How Does Vaping Affect Asthma?

Most people seeking to quit smoking have jumped ship to an alternative on the market: electronic cigarettes. An electronic cigarette is a battery-powered device that produces aerosols containing nicotine and other additives. 

Vaping is the term that refers to the inhalation of these e-cigarettes. About one in every 20 Americans¹ use vaping devices, and about 1 in every 3 users uses them daily. 

With this high prevalence of use of vapes, there are chances that people with asthma might be lured into this habit. This comes with a couple of effects that might even affect your overall health condition.

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Vaping and asthma: How bad is it?

It’s widely thought that vaping is a safer alternative to traditional cigarette smoking, but very little evidence supports this. Vaping has turned out to have long-term health effects and can even aggravate pre-existing health conditions like asthma. 

This makes vaping bad for asthma. Contrary to popular belief that aerosol vapors are less likely to trigger an asthmatic attack, vaping can contribute to other respiratory-related diseases that you would have never gotten. 

A recent study² found that e-cigarettes have a significantly higher risk of asthma than those that don’t use them. The research³ also found that e-cigarettes have a significant contribution to respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma in adults. 

How does vaping trigger asthma?

If you’re asthmatic, vaping might trigger asthmatic symptoms in different ways. Here are some of the ways you might be affected.

It makes it difficult to breathe

A 2018 study⁴ comparing how cigarettes and e-cigarettes trigger cardiopulmonary symptoms found that using e-cigarettes alone has a high chance of causing breathing difficulties. 

Considering that asthma causes difficulty in breathing, including e-cigarettes in your lifestyle might worsen this condition. 

It increases asthma symptoms

The use of e-cigarettes can increase other asthma symptoms apart from difficulty breathing. In a 2016 study⁵ investigating the link between vaping and asthma among a group of Korean high school students, vaping was found to increase asthma-associated symptoms, leading to more absenteeism. 

Another study⁶ investigating the effects of e-cigarettes on 54 people with and without asthma found that vaping causes significant irritation to people with asthma. 

Vaping causes airway inflammation

Asthma causes inflammation, causing the airways to be hyper responsive to environmental triggers. The vaporization chamber of e-cigarettes is made up of a nicotine cartridge with a chemical flavoring and a rechargeable battery. Once these components are heated, the chemicals inside these cartridges are heated to an inhalable mist. 

This inhalable mist contains metals such as lead, nickel, and tin. Some of these metals can progressively harden your airways, worsening your airway blockage during an asthmatic attack. 

Besides these components, other additives, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive marijuana ingredient, can stress the inflamed airways due to other elements in the vape. 

Finally, the moist heat generated while vaping is enough to trigger an attack on some people. 

It alters your immune response

In a 2018 study⁷, the aerosolized chemicals in the vapes immobilized the immune cells called alveolar macrophages. The body uses these cells to remove asthma triggers like dust and allergens from the lungs. This affects your body’s response once exposed to an allergen. 

Does secondhand vaping affect asthma?

Yes. The vapor that comes from another person’s vape can have harmful effects on people with asthma. A 2019 study⁸ found that teenagers exposed to secondhand vapors are 27% more likely to report an asthma attack than those not exposed. 

What are the side effects of vaping?

In a study conducted in 2021⁹, around 40% of people who use e-cigarettes report having particular side effects. Some of the common side effects associated with vaping include:

  • Cough

  • Burning or scratching feeling in the throat, mouth, and lips 

  • Sleepiness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Dry or sore mouth and throat

  • Weakened taste 

  • Heart palpitation 

Vaping has also been linked with dental-related effects such as irritation, gum disease, and mouth dryness. 

Severe and long-term effects of vaping

The long-term effects of vaping are not yet known, and more research is needed to understand them. However, some of the current serious side effects associated with this lifestyle include:

  • Nicotine addiction 

  • Severe lung cancer 

  • Seizures

  • Popcorn lung

  • Heart attacks

  • Seizures 

  • Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia 

Can you improve your asthma by quitting vaping?

Yes. Quitting is the best way to improve your asthma and your overall health. It reduces the risk of an asthma flare and also helps reduce the chances of secondhand effects of vaping. 

How to quit vaping

Vaping harms anyone with asthma. The best solution to this problem is to quit vaping. Here are things to consider to ensure you succeed in quitting vaping.

Identify why you need to quit

Think about what motivates you to quit vaping. This is a crucial first step that increases your chances of success. It validates your reason for breaking this habit and motivates you to adopt a better way of coping. 

One good reason to lure you into quitting vaping is the side effects. If you have asthma, there’s no better reason to stop vaping than the chances of increasing your symptoms. 

Other factors that might motivate you to quit vaping include: 

  • Saving money that would otherwise be spent buying vaporizers and their additives 

  • Protecting your loved ones from secondhand vape smoke

Choose your timing

Once you’ve identified a reason to quit vaping, you need to set up a date to stop if you’ve decided to go cold turkey. Choose a special day, such as your birthday, to make it more meaningful. 

You need to plan before your target date gets by. Some of the factors to consider include:

  • Telling a loved one about your choice and asking for their support

  • Identifying an alternative coping skill 

  • Buying toothpicks, candies, or gum to fight the urge to vape

  • Talking to a therapist

  • Trying out quitting with a test run of a day or two 

Decide whether to go cold turkey or gradually

Most research supports cold turkey as an effective way to stop a habit. A study conducted in 2016¹⁰ showed that participants who quit smoking cold turkey are more likely to abstain from their practices for up to 4 weeks than those who choose to stop gradually. This remains true even after a follow-up in the 8th week and after six months.

Gradually quitting vaping can also work. All you need to do is stay on track until you achieve your goal.

Consider nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy is a form of therapy where you replace nicotine with other products such as sprays, patches, gums, and lozenges. These provide nicotine in a consistent dose, but you would get relief from withdrawal symptoms in small quantities to avoid the nicotine rush.

Identify your triggers

Vaping or smoking can be caused by specific triggers. These triggers can be physical, social, or emotional. They also vary from one person to another. Some of the triggers may include:

  • Emotions such as loneliness, boredom, and stress

  • Peer pressure from friends who are used to vaping

  • Seeing other people vaping

  • Withdrawal symptoms

Plan for your withdrawal and cravings

Your first weeks after quitting can be rough. You might experience withdrawal symptoms such as tiredness, difficulty sleeping, headaches, frustration, fatigue, and feeling depressed. 

Come up with several ways to deal with these symptoms, such as:

  • Deep breathing

  • Short meditation

  • Taking a short walk outside

  • Playing a crossword or a number puzzle

The lowdown

Vaping can worsen your asthma symptoms. That’s why it’s crucial to quit vaping to avoid these effects. Quitting can also help maintain optimal overall health.

Seek help from your doctor to learn more about the relationship between vaping and asthma and how you can successfully quit this habit. Seek support from friends and family as well to increase your chances of success.

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64


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