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Vaping 101: False-Vindication (Part 1)

We have known that smoking can have some detrimental health consequences for decades, especially for those with respiratory illnesses like asthma and COPD. Smoking has been strongly linked to both diseases and lung cancer, but before it was condemned as a detrimental habit, it was vindicated.

Vaping is another false-vindication

Cigarette companies and even doctors said that it was good for stress or weight-loss. With some time, we learned how terrible it actually is for our lung health. Today, we are living in a new age of ‘vaping’ rather than smoking. Initially, vaping was vindicated too, but this may have been another false-vindication being pushed by corporate interests.

This will be a two-part article on the vaping trend, because there is a lot of information to cover. This first part will be about what vaping is, why it is becoming more popular and what the misconceptions are. Part 2 will be covering how vaping interacts with our lungs and why we should be concerned as asthma, COPD, or lung cancer patients. So, if you are familiar with vaping, but curious about the current consensus of its safety, check out part 2.

Vaping 101: What is vaping?

The term “vaping” refers to the vaporizing and inhalation of a material, rather than combusting or smoking that material. Materials that combust to produce smoke will always be carcinogenic. Here lies the basis for vaping’s main vindication: ‘it’s not smoke so it must be better’. There are, however, different types of vaporizing that should be understood as different things: dry, wet and glycerine.

  • Dry vaporization

    This uses dry materials like tobacco, herbs or cannabis (in legal states). The material is heated to a point below-combustion using a small chamber or oven. This releases nicotine, cannabinoids or essential oils as a vapor, without smoke from a combusted material.

  • Wet vaporization

    This is a type of vaporization that asthma and COPD patients have probably heard of or experienced. This is what nebulizers and humidifiers do. A solution made of distilled water and medication is vaporized in a chamber, creating a mist. The mist is inhaled through a mask, mouthpiece or pumped into the room as a ‘steam’ or ‘vapor’.

  • *Glycerine vaporization

    This is the type of vaporizing that this article and many health researchers are concerned with. Commonly called “vaping”, the trendy new habit uses glycerine as a material to vaporize. The colorless and odorless glycerine is mixed with artificial flavors and concentrated nicotine or cannabinoids (cannabis vape). When heated quickly with an electric coil, it releases a thick and potent vapor.

Glycerin vaporization tools

The tools for vaping glycerin come in a few forms:

    • Small and discrete pens filled with e-liquid, that are often called “disposable”.
      • Disposable but not recyclable. These are very difficult to break down and are toxic in landfills. (They are anything but eco-friendly.)
    • Rechargeable batteries with attachable mouthpiece/chamber that can be changed when depleted.
      • The most common e-cigarette.
    • Large and powerful batteries, topped with heating coils and cotton.
      • The cotton is soaked with a glycerine mixture and heated rapidly to produce enormous clouds of vapor.
      • These types of vaporizers are sometimes called “mods”.

What is glycerine?

This glycerine is the focus of the vaping trend and is commonly referred to as ‘e-liquid’. The scientific name is glycerol-propanetriol and it has been more commonly used in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.1 It’s actually vegetable glycerine, but that title is slightly misleading as being healthy. It’s a product made from soybean or palm oil and has been shown to have some positive effects when used topically but until vaping, it had never been inhaled.

Now, this glycerine is the main ingredient for the products being vaped. With a low cost and sweet taste, it’s perfect for concocting fruity and candy-like flavors. In addition to these artificial flavors, nicotine, and cannabinoids are usually introduced to these e-liquids, giving an effect to go with the taste.

Vaping glycerine recipes is becoming an increasingly common alternative to smoking cigarettes and cannabis. It’s marketed with the illusion that it’s not smoking, it’s more sophisticated, so it must be better for you. This vindication is losing flight quickly though. As more information comes from emerging research on the effects of inhaling vaporized glycerine, we are learning that it could be an equally devastating alternative.

Up next in Vaping 101

Following in its footsteps; vaping is the newer trend that is as addictive as cigarettes and as seductive as a new smartphone. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices are sleek and swanky, becoming somewhat of a status symbol. For several years, vaping has been vindicated as a healthy alternative to smoking.

Read on to part 2 where we discuss why this might be as dangerously premature as the vindication of smoking.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Petre A. What is vegetable glycerin? Uses, benefits and side effects. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegetable-glycerin. Accessed November 2019.

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