Vaping & Your Lung Health

Any­thing that is inhaled into your lungs can pose a threat to your lung health. How­ev­er, we are less like­ly to expe­ri­ence lung dam­age from envi­ron­men­tal inhalants, which are often out of our con­trol, than we are from direct inhala­tion of cig­a­rettes and/​or e‑cigarettes. With the ris­ing trend seen in e‑cigarette use, or vap­ing, it’s more impor­tant now than ever to edu­cate the com­mu­ni­ty on the short and long-term med­ical risks these devices may have on your lungs.

DMG Pul­mo­nolo­gist, Brett Col­lan­der, MD, shares his med­ical exper­tise on the detri­men­tal side-effects that vap­ing can have on your lungs.

E‑cigarettes con­tain a vari­ety of chem­i­cals that can be harm­ful to your over­all health. How­ev­er, when it comes to lung health, there are a hand­ful of spe­cif­ic chem­i­cals direct­ly asso­ci­at­ed with lung disease.

Chem­i­cals linked to lung disease

Acrolein is pri­mar­i­ly used as an her­bi­cide to kill weeds. Acrolein has also been found in the aerosol, or vapor, pro­duced by e‑cigarettes. When inhaled into your lungs, acrolein may cause acute lung injury, asth­ma, COPD and lung cancer.[1]

Nico­tine is a high­ly addic­tive sub­stance found in tobac­co, which is used in cig­a­rettes and e‑cigarette solu­tions, or ingre­di­ents. Once nico­tine is inhaled into your lungs, it can cause sig­nif­i­cant inflam­ma­tion that may impair your lungs’ abil­i­ty to fight infec­tion.[2]

Diacetyl is a chem­i­cal found in the but­ter fla­vor­ing of microwave pop­corn. It is also used to fla­vor e‑cigarette solu­tions. When inhaled, diacetyl can be tox­ic to the lungs and cause a con­di­tion called bron­chi­oli­tis oblit­er­ans. With this con­di­tion, the air­ways of the lungs become inflamed. This can lead to exten­sive scar­ring that blocks the air­ways, caus­ing short­ness of breath, wheez­ing and cough­ing.[3]

Ben­zene is a high­ly flam­ma­ble chem­i­cal that is pri­mar­i­ly used in pro­duc­ing oth­er chem­i­cals to help man­u­fac­ture deter­gents, drugs, dyes, lubri­cants, pes­ti­cides and rub­bers. Ben­zene has been found in the vapor pro­duced by e‑cigarettes.

Most peo­ple are exposed to small amounts of ben­zene every day. How­ev­er, when ben­zene is direct­ly inhaled into the lungs in the form of e‑cigarette vapor, it can lead to lung inflam­ma­tion. Also, ben­zene expo­sure has been linked to sev­er­al types of can­cer.[4]

Vit­a­min E acetate is a syn­thet­ic form of vit­a­min E that is some­times used as an addi­tive in e‑cigarette solu­tions. Accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC), vit­a­min E acetate is a main chem­i­cal of con­cern for those who vape and devel­op vap­ing-asso­ci­at­ed lung injury (EVALI).

When vit­a­min E acetate is inhaled from vap­ing, the direct expo­sure to your lung tis­sue can cause severe lung injury, and in some cas­es, has result­ed in death. As of Novem­ber 20, 2019, 2,290 cas­es of EVALI have been report­ed to the CDC, includ­ing 47 con­firmed deaths.[5]

E‑cigarettes con­tain a vari­ety of chem­i­cals that can con­tribute to sig­nif­i­cant health con­se­quences. Our Pul­monary team is a great resource for help­ing edu­cate and treat health con­cerns relat­ed to vap­ing. Please vis­it our Pul­monary Med­i­cine page to learn more about our physi­cians and loca­tions or to sched­ule an appointment.

We also rec­om­mend vis­it­ing the CDC and the Amer­i­can Lung Asso­ci­a­tion web­sites to learn more about the harms vap­ing can have on your lungs and over­all health.


[1] Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal and Occu­pa­tion­al Health, Grad­u­ate School of Pub­lic Health, Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh. Acrolein — a pul­monary haz­ard. https://​www​.ncbi​.nlm​.nih​.gov/​p​u​b​m​e​d​/​2​1​9​94168

[2] Acute pul­monary effects of aerosolized nico­tine. Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Phys­i­ol­o­gy. 2019 Jan 1;316(1):L94-L104

[3] Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol & Pre­ven­tion. Fla­vor­ings — Relat­ed Lung Dis­ease. The Nation­al Insti­tute for Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health (NIOSH). Octo­ber 3, 2017. https://​www​.cdc​.gov/​n​i​o​s​h​/​t​o​p​i​c​s​/​f​l​a​v​o​r​i​n​g​s​/​e​x​p​o​s​u​r​e​.html

[4] Agency for Tox­ic Sub­stances & Dis­ease Reg­istry. Pub­lic Health State­ment for Ben­zene. August 2007. https://​www​.ats​dr​.cdc​.gov/​p​h​s​/​p​h​s​.​a​s​p​?​i​d​=​3​7​&​t​id=14

[5] Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol & Pre­ven­tion. Out­break of Lung Injury Asso­ci­at­ed with the Use of E‑Cigarette, or Vap­ing, Prod­ucts. Nov. 21, 2019.‑cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

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