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How safe is vaping for young adults?

When e-cigarettes first came onto the scene, they were advertised as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. That does not necessarily mean that vaping is altogether safe. In fact, there are harmful substances in e-cigarettes that you may not know about.

CDC: Nicotine is not safe for kids, teens or young adults

Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vaporizers typically don't carry a cancer warning. This does not mean there is no danger. Indeed, it is likely that they wouldn't carry a cancer warning unless multiple studies had shown they cause cancer, and the product is simply too new for that to have happened.

But put cancer aside for the moment. Consider what we do know is in most e-cigarettes: nicotine.

Nicotine is an addictive drug, and it is not harmless. Nicotine is what gets people addicted to smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products. When smoked or vaped, it causes a momentary stimulant effect that many people find initially pleasing. However, the body quickly gets habituated to having access to nicotine. This tends to end the enjoyment of the high and replace it with disappointment that the high is no longer available. At that point, most of what users experience is cravings.

Unfortunately for people under age 25 or so, nicotine can harm the developing brain, which continues into early adulthood. One of the things nicotine does is to build synapses, or connections between brain cells. Young people's brains are equipped to quickly build synapses in response to new stimuli, but nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.

Therefore, using nicotine during adolescence or young adulthood can harm the brain. This is especially noticeable in areas involving attention, mood, learning and impulse control. There is concern that these changes in the brain could make it easier to become addicted to other drugs.

What it comes down to is that scientists still don't know all the dangers of e-cigarettes, but they do know that nicotine has harmful effects on the brains of young people.

Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine -- even those that say they don't

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99% of all e-cigarettes purchased in assessed locations in the U.S. contain nicotine.

The CDC says that some labels don't disclose that nicotine is in the e-cigarette or vaping liquid. Furthermore, some e-cigarettes that are advertised as having no nicotine have been found to have it anyway.

It's not just the nicotine -- it's the e-liquid

Many people believe that e-liquid, or e-cigarette aerosol, is simply water. Or, they may believe that what they exhale after a drag on an e-cigarette is simply water vapor. This is not true.

According to the CDC, there are a number of potentially harmful substances in e-liquid:

  • Nicotine
  • Particulates that can be drawn deep into the lungs
  • Flavorings, including diacetyl, which has been linked to serious lung disease
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals, such as lead, nickel and tin
  • Volatile organic compounds

Moreover, it is difficult to know precisely what is in your e-liquid. As we mentioned, e-liquid marketed as nicotine-free was found to contain nicotine.

Ultimately, when you smoke an e-cigarette, you are taking a risk. That risk could end up harming your brain or your lungs, neither of which you can replace.

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