Last updated: December 4, 2023
The e-cigarette market exploded in the 1990s. Individual inventors and tobacco companies alike began registering for patents in droves. The trend carried on throughout the remainder of the decade and well into the 2000s. Manufacturers primarily advertised e-cigarettes as a safer way to get your nicotine fix than conventional smoking. The reason is that you don’t have to deal with the carcinogens in the smoke.
Believe it or not, a man named Joseph Robinson was the first to apply for a patent for an electronic cigarette back in 1930! Nothing ever came of it though and we don’t even know if there was ever a working prototype of the device. In 1965, Herbert Gilbert received a patent for his e-cigarette idea. He created prototypes but never produced any for sale.
Times have changed though and we’re thirty years in now.
Among other disturbing news, if you smoke e-cigarettes you’re at a higher risk of contracting COVID and the flu.
Vaping is bad for you
A study conducted at UNC-Chapel Hill found that people—between the ages of 18 and 40—who use e-cigarettes and tobacco products showed more changes in their immune genes in the respiratory cells that fight off viruses compared to non-smokers. The same group also showed a suppressed level of antibodies within their system.
The change was more pronounced among those who use e-cigarettes though.
“E-cigarette use is not safe or safer than cigarettes, and that is a really important take-home message,” MeghanRebuli, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Pediatrics said in an interview. “You probably shouldn’t be inhaling any kind of tobacco-related products; it all impairs your immune response to the viruses.”
There are thousands of vaping liquids and numerous e-cigarette devices on the market. That makes it hard to determine the specific chemicals that are responsible for the lung injuries people are suffering.
Moreover, vitamin E acetate and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have been closely tied to vaping-induced lung disease. That puts a whole different people group at risk. Lots of people use marijuana products who don’t crave nicotine.
In addition to directly causing lung disease, vaping can cause the following:
- Sleep disruption
- Fibrosis in the heart, liver, and kidneys
- Alters neutrophil function and host defenses
- Increase systemic inflammation
- Increases susceptibility to infections
- Viral lung infections may impact e-cigarette smokes more severely
There is evidence to support the hypothesis that young people who are otherwise healthy, but who smoke e-cigarettes, can develop COVID-19 even with no apparent pre-existing medical conditions.
Another risk includes vaccines
If genes that activate immune response are affected adversely, it could be bad news for vaccine effectiveness among the population that smokes or who use e-cigarettes. These genes are important. They help the body’s immune system recognize a virus that it’s encountered before. Unfortunately, this is exactly how vaccines are designed to work.
Even though the COVID-19 vaccine is said to be 90% effective, time will tell if it will be similarly effective in those who use vaping products.
The real deal
Nicotine is an addictive additive in tobacco products.
Manufactures advertised that e-cigarettes would help smokers quit. In reality, however, e-cigarettes are just another way to become addicted to nicotine. The use of these devices has significantly increased over the last decade—now it includes the marijuana industry as well.
Large numbers of adolescents and young adults who never smoked traditional cigarettes are picking up e-cigarettes—and, they aren’t putting them down. Most people believe that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking.
Now, we have definite proof that they’re compromising their health. And, in a way that makes them a higher risk if they contract the flu or one of the COVID variants making the rounds. They don’t have the immune response that will help them fight it off. Odds are they are going to have a more serious case than someone who doesn’t vape.
And, it could end with the direst of consequences.
It’s important that we educate adolescents and young adults about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
We need to start now.