mass-produced despite numerous variations, but its patent has been cited by many companies since then.
He also recommended an alternative use for the technology for dieters who believed they could vaporize the flavors of their favorite foods to satisfy their hunger.
He recommended a few flavors at first, including cinnamon, rum, orange, and mint (White A. Smithsonian Magazine, 2018, Dec), (Bekki K, 2014).
Surgeon General Luther Terry released his study “Smoking and Health” on the probable health repercussions of cigarette smoking a year after the patent was filed in 1963.
This was the first study to link cigarettes to lung cancer, heart illness, laryngeal carcinoma, and chronic bronchitis (US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1964).
Since then, “vaping,” as it is known, has evolved into two distinct pastimes with significant similarities. The practice of vaporizing tobacco products and nicotine-containing liquids has evolved through time and is now available in the form of commercial and custom-made dedicated devices.
Separately, vaping became popular in the early 1990s as a novel way to utilize marijuana both recreationally and medicinally.
The gadgets used for inhalation, the cultural changes connected with their acceptability, and the possible health impacts all overlap significantly.
We’ll look at the cultural and medical ramifications of vaping, as well as some of the roadblocks to proper scientific research, in this post.
Problems with studies on vaping:
There isn’t enough clinical research to back up either the risks or the advantages of vaping. There are various difficulties in researching something like vaping.
For starters, any study must distinguish between vaporizing marijuana and vaporizing tobacco, which is not always achievable.
Furthermore, the procedures for vaporizing tobacco and marijuana differ. There are numerous distinct brands of tobacco devices with various compositions and construction patterns. There are no standardized equipment or formulas for the vaporization of marijuana.
The lack of a direct association between the number of puffs of an electronic cigarette and the number of conventional cigarettes smoked has confused studies to prove an advantage of vaporizing tobacco over smoking cigarettes.
The issue is further compounded by the fact that different brands of electronic cigarettes have varied chemical constituents and nicotine amounts (Jensen RP, 2015), (Kosmider L, 2014).
A Nicorette inhaler was used as a comparative in many of the studies on electronic cigarettes. It’s worth noting that the Nicorette inhaler doesn’t heat its chemical liquid component, whereas vaporization heats the interior components and liquids (Goniewicz ML, 2014).
The number of studies on the safety or risks of vaporizing marijuana is limited because marijuana is difficult to get. In the early 1990s, a small quantity of the plants was released for clinical trials (Bethesda, February 19–20, 1997).
The majority of the trials used the same gadget, which was marketed as “Volcano.” This device is pricey and unlike any other modern mobile device for vaporizing marijuana or tobacco. It isn’t a good substitute for modern-day vaporization technology.
Medical risks of vaping
Many of the current clinical research papers concentrate on elements of vaping there isn’t much research on the study of other toxins emitted through vaporizing tobacco leaf products and marijuana, such as the amount of nicotine or marijuana provided.
Because of these restrictions, the majority of the studies that are available are non-clinical or have a small number of participants.
There hasn’t been a comprehensive study of the risks associated with vaporizing tobacco and marijuana products (Bethesda, February 19–20, 1997), (Hazekamp A, 2016).
All of the medical risks associated with vaping remain unknown. Only a small percentage of people who admit to vaping marijuana do so for medical reasons, and research on the subject is few.
The tobacco industry has encouraged a great number of people to believe that vaping tobacco is a healthy method to stop (Schauer GL, 2016), (Krauss MJ, 2015).
There is no good clinical evidence that using electronic cigarettes as a strategy for quitting smoking is successful. It’s tough to have a thoughtful conversation with patients about the hazards and advantages of vaping.
The composition of the liquid items being vaporized, as well as the potential for toxicity of both nicotine and marijuana when breathed in concentrated levels, all pose potential dangers.
What is in vape liquid?
The pharmacologically active components in vaping products are not regulated, and the extraction and suspension in solution processes vary widely.
The user believes they are inhaling a pure form of THC (marijuana’s active ingredient) or nicotine, but they are often unaware of what else is being inhaled simultaneously.
Depending on how they are evaporated or heated, the risk profiles of various inhaled chemical combinations fluctuate dramatically (Loflin M, 2014), (Talih S, 2017).
Propylene glycol and glycerol have been the most extensively investigated solvents for the dissolution of nicotine or THC.
Initially assumed to be harmless, research now shows that vaporized propylene glycol causes severe respiratory irritation and may possibly increase the risk of asthma.
Formaldehyde and hemiacetals like acetaldehyde are breakdown products of heating propylene glycol and glycerol to desired temperatures. Formaldehyde is a Group 1 carcinogen that increases the risk of cancer by 5–15 times over a lifetime. Traditional smoked tobacco contains far lower levels of it.
Nasal discomfort, cardiovascular consequences, and lung mucosal damage have all been linked to hemiacetals, and these byproducts are created in greater numbers with higher voltage devices.
Basically, the carcinogenic risk of vaping approaches that of traditional smoked cigarettes as the coil temperature rises.
Dangerous additives in vaping liquids:
Flavorings added to nicotine and THC extracts pose a different but equally dangerous health hazard. We generally consider food additives to be harmless.
However, we occasionally learn empirically about the risks they cause when humans are exposed to them in ways other than through direct consumption.
Diacetyl is a culinary ingredient that mimics the flavor of butter and is also used to flavor electronic cigarettes.
Diacetyl was linked to bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP) among manufacturing workers exposed to substantial amounts of it in the early 2000s.
Despite the fact that it is considered safe to eat, OSHA regulates and limits exposure to this chemical due to its known health risks (Barrington-Trimis JL, 2014), (Harber P, 2006).
Electronic cigarette flavoring additives are routinely approved by the FDA under the condition that these compounds, which are almost entirely synthetic, are “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption.
This rule comes with the restriction that consumption refers to oral ingestion. When something absolutely safe to eat and digest is vaporized at 500 degrees and inhaled, the potential health repercussions are unclear.
According to several studies, the flavorings used in electronic cigarettes have cytotoxic properties (Barrington-Trimis JL, 2014).
Furthermore, sweeter flavorings tend to contain stronger oxidizers. One study used a murine model of lung epithelial cells and found that patients exposed to sweeter electronic cigarette flavorings had greater levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8, as well as fibroblastic alterations, with the mice losing redox equilibrium (Lerner CA, 2015).
Toxicity of nicotine and THC:
It bears noting that when vaping is successful and delivers concentrated nicotine or THC to the user, the amount of drug delivered is much higher than would typically be inhaled by burning and smoking the raw tobacco or marijuana plant.
Sociological questionnaires on vaping habits reveal a trend toward dabbing THC contributing to addictive behavior not reported by those users who smoke marijuana in a non-concentrated form.
The same pattern of addiction, tolerance, and withdrawal that has been observed in drugs like heroin, traditionally considered “hard drugs”, is now being reported in those vaping THC (Daniulaityte R, 2015).
There have been some cases of nicotine poisoning from using electronic cigarettes, with an increased risk of toxicity associated with customized devices and higher nicotine concentrations in the liquids.
Finally, many of those who attempted to quit cigarettes by transitioning to vaping is reporting that quitting vaping is actually significantly harder than quitting smoking traditional cigarettes.
Some respondents even turned back to cigarettes as a way to help wean off their vaporizer device (Chen FDA Summary of Adverse Events on Electronic Cigarettes., 2012).
Issues with the vaporization process:
The basic design of the device, in the case of vaping both tobacco and marijuana, is largely unchanged from the original patent by Gilbert.
There is a reservoir that holds an oil or liquid, a mouthpiece, and a heating element. Theoretically, vaporizing the liquid does not combust it and saves the person vaping from exposure to byproducts generated by high heat.
However, there is no regulation of these devices and no agreed-upon standard temperature. There appears to be a wide variance in the quality of the components of these devices depending on the price of purchase (Bekki K, 2014), (Schauer GL, 2016), (Kosmider L, 2014), (Hutzler C, 2014).
There are multiple different metals used for the heating element, including Nichrome (nickel-chrome), tungsten, stainless steel, and Canthal (Ferritic iron-chromium aluminum alloy) among others.
Powered by a battery, the element wire is heated to a temperature range around 375–525 degrees. The long-term effects of sustained exposure to the oxide products of these metals are unknown (Schauer GL, 2016), (Barrington-Trimis JL, 2014), (Kosmider L, 2014), (Hutzler C, 2014).
There are numerous brands of manufactured electronic cigarettes, but there is also a subculture of people who vape tobacco and marijuana (or both) through custom-built devices known as “mods.”
There are numerous online and physical stores dedicated to this hobby, as well as numerous accessories and components to alter various elements of gadget performance.
Stronger batteries, a wider range of device designs, and an even wider range of metals for the heating element in various lengths and diameters are available.
The practice of “direct dripping” involves users directly dripping the vaping liquid onto a heated coil with the express intention of increasing the quantity of vapor as well as increasing the concentration of the active ingredients being vaped.
This approach raises toxin exposure and frequently occurs in conjunction with modified devices that raise the temperature by raising the voltage.
In terms of carcinogen exposure, increasing the voltage of the device with stronger batteries and generating higher temperatures on the heating coils has been demonstrated to approach equivalency with cigarettes.
It is uncertain whether other potential health consequences are generated by changing these device parameters. (Schauer GL, 2016).
Shifting perspectives on vaping:
Tobacco smoking in pipes and cigarettes was once very popular, and it took a long time for people to learn the true dangers of combustible cigarette smoking.
There have been multiple case reports of vaping-associated lipoid pneumonia. As previously mentioned, there have been reports of both THC and nicotine toxicity.
There are many reports of mechanical injury and burns from malfunctioning devices. The perception that vaping is safe is starting to change.
Many of the electronic cigarette and vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases have also been linked to black-market THC products marketed under a number of brand names.
According to one survey, 96 percent of THC for vaping was marketed in pre-filled cartridges or “carts.” Over 60% of the products were sold under the ‘Dank Vapes’ name.
This is not a real brand, but rather a form of empty packaging that can be found online and in vape shops and filled with whatever homemade product a dealer has on hand.
Consumers are unaware that Dank Vapes is not a brand, which may add to a false sense of trust. (Ghinai I, 2019).
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