People vape and smoke e-cigs for all sorts of reasons. Vaping can be a hobby, a replacement for cigarette smoking, a way to quit smoking, and so on. But whatever the reason, it's always important to avoid all the mistakes that may lead to vaping health risks — because there are quite a few.
The jury is still out as to how safe (or unsafe) vaping and using e-cigarettes actually is. "[Vaping] is not FDA approved nor have there been enough adequate studies done to know what health risks truly exist," Dr. Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, tells Bustle. That said, "the 'juice' is composed of propylene glycol, solvents, flavor and may or may not contain nicotine. Compared to the known carcinogenic effects of nicotine, [vaping] is considered less harmful than cigarette smoking. Common reported side effects of vaping include dry skin, dry mouth, rash/burning sensation on the face, allergy to the e-liquid, itchiness, puffy/dry eyes and minor bloody nose issues."
As Dr. Ross says, "with more long term research and time, the true health risks of vaping will be discovered." Until then, however, those who vape can stay safer with a few simple tips. First, vapers should "make sure [they] purchase [their] vape and the juice from a trustworthy smoke shop or vape store, be it online or a physical store," Peter Hyman, founder of Smokesmith Gear, tells Bustle. Those who vape should also read the instructions, Hyman says, and ask the retailer any questions they may have about their device or the e-juice they're buying. Here are a few health mistakes people often make when vaping, according to experts.
1. "Dry Hitting"
Vaporizers and e-cigarettes work by heating up e-liquid on a hot coil or wick, which turns the juice into a vapor. If people who vape don't put enough liquid into the chamber of the e-cig, or accidentally try to smoke an e-cig that's empty, they'll "dry vape" — and that can create a burning sensation on the back of the throat.
Dry vaping is "the scourge of vapers everywhere," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. The burning wick or coil needs juice on it to work properly, he says, so vapers should always check it before vaping.
2. Choosing A High Nicotine Percentage
E-cig liquids come in all different nicotine levels. For a safer vaping experience, people who vape may want to go for the juices with lower levels — especially if they think they'll be smoking quite often.
"Those who are [casual smokers] might do themselves damage by switching to an e-cig or vape and using more nicotine than before," Backe says.
If someone who vapes isn't sure which nicotine level is right for them, it may be a good idea to choose the lowest nicotine percentage possible, or ask a professional for help.
3. Buying Cheap Equipment
Vaping can be pricey, so it can be mighty tempting to go for the cheaper brands and the cheaper versions of necessary equipment. But this isn't always a good idea.
Low-cost products may be dangerous for vapers if they contain cheap materials, Backe says.
While the jury is out on whether or not cheap products are more dangerous, vapers should be aware that some products have been known to catch on fire. For example, according to the Surgeon General, one "risk to consider involves defective e-cigarette batteries that have been known to cause fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries. Most of the explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged."
4. Breathing In The Liquid From The Cheap Products
Apart from using cheap products and the dangers they may impose, it's also potentially risky to breathe in liquid from cheaply made products.
"Inhaling from cheap vaporizers from no-name manufacturers is a scary idea," Damon Inlow, owner of Vaporizers.ca, tells Bustle. "They can not only burn [a vaper's] product, but they can be made with unsafe parts, wiring, or glues."
To lessen the chance that smokers are inhaling dangerous substances, Inlow says they should go for reputable products from well-known dealers.
5. Smoking More Than They Mean To
Because vapor is not nearly as heavy as smoke, it can be difficult for smokers to gauge how much they're actually inhaling. "Visually speaking, there is often no discernible billow (apart from those who blow a certain type of juice designed to create 'clouds')," Hyman says. And there's no package of cigarettes to watch as they dwindle away.
"One obvious health danger here is that a vaper can overdo it," Hyman says. And that can mean inhaling more nicotine than they bargained for. Again, it's important to start off slow until they know what feels right for them.
6. Choosing A More Toxic E-Juice
It's important for vapers to do their research when choosing an e-juice, since there are so many options out there when it comes to varieties, flavors, and nicotine levels. Some vape flavors are more toxic than others, too, due to the chemicals used to create the flavors.
It's important for smokers to pay attention to the juice's base, as well. "Vape juice comes in one of two types: PG or VG," Hyman says. "This refers to type of base it has — either propylene glycerol or vegetable glycerine. VG juices are much thicker and can gum up the coils more easily. PG juices have more flavor intensity and produce more vapor (which is good or bad, depending on how new one is to vaping). But it is common for a beginner vaper to use the 'wrong' type of juice."
7. Smoking Too Much Due To Modifications
Due to the ease of smoking, it's common for vapers to puff away all day long — not realizing how much nicotine they're actually inhaling. But it can be even easier for them to smoke too much due to vaping modifications that are available.
"In the realm of e-cigarettes, where people are vaping e-juice and the like, there are websites out there that will try to sell advanced vapes (called box mods)," Hyman says. "These vapes are strong and often deliver too much vapor to the user."
It's important to start off slow for those who are new to vaping. "There is a definite learning curve and it’s best to start with a basic unit," Hyman says. That way, [smokers] won't be inhaling more than ... intended, or making [themselves] sick with too much nicotine."
8. Not Keeping Things Clean
Basic cleanliness can go a long way in vaping, too. "Daily maintenance is essential as well as weekly or monthly full cleans," Inlow says. It's important to replace screens and tubes within the e-cig, so that the vapor coming out is as clean as possible.
9. Vaping With An Old Coil
It's not uncommon for vapers to make a mistake when replacing the coil in their device, which can up the chances of that aforementioned dry hitting. And it's even more common for them to not replace it all, and vape with a dirty, gross, old coil.
"Advanced vapes ... have coils and wicks that need to be maintained and this requires some knowledge as well," Hyman says. "Again, for a beginner this may result in making mistakes when replacing a coil."
10. Forgetting To Wash Out The Tank
Many vapers switch between e-juice flavors, sometimes going from something fruity, to something more savory, and back again. But not everyone remembers to clean out their tank before switching flavors, which can not only result in a bad taste, but also the blending of different types of juices.
When it comes to being healthier while vaping, it's always a good idea for someone to stick to one vaping flavor, and not blend them together, as that just means the vaper is smoking even more chemicals. As Hyman mentions above, if someone wants to vape, going for unflavored e-juices is best.
11. Vaping In Someone's Face
Not everyone is careful to blow their vape smoke away from others. This can result in forcing people in the surrounding area to breathe in secondhand smoke, which isn't exactly fair.
For anyone who vapes, it's important to always be aware of others when exhaling, Backe says. It's a good idea to avoid vaping in movie theaters and restaurants, for example, and to keep in mind that it's not yet known if secondhand smoke from vapes is dangerous.
There are plenty of things vapers can do to lower their health risks — specially until more is known about the risks and side effects of vaping.