Quitting Vaping Affects Your Body In These 4 Ways, Experts Say

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Vaping devices, whether they use nicotine or flavored chemicals, are proving to be more damaging for health than users might have anticipated. Studies have now revealed that vaping products, even those that don't involve any nicotine, can still cause health issues: they can contain heavy metals and chemical flavors that have been linked to lung disease, according to the Surgeon General's office. If you're trying to quit vaping, experts say, your body may react in many ways — but there's still quite a lot we don't know about vaping and how to quit it most effectively.

"While we know about how the human body rebounds after quitting cigarettes, with vaping it really depends on the chemical, frequency, and the amount used to vape," Dr. Osita Onugha, M.D., assistant professor of thoracic surgical oncology at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center, tells Bustle. Your own reaction to quitting will depend on what you vape — generally, nicotine, marijuana, or flavored chemicals, says Dr. Onugha — how you do it, how long you've had the habit, and a variety of other factors.

There isn't one uniform way in which the human body reacts to quitting vaping, in part because there's so much variation in vaping products themselves. Scientists can make assumptions based on what they've observed in people who vape, but in the end, your own bodily reactions to quitting vaping will be pretty individual. Here's a guide to what might happen.

1. You May Have Nicotine Withdrawal

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If you vape nicotine products you'll likely feel the effects of nicotine withdrawal when you decide to quit. "People who are vaping nicotine can have the common withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine, including headache, sweating, abdominal cramping, or nicotine cravings," Dr. Onugha tells Bustle. One Juul pod, for example, can have as much nicotine in it as a packet of cigarettes, so you may find that your body's reaction to lowering nicotine levels is intense and lasts quite a long time.

Vapes were originally marketed as safer and easier to quit than cigarettes, Dr. Albert A. Rizzo M.D., the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, tells Bustle. "That's a false assumption," he says — quitting vaping nicotine devices can be just as difficult, if not more so, than quitting cigarettes, because of the amount of nicotine they contain.

2. Your Levels Of Inflammation Will Lower

One of the first effects of quitting vaping may be a reduction in inflammation levels, according to experts. Inflammation is the body's response to threats, illnesses, and viruses, and in people who vape, it may be at higher levels than in people who don't. "Vaping leads to the recruitment of white blood cells in the airway, which leads to the recruitment of molecules that can cause you to feel short of breath," Dr. Cedric Rutland M.D., a national spokesperson for the American Lung Association, tells Bustle. Recruitment is the step in your body's inflammatory process where white blood cells are drawn out of the bloodstream to the site of a potential threat in the body, to try and fight it off. A 2019 study published in Cancer Prevention Research found that even short-term vaping can cause higher levels of lung inflammation.

"Once you stop vaping, the recruitment of these white blood cells to the airway probably stops," Dr. Rutland tells Bustle, and the symptoms of airway inflammation will improve. He estimates that you'll feel less shortness of breath and experience fewer coughing episodes within 30 days, but more studies need to be done to confirm this.

3. Your Lung Cells May Change

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Vaping doesn't just increase inflammation in lung tissue. Studies published in Thorax in 2018 showed that it also physically changed lung cells, making the immune cells that are active in the lungs, known as macrophages, less effective. That change meant that the lungs were more vulnerable to bacterial infections, allergens, and other problems that the macrophages would normally be able to clear up.

The scientists behind the study told Reuters that these changes were very similar to those that had been observed in the lungs of cigarette smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a chronic inflammatory condition of the lung tissue. Studies have shown that quitting smoking can help those macrophages to recover a bit, but not for at least six months, so your lungs might also be slow to recover from quitting vaping, but there's no research on vaping recovery as yet.

4. Your Cardiovascular Performance Might Improve

A review of the science around e-cigarettes and vaping published in Vascular Medicine in 2019 found that vaping nicotine products appears to increase the possibility of cardiovascular issues, like a higher risk of heart attack and impaired circulation. Other studies have indicated that this holds true even in very physically fit people. It's also a problem for people who vape non-nicotine products like flavored pods. A study in Radiology in 2019 found that just one hit of a nicotine-free vape in people who'd never smoked before created physical changes in blood flow and the lining of the heart. They're less harmful to your vascular health than cigarettes, but they're still not great.

Recovery from these vascular issues after quitting vaping is less studied. However, it's a good bet that within around 30 days of quitting vaping, your circulation may have improved and you'll be experiencing better vascular health. This result depends on what you've vaped and how long you did it for, though.

Vaping is a comparatively new thing, so there's still not a huge amount of science about what happens when you quit and what the long-term effects on your body can be. However, the science indicates that if you're in the right place for it, quitting can be a really good idea to help various health outcomes and improve your lung function.

Studies cited:

Blaha, M.J., Ratchford, E.V. (2019). Electronic cigarettes. Vasc Med, 24(3), 267-269. doi: 10.1177/1358863X19837361.

Caporale, A., Langham, M. C., Guo, W., Johncola, A., Chatterjee, S., & Wehrli, F. W. (2019). Acute Effects of Electronic Cigarette Aerosol Inhalation on Vascular Function Detected at Quantitative MRI. Radiology, 293(1), 97–106. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2019190562

Dinkeloo, E., Grier, T. L., Brooks, R. D., & Jones, B. H. (2019). Vaping, Smoking, and the Physical Fitness of Active Young Men. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2019.08.015

Henkel, G. (2001). Smoking Cessation and Its Effects on Alveolar Macrophage Function. Anesthesiology, 94(6). doi: 10.1097/00000542-200106000-00002

Osei, A. D., Mirbolouk, M., Orimoloye, O. A., Dzaye, O., Uddin, S. M. I., Dardari, Z. A., … Blaha, M. J. (2019). The association between e-cigarette use and asthma among never combustible cigarette smokers: behavioral risk factor surveillance system (BRFSS) 2016 & 2017. BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 19(1). doi: 10.1186/s12890-019-0950-3

Polosa, R., & Thomson, N. C. (2012). Smoking and asthma: dangerous liaisons. European Respiratory Journal, 41(3), 716–726. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00073312

Scott, A., Lugg, S. T., Aldridge, K., Lewis, K. E., Bowden, A., Mahida, R. Y., … Thickett, D. R. (2018). Pro-inflammatory effects of e-cigarette vapour condensate on human alveolar macrophages. Thorax, 73(12), 1161–1169. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2018-211663

Song, M.-A., Reisinger, S. A., Freudenheim, J. L., Brasky, T. M., Mathé, E. A., Mcelroy, J. P., … Shields, P. G. (2019). Effects of Electronic Cigarette Constituents on the Human Lung: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Cancer Prevention Research. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.capr-19-0400

Experts:

Dr. Osita Onugha M.D., assistant professor of thoracic surgical oncology at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center

Dr. Albert A. Rizzo M.D., chief medical officer of the American Lung Association

Dr. Cedric Rutland M.D., national spokesperson for the American Lung Association