Vaping is not consequence-free
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease. COPD is a chronic lung disease that worsens over time. It is sometimes referred to as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
Until yesterday, I thought of COPD as an “old person disease”.
I’ll start at the beginning
Yesterday morning I woke up with sharp pains in my chest. It was happening when I was breathing deeply and moving. When the pains became worse, I drove myself to the local emergency room. I was convinced I was having a heart attack.
The nurses triaged me and the doctor ordered chest x-rays. It turned out that the pain was from a temporary condition called costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the rib cartilage. Although it is painful, costochondritis is an acute ailment that typically resolves itself quickly.
A rude awakening
This was good news, at least I wasn’t dying.
Relief washed over me, and then the doctor showed me my chest x-ray.
He said, “Do you smoke?”. I replied, “I quit four years ago, but I vape heavily”. He said, “I can tell by the results of your X-ray that you are vaping, you’re showing early signs of COPD”.
In a lung X-ray, a normal diaphragm is smooth at the bottom. The X-ray of my lungs revealed my diaphragm to be jagged underneath. This is an early sign of COPD. My X-ray looked similar to the image below but not as severe.
I am only 35-years-old. I was completely shocked and totally devastated. How could I do this to my body? Why did I kid myself into thinking vaping was safer than cigarettes?
I was so proud of quitting smoking after 13 years, but I remained blind to the fact that I was only switching to another bad habit. Replacing one deadly vice with another.
What is an e-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered pen-shaped device that changes liquid nicotine into a vapor, that the user inhales. You can choose to have any level of nicotine in your e-liquid, including none at all. E-cigarettes do not contain all of the harmful ingredients associated with smoking actual cigarettes, such as carbon monoxide and tar.
E-cigarettes were originally invented in 2004 to be used for smoking cessation. Unfortunately, many people are merely switching from analog cigarettes to e-cigarettes. Essentially, they’re replacing one addiction with another. People assume that vaping is safer although there are no long term studies available concluding that it is a safe alternative to cigarettes.
In January 2018, a study was conducted on mice, testing their reaction to the chemical nitrosamines, which is an ingredient found in most e-liquids. After exposure to the e-cigarette vapor, the study found that the mice had damage to their lungs, heart, and bladder.
Upon the conclusion of this study, the scientists presumed: “It is, therefore, possible that E-cigarette smoke may contribute to lung and bladder cancer, as well as heart disease, in humans.”¹
However, in February 2018, a surprising report was released in the medical journal, The BMJ. This report urged doctors from the United kingdom to tell their patients who smoked cigarettes: “Vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking”.
The “vaping illness”
We have all read the cautionary news articles that our concerned grandmothers and aunts share on Facebook about the mysterious “vaping illness”.
This illness is usually contracted by people who are buying their e-liquid from the black market. The main ingredient in most black market e-liquids is Vitamin E, which is imminently dangerous to inhale.
I read these stories and thought they were sad, but they are cases of people not buying the proper product and becoming sick as a result.
I am now aware of the long-term effects of vaping, even if you get your e-liquid from a reputable source.
If it wasn’t for me developing costochondritis and requiring a chest X-ray, I would‘ve been oblivious to the major damage I was inflicting on my body. I would’ve continued to happily vape my life away until it was too late.
I’m lucky. I can quit and maybe my diaphragm will heal.
What about using vaping as a tool to quit smoking?
Vaping does have its place. It has helped me and numerous other people quit smoking.
However, it is extremely addictive and should be used very briefly for smoking cessation.
If you have an addictive personality, it is best to quit cold turkey. If you use a vape to quit, you run the risk of getting addicted.
Honestly, I have found vaping is more difficult to quit than cigarettes. Cigarettes stink, you can’t do it inside, and they taste nasty.
Vaping tastes good, smells good, and you can do it inside your home. Like cigarettes, it is more mentally addictive than physically addictive.
Cold turkey seems to be the best way to quit smoking. It’s an immediate goodbye, with no extra vices. My father quit smoking this way after 20 years and he hasn’t touched one since!
A terrifying thought
I smoked for thirteen years. I started vaping five years ago to quit smoking and I am now showing the early signs of COPD in diagnostic imaging.
I have been thinking about the teenagers who have started vaping. Approximately, five million teenagers are vaping worldwide.² Will they end up having COPD at 20? Will they be attached to an oxygen tank at 35?
If you vape, don’t be naive. You are hurting your body. Vaping may be safer than cigarettes but it still causes damage to your body in ways you may not see until it’s too late.
Remember, whatever you put in your body has a domino effect. There are always consequences when you consume something that is engineered in a lab.
If you are vaping or smoking, please remember my story. QUIT NOW.
If someone you love is vaping long-term, please share this article with them. I want all people, especially young people, to know about the long-term effects of vaping.
I am quitting my e-cigarette, but there is no guarantee that I will not develop full-blown COPD in the future.
This is not an “old person disease” it is a lung disease caused by the use of inhalants.
: Yvette Brazier. (June 25 2019). Are e-cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216550.php#recent_research
: Dr. Rose Marie Robertson. (April 16 2017). The science about vaping dangers — and what we don’t know yet https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/healthy-living/smoking-and-vaping/vaping-science-explainer.pdf?la=en
Amy Cottreau is a freelance writer who hails from a small city in Atlantic Canada. She enjoys interacting with fellow writers, dreaming of ideas for her next article, and researching a myriad of topics.