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I feel as if the question to "vapes" is unclear whether or not if it is bad for your lungs. I have done plenty of research and have found people only talking about E-Cigarettes, leaving me in confusion about if vapes without any nicotine contain harmful substances for your lungs. (I am not talking about E-Cigarettes, which I believe is a vape with nicotine.)

In conclusion. If you decide to use a vape, without any nicotine, the question still lingers as to if it is still harmful to your lungs. Is it still causing damage?

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    I don't have time to look for research at the moment (hopefully someone can jump in sooner or later!) - but the issue is it hasn't been around long enough to know its safety long term. NOT a valid reference, but worthwhile mentioning: I asked this question to one of the leading researchers on vaping in the USA 2 years ago. She said that in the process to create vapor, hydrocarbons in the solution (flavors etc) undergo combustion. Products of hydrocarbon combustion are toxic (e.g. it's part of air pollution) but it's not clear yet in what amounts we will see clinical reactions. – DoctorWhom Sep 18 '17 at 2:32
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    Good question but I wonder if it has good answers given how new vaping is. I think one can safely assume that vaping is not a healthy thing to do so the only real question is how unhealthy is it? – Carey Gregory Sep 18 '17 at 3:54
  • AFAIK, vaping doesn't contain as many tobacco as cigarettes (if any), so it definitely is healthier than smoking. That's not difficult to achieve though... – Narusan Sep 18 '17 at 5:11
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    @Narusan I think you mean nicotine. The interesting thing is that often people tend to vape MORE because of it and end up with much higher nicotine intake in the end! Studies are really interesting on the subject. But yeah, I like "how unhealthy is it" Carey. – DoctorWhom Sep 18 '17 at 14:14
  • @DoctorWhom I'm afraid I don't understand. Tobacco is quite unhealthy for the lungs, while nicotine isn't. So e-cigarettes are at least a bit more healthy than normal cigarettes in the regard as they don't contain tobacco. Apparently, some studies claim that the toxic containments of the e-cigarette are not as unhealthy as the toxic containments of normal cigarettes, while other's claim that we can't be sure (yet), and others say e-cigarettes might even have more adverse health effects than normal cigarettes. I tried to give an overview of the current stand in my answer. – Narusan Sep 18 '17 at 20:53
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I have done plenty of research and have found people only talking about E-Cigarettes, leaving me in confusion about if vapes without any nicotine contain harmful substances for your lungs. (I am not talking about E-Cigarettes, which I believe is a vape with nicotine.)

Colloquially “vapes” = “vaporizers”. Most vaporizers are e-cigarettes, but some are not. An e-cigarette is like a miniature fog machine: wicking material draws e-liquid onto a heating coil. Dry herb vaporizers (like for cannabis) work differently (e.g. with a heated plate).

E-cigarettes do not necessarily contain nicotine. It depends on if the e-liquid contains nicotine.

I have not seen any evidence that the presence of nicotine changes the chemical composition of the e-cigarette vapor (aerosol) besides for the presence of nicotine1 (obviously) and small amounts of impurities and degradation products (see “Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, page 193). Most importantly, no relevant amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines have been found in e-cigarette vapor.

In conclusion. If you decide to use a vape, without any nicotine, the question still lingers as to if it is still harmful to your lungs. Is it still causing damage?

Well, at this point, we do not have any evidence if e-cigarettes with nicotine cause respiratory disease or not (also one of NASEM's conclusion). So how should we make a comparison?

The amount of known harmful (including pulmonary toxic) substances emitted by e-cigarettes doesn't depend on the nicotine but very much on other factors, like the characteristics of the device2.

It may be that nicotine exerts a synergistic effect that increases any harm to the lungs by e-cigarette vapor. You'll certainly find studies which claim that nicotine opens pathways for other substances to harm the lungs (though the context is usually conventional cigarettes in that case), but I don't see something like a scientific consensus or estimations by how much.

Personally, I'd be surprised if the presence or absence of nicotine turns out to be an important factor compared to device design, usage (e.g. wattage) and flavouring.

If I had to choose, I'd use an e-cigarette without nicotine, though, but just because it lacks the addictive effect.


1 nicotine is typically extracted from tobacco and then purified

2 It's by thermal degradation, not combustion, how toxic carbonyls like acrolein are formed in e-cigarettes. But contrary to combustion in conventional cigarettes, thermal degradation is an unwanted side effect, and e-cigarette manufacturers can eliminate a lot of it without negatively impacting aerosol generation.
Similarly, manufacturers are able (as the study Metal Concentrations in e-Cigarette Liquid and Aerosol Samples: The Contribution of Metallic Coils. (2018) by Olmedo et al. showed) to reduce emissions of metals down to even environmental standards (this would be an overly strict requirement since environmental standards are about constant inhalation).

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If you are asking about possible lung problems due to reports of popcorn lung being caused by vaping, then this is covered in my answer to the question E-cigarette. Making liquid vs. buying liquid.

Diacetyl was banned in eliquids in the UK in 2016 under the EU Tobacco Products Directive as it was attributed to the cause of popcorn lung (also known as Bronchiolitis obliterans). The thing is, Acetyl Propionyl and Acetoin are chemically similar to Diacetyl and therefore it is considered wise to avoid them too.

protected by JohnP Sep 20 '18 at 15:12

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