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What Happens to Your Body When You Vape?

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in October of 2019.  For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEKwPtnwWq8&t=131s

Bob: Today we’re going to talk about when you vape. This is a big timely question, don’t you think?


Brad: It’s definitely a hot spot in society today and you and I really could not cover this adequately, so we got someone else in here to help.


Bob: We have an expert, thank God. Chris has been with us before, Chris the pharmacist.


Chris: Hi guys.


Bob: We refer to you as that nomenclature, is that okay?


Chris: Sure, that’s perfect.


Bob: Chris is a smart guy, so we’re really pleased to have him here again today. Really a brilliant guy. He’ll be able to espouse his views on this and get you set straight.


Brad: Right, its really science based, and the facts are what they are and we’ll find out. First of all, vaping, maybe not everyone is familiar with it.


Chris: Basically, I think vaping is kind of the biggest trend that I think a lot of kids like to do these days. You know, actually, interestingly enough, the history of it itself, there was a gentleman by the name of Joseph Robinson. In 1927, he filed his patent for basically an e-cigarette at that point in time.


Bob: So, it’s been around a long time.


Chris: It’s been a while, but it didn’t go anywhere. Then there was another one. Herbert Gilbert in 1967. He came up with the smokeless tobacco-free e-cigarette and that didn’t really have much cache, so to speak. But then, interestingly enough, there was a pharmacist in China, his name is Han Lik, and in 2003, he lost his father to lung cancer and so he was trying to come up with an alternative to smoking because his father and he, himself, were a smoker. He came up with the incarnation of what we see that’s really kind of become the rage since 2007, and that kind of brings us to where vaping is today. Right now, it’s up to 3.6 million kids that admit to actually vaping. That’s a large number.


Bob: I’m going to tell the quick story. My nephew and I, (I have a lot of nephews), so I won’t be able to reveal the school, but we asked him, “How many kids do you think vape at your school?” He said 70% and a lot of the kids do it in class. They’re real sneaky about it. I mean, it’s a huge problem there.


Brad: Yeah, we have to get into that. Some of them make smoke and some of them don’t, is that right?


Bob: I don’t know anything about that end of it.


Chris: I think that with the newer units, I think its not quite as visible, because it’s still a water vapor that essentially comes off when you’re inhaling it.


Bob: I saw a lady next to me on a plane before they banned them on planes, she did it and I didn’t see any smoke.


Brad: Sure, but I see on TV where they show a lot of smoke and doing smoke rings and it’s amazing. So, it must depend on the oil or whatever.


Chris: I think, you know, it depends on, the pen and the oil, the types of things that they actually place in the vapes, but all things being considered, the lung is designed for air. It’s not designed for anything else.


Bob: So, you’re saying that this is a negative issue.


Chris: Oh yes. This is not something that we would endorse in any way, shape or form. If somebody asked the questions, “What’s better, smoking or vaping?” I think you’re going to see that vaping is probably the better option, but it’s the lesser of two evils. So, you’ve got 7,000 chemicals in a cigarette after it combusts, and then basically, from that standpoint, vaping, once you light it, it breaks down into about 93, 94 different chemicals that are identified. Those break down and those are things that become very dangerous because it’s superheated to around 380, 400 degrees so when you’re inhaling that into the lungs, the teeny, tiny, particle size, microparticles that are ultra-fine, that go into the lung and into the uvula and then your system, that’s how you deliver your nicotine to give you that relaxing little buzz that you catch from them. The problems that arise from that are those microparticles. One of the chemicals that we think, and what the American Lung Association says is that, that’s the thing that may become a cancer risk. We don’t really know that yet for sure, 100% certainty, but we have a pretty dang good idea it’s going to lead down that path. The aldehydes that break down, so think of formaldehyde or embalming fluids.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Brad: So, toxic substances.


Chris: Very toxic, it’s not good for the body, I mean, if you ever did the dissection in 7th grade with the frogs, you’re putting that into your lungs and that’s something that I think is terribly dangerous.


Bob: Directly into the lungs.


Chris: Yeah, lung, right into the bloodstream, so I think that’s why, also, for a lot of people, it’s more attractive than cigarettes because it’s a little bit cooler, as far as temperature wise. It’s a little bit more comfortable, so as a result of that, I think they can inhale deeper and that’s one of the problems when we go to the addiction aspects of it, I mean, it’s nicotine. They do contain more nicotine than cigarettes, so you a hold it in longer because the temperature is cooler, it’s more comfortable; I’m not sure if that’s really the right word. I’ve never vaped so I can’t really explain that. Nor have I smoked.


Bob: So, the nicotine, is it the only substance that’s addictive?


Chris: If we go down the path whether you’re putting CBD oil or THC in there, I mean, that’s certainly another aspect of vaping, but I mean, for the purposes of what kids are doing these days for the most part, it’s going to be nicotine. That’s where the addiction is driven. That affects the brain, it affects learning. Nicotine’s actually an interesting chemical substance from that standpoint. It’s a stimulant but it also relaxes you at the same time. I’m not sure what we’re doing to the central spinal systems, is it up, is it down, is it sideways? But it’s certainly something that is unique and some of the dangers for a teenage brain too. Though it’s a stimulant to some degree, also it seems to have problems with memory and cognition so it’s certainly something along with the addiction path. You know, we want to be careful with that when we have our kids that are doing this and I think it’s something to reach out to them and say, “hey, it can affect you.” If you’re looking to a pathway to get kids to quit, it’s something that, you know, teenagers want to be independent. The last thing on Earth they want to do is be dependent. They don’t want to listen to me, they don’t want to listen to you. That’s normal. We were there; I was as bad as they got. Just ask my parents. Ha-ha. It’s important to recognize that they’re becoming adults themselves. Basically, they use this way to spin it as, “well, do you really want to become dependent on something that has nicotine? I mean, all of a sudden, you’re feeling anxious and unwell, and you feel like you have to go to that vape to feel a little better. Do you really want to rely on that on a timely manner or you’re trying to sit through your class and focus on your studies and all of a sudden, “Gosh, I really could use a vape right now.” It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.


Brad: So, typically, vaping is with CBD oil, is that right?


Chris: Well, you can. CBD, I mean, you can vape it, you can have gummies, you can do oils.


Brad: But that is the primary fluid that’s used with vaping or is there another?


Chris: Well, I think the primary fluid would be, probably, nicotine-containing products and flavorings. A lot of things with the e-cigarettes or like, one popular brand would be JUUL. It’s the flavorings that get the kids hooked, so I mean, they’ve got bubblegum, strawberry, berry, cotton candy, unicorn puke, I mean, they’ve got just about everything. I’m not kidding, that’s a real flavor.


Bob: I think that’s what attracts them to it, with this nicotine that keeps them coming back isn’t it?


Chris: It does, and it’s just like the rat going for the pellets, you know? We all saw that study going back to the 50’s.


Bob: I’m afraid that even when they ban the flavors, which they are trying to do in a lot of areas, probably drives it to the black market, but I’m afraid that the ones that are already on it are still going to continue because the nicotine is going to be what they seek.


Chris: Well it’s the driving force and they have different nicotine strengths and cartridges and I think that’s the danger that you run.


Brad: Nicotine is on the layer of substances that’ll get you addicted pretty high. You just told me that the other day and I was like, I was amazed at the level.


Chris: Yeah, there were a group of scientists in the UK that did a study a couple years back and they wanted to try and quantify the most addictive substances and out of five, nicotine came in at number 5, and then it was barbiturates or sleeping medications.


Bob: Yeah, it’s some pretty heavy hitters.


Chris: Oh yeah. And then it was alcohol, cocaine and then heroin, so I mean, all these things, not good things to take so you have number 5 right there and trying to quit, there’s been some studies that say it’s actually harder to quit than heroin. I’m not going to tell somebody to take up smack, but it’s certainly something that I mean, it’s a challenge to quit. We use pharmaceuticals to help you do that because in many cases, it’s just too hard to cold turkey it.


Bob: Let’s take in the pros and cons here. So, let’s say you are a cigarette smoker and you’re an adult. Is it better to jump down to the e-cigarette?


Chris: If we had to pick our poison, I would say yes, it’s a safer alternative to smoking.


Bob: But there’s other alternatives that you’d prefer them to try.


Chris: Yeah, I think we would probably try and consider it, FDA approved, you know, things to try and help you to challenge yourself to quit. Again, it’s not an easy thing to do. When e-cigarettes did come out, I’ll touch back on its history, the thought process was it was going to be a step down process from cigarettes to vaping to quitting, Unfortunately, they keep putting nicotine in there, and actually some new studies are actually suggesting that it may in teenagers, make them prone to smoking more and more vigorously in the future, so it’s kind of an alarming trend. I think it’s something that realistically, may have been well-intended, but the unintended consequences are that it probably just fuels more addiction.


Bob: And you know, cigarette use was going down among children and now vaping is coming up.


Chris: It certainly is. Vaping is coming up, but actually after 2017, there was a slight dip again, so, which was encouraging, but it’s still raging. I mean, you’re talking about 3.6 million kids, you know. From 2011 to 2015, you’re talking a 900% increase.


Brad: Wow.


Chris: That is not small, I mean, wouldn’t we all like a 900% raise?


Bob: Ha-ha


Chris: I mean, that would be nice. It’s certainly something that we have to deal with as adults and kids.


Brad: I think we should mention, just recently, that the deaths that they feel are strongly associated with it. There were six of them and I think, just on the news this morning in Minnesota, they mentioned, I thought it was in the teens that they associated deaths with vaping. I don’t know how strongly it’s correlated or if they say for sure, but it is the flavored vapes that they’re pointing at.


Bob: I thought that they were like the black-market type stuff.


Chris: Well, I don’t know that they are necessarily even black market, I think really the deaths, the six that I know of for sure, have all been linked to THC. It seems like THC, which is basically you create an oil that goes into the pens much like the nicotine or the e-juice, and the THC is stabilized with vitamin E, and so something either between the oily plant of the THC extract is,


Bob: Can you explain what THC is?


Chris: It’s basically marijuana.


Bob: Yeah, that’s what I wanted to ask.


Chris: It’s the component that gets you high.


Bob: That’s what they’re adding to it then.


Chris: Yes, and that’s what we want to avoid.


Brad: That’s added with the flavor?


Chris: No, it’s not even added with the flavor. It’s just its own little juice. You just put your drops into your vaping chamber, and then basically you turn the switch onto the desired temperature and then they inhale. What they believe with these pens, at least what theorized, and its not understood, so we want to be very clear on that, is that we don’t fully understand the mechanism that may be causing but they think with the oils that are being absorbed into the lungs, it’s blocking that tissue from getting life giving oxygen. It’s very tragic, very sad, and unfortunately very quick. Basically, with the vaping deaths, I think a lot of it is we’re going to find that it was THC in the oils. We don’t fully understand but we think, again, there’s probably some sort of imminent danger there but a ton more research needs to occur.


Bob: Yeah, there’s really a lot of unknowns here isn’t there?


Chris: Too many to be clear and concise.


Bob: My belief system is that they’re going to be bad unknowns.


Chris: Bob, that’s precisely it. I think the thing that we have to take away is, again, as I stated earlier, the only good thing for your lungs is air. Whether you’re using something that contains nicotine, something that contains THC, or something that contains CBD, which is also another oily substance, the jury’s still out. I think we have a lot more, probably like 20 years truly, knowing what’s going to happen with e-cigarettes, and what that future’s going to bring us and the people that are starting to vape today and what it’s going to be like tomorrow or down the road. We have to be very careful and I think the American Lung Association and a variety of other, you know the FDA. We are going to be looking at it much more closely to ensure, hopefully the safety of youth and people that do choose to make that decision for their lives.


Bob: I mean, it seems like we’ve opened up a can of worms here, basically.


Chris: Very much so. It’s not easy, it’s kind of like the great spaghetti incident, I mean, you have things everywhere and I think we just simply don’t know enough to make an accurate portrayal. I would say that it’s still something that you shouldn’t do but if you choose it, I think it’s better than cigarette smoke.


Bob: I think that’s the overall line to be stated today. Did you want to mention popcorn lung before we end?


Brad: Well, I know there was some research and a correlation with there can be some damage to your lungs that’s irreversible from vaping.


Chris: Yes, it’s associated with the vaping, more particularly with the flavors. They had these flavoring agents, many of them are being banned, but they have these diacetates in there. It’s a chemical that I think you can kind of blend into anything and it gives kind of that sweet aromatic flavor, and basically that’s one of the problems with vaping. The kids like the flavors and that’s what kind of like, oh it’s cotton candy! Why not take a little hit of cotton candy fully not understanding. There’s an interesting study that showed that kids from 15-24 that vape, 2/3 of the people did not think there was nicotine in them. That’s kind of an astounding stat. Again, it’s keeping you coming back for more, not because of the great flavor but you know, you get that relaxing feeling when you hit the nicotine and all of a sudden, eventually, it dwindles after a couple of hours and we’re back at it and back at it and there’s that vicious cycle.


Bob: The popcorn lung, what’s the reference there?


Chris: So, popcorn lung, back when there was a factory, what happened is they were making the buttery flavoring for popcorn and found that several of these employees got very very ill and it caused irreparable lung damage. Starting out appearing like asthma, and so treated, maybe as asthma, maybe as they further went down to work, and kept getting more and more repeated exposure, they found that actually it caused much more severe damage to the small tissues in the lung and ultimately, some serious problems arose.


Bob: I remember there’s been warnings about using microwaved popcorn that you shouldn’t breathe it in.


Chris: Right and that’s the same warning.


Brad: That’s the same chemical that’s found in the flavored vapes?


Chris: Yep, diacetates. Those are the things that are banned. In the UK, they are completely banned, so if you’re going over to London, I guess it’s a safer place to buy vapes at this point. Realistically speaking, it’s still something that with their using vegetable oils, propylene glycol, I mean, you’re using other things that are breaking down in the lungs that are not good. So, popcorn lung is certainly something that’s going to be a problem. COPD is certainly a problem; the nicotine can cause cardiovascular effects. So is blood pressure, raising your heart rate because it’s a stimulant, so there’s lots of things that we have to be aware of. There’s really nothing good that we are going to be able to say, “Go out and vape kid.” It’s not the lesson we want to portray. It’s something that you’re going to become addicted to. For the short-term gains that you’re going to get, it’s going to cause far more long-term problems, and it’s just simply not worth it. I guess, just say no.


Brad: There you go.


Bob: Alright, a little reference to Nancy Reagan there. Thanks everybody for watching and thanks again to Chris. What a fantastic job. Bravo, bravo!


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