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Vaping nicotine may cause chronic lung disease

There's more bad news for people who took up vaping in the hopes it would be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. Despite what some have claimed, vaping is not safe just because it doesn't involve smoke.

Some of those safety claims came straight from Juul, the largest manufacturer of vaping devices in the U.S. According to the FDA, Juul made direct claims that vaping is safer than cigarette smoking, including:

· A post to the company's website in which the CEO apparently said that e-cigarettes "heat nicotine liquid and deliver smokers the satisfaction that they want without the combustion and harm associated with it."

· An alleged presentation to students in which a Juul representative asserted that vaporizers are "much safer than cigarettes" and even "totally safe."

· A campaign called "Make the Switch" that implied vaping is a safer alternative to cigarette smoking.

The FDA hasn't said that vaping poses more health risks than cigarette smoking. It merely points out that the evidence for such a claim is not yet in. It sent a warning letter to Juul in September to prevent the company from making such claims.

The Federal Trade Commission is also investigating whether Juul intentionally marketed e-cigarettes to teens.

And, many people have become concerned about the safety of vaping after people began getting deathly ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 52 deaths and around 2,400 hospitalizations from vaping-related illnesses since March.

Many of those illnesses and deaths appear to be tied to black market THC vaporizers, but those who vape nicotine should be aware of a growing body of evidence indicating that vaping is not risk free.

Vapers could be at increased risk for COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine recruited people who had no diagnosis of respiratory disease. It then followed the participants for three years. Some participants smoked, some vaped, some both smoked and vaped, and some did not consume nicotine at all.

Over those three years, the people who smoked cigarettes or cigars had more than double the risk of developing lung disease over those who did not use nicotine.

Those who vaped nicotine had about a 30% higher risk of lung disease compared to those who used no nicotine.

The people who both smoked and vaped nicotine were worst off. This pattern is common among people trying to switch from cigarette smoking to vaping. According to the study, the risk of lung disease actually multiplied when people smoked and vaped.

According to several public health experts interviewed by NPR, there is no consensus about whether vaping is safer than cigarette smoking. Some scientists believe that vaping can be an effective harm-reduction strategy for people who already smoke. Others say that the developing science does not support the idea that vaping is safer than smoking.

What the public health experts did agree upon is that vaping can cause harm. People who don't smoke should not assume that vaping is safe or without risk.

Is it the nicotine that causes the harm?

That's unclear. There are several chemicals in vape juice that are inhaled along with nicotine. For example, e-cigarettes typically contain glycerin, propylene glycol and flavoring compounds. These, too could be problematic when heated and inhaled.

There is evidence that vaping itself leads to lung inflammation and tamps down your immune system. So nicotine-free vaping devices may not be safe, either.

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