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Published on January 28, 2020

hand holding vape smoke in background

What Is Vaping and Why Is It Risky?

You’ve probably heard about vaping, however you may be unclear about what it actually is. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol or vapor produced by a vape device.

Vape devices, known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, tank systems and Juuls (pronounced jewel), contain four basic components: a cartridge or a tank to hold e-liquid (or e-juice/vape sauce), a heating element known as an atomizer, a battery and a mouthpiece to inhale.

“We understand the dangers that go along with vaping and we want to do everything we can to help better inform both our patients and providers about the risks that are associated the e-cigarettes,” says Kevin Post, DO, Chief Medical Officer, Avera Medical Group.

Is Vaping Safe?

Vaping is especially dangerous for teens and young adults as their brains are still developing. As vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, long-term studies that examine its impact on teen and young adult health and behavior have yet to be concluded. Thousands of e-cigarette and vaping cases have already been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States with dozens of deaths confirmed as well.

E-cigarettes have also been linked to severe lung disease. The exact cause is not clear yet. But all of the people who developed these lung conditions had vaping in common. Some people have died from these illnesses.

“Although vaping is relatively new, more and more studies are linking vaping to serious conditions like chronic lung disease and asthma,” says Anthony Hericks, DO, Avera Medical Group pulmonologist. “When you vape you are exposing yourself to dangerous chemicals that can have long-term effects on your body.”

What Do Vape Devices Look Like?

Some vape devices look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes while others resemble USB thumb drives and other everyday objects. Some devices can be thrown away, while others can be reused by charging the device and replacing the e-liquid, either by filling the chamber or using a self-contained pod.

What is Being Vaped?

Although many substances can be vaped, three are most common: flavored e-liquids, flavored e-liquids with nicotine, and marijuana. The e-liquids come in small bottles or in pre-filled pods or cartridges. Pods are the component that contain the e-liquid.

  • Flavored e-liquids come in thousands of flavors, including bubble gum, cotton candy and grape, but also hot dog, banana bread and king crab legs.
  • Flavored e-liquids may also contain different levels of nicotine, ranging from 2 milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml) to 59 milligrams per milliliter. One of the more popular vape devices, Juul (pronounced jewel), contains 59 mg/ml of nicotine in each pod. A Juul pod is equal to one pack of cigarettes in terms of nicotine.
  • Marijuana can be vaped in either the leaf form or using THC and/or CBD oil. THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that creates a sense of being high.

If you have questions about vaping, please ask your doctor.

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