E-cigarettes and vaping can cause side effects that may differ from person to person. Scientific understanding of how vaping affects the lungs, heart and other bodily functions is still being uncovered.
Side effects and safety concerns are important to be aware of when opting to vape as a way to abstain from smoking cigarettes when all other quitting tools have failed. People who vape should also have a plan to reduce and quit vaping in the long term.
Long-term use and dual-use (smoking and vaping concurrently) should be avoided.
What are the side effects of vaping?
Each individual reacts differently to inhaling aerosolised vape liquid. Some people may not experience any noticeable side effects, but that does not mean vaping is not adversely affecting the body’s physiological processes. Below are some known side effects from vaping;
Coughing after vaping
Coughing is a common side effect for new vapers, there are a number of potential reasons this occurs. For most people coughing subsides after the body adapts to inhaling aerosolised e-liquid. However, for others coughing can persist.
The lungs are not designed to inhale novel and foreign substances like vape liquid or cigarette smoke. Ingredients in vape liquid such as propylene glycol (PG) and some flavourings can aggravate the lungs resulting in coughing.
Poor hydration and vape device maintenance can also contribute to coughing. If vaping causes prolonged coughing, speak with your GP about alternatives.
Mouth or throat irritation from vaping
Nicotine and other ingredients inhaled from e-cigarettes can irritate and damage the membranes in the mouth and throat. This can result in tingling, scratchy or painful sensations, redness or swelling.
Inflammation from vape ingredients and small particulates released from vape devices may cause long-term damage. PG is one of the key ingredients in vape liquid and for many people is the main culprit in causing throat irritation. Some people can have allergies to PG. Those who get minor irritation find that lowering the PG ratio in e-liquid may help reduce overall mouth or throat discomfort from vaping.
Headaches from vaping
One of the most common side effects of vaping is headaches. Headaches may be caused by ingredients in e-liquid such as PG which is hygroscopic meaning it attracts water and is dehydrating to the body, which can result in headaches.
Nicotine is another cause of vaping-related headaches. Nicotine constricts blood vessels causing them to narrow. This can cause headaches in some people. Minimising the nicotine level in e-liquid and staying hydrated may mitigate headaches related to vaping.
Can vaping cause nausea?
Nausea is a side effect associated with vaping as well as other nicotine replacement therapies. Nicotine interacts with areas in the brain and receptors in the stomach that can trigger sensations of nausea and potentially trigger vomiting.
Although nicotine is well-known to make some people feel nauseous, other vape ingredients, including certain flavours, can cause nausea.
Other potential side effects of vaping
Each person’s body is unique and may react to vaping differently. Other side effects that can be associated with vaping include:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
It is important to notify your doctor if you experience side effects from vaping and consider alternatives that may support you to continue a tobacco-free lifestyle.
Long term harms of vaping are still unknown
Many of the ingredients in vaping have not been studied for their safety and unregulated vapes have been shown to contain dangerous chemicals in them such as heavy metals, pesticides and disinfectants. However, all the products at Help Me Stop are TGA TGO 110 standard, which means that they comply with Australiaan regulations.
Similar to smoking, vaping is believed to have negative effects on the respiratory and cardiac system – which may increase the risk of lung and heart-related health problems. There are many unknowns about vaping and continued research is required on links between vaping and heart conditions.
Furthermore, due to the diversity of vape devices and e-liquids available in the legal and illicit markets, understanding the safety of these products and their myriad of ingredients is complex, to say the least.
The wrap-up of vaping side-effects
Just like smoking, vaping can have harmful or deleterious side effects on your health. It is important to be aware of possible side effects of e-cigarette use and report them to your regular health practitioner for monitoring.
Only smokers who have failed to quit using other approved therapies (such as nicotine patches and gum) should consider vaping as a tool to help them quit smoking. People who vape should also have a plan to reduce and quit vaping in the long term.
Discuss with your GP or consult with the experienced team at Help Me Stop about whether e-cigarettes may be appropriate for you to work towards your goals of sustained abstinence from smoking tobacco products.
Review and monitoring by your regular GP is advised along your smoking cessation journey.
Want more information?
- Therapeutic Goods Administration Consumer Information on nicotine vaping products
- CSIRO report on the health impacts of e-cigarettes, smoking and personal vapourisers
- Australiaa is making efforts to protect teens and young people from the harms of illegal vaping, read more about the government’s guiding principles around vaping
By Jessica Kindynis