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Death & Disease

Vaping may increase your risk of cancer

Published Apr 11, 2022
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The tobacco industry has done it again – created a product where the more it’s studied, the more serious harm is discovered. A study published by researchers at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) found that, just as in cigarettes, vape e-liquids and aerosols contain many cancer-causing heavy metals. While the actual heavy metals differ between cigarettes and vapes, each significantly increases the users’ overall cancer risk.1

We already protect people from heavy metals, So, why not vapes?

We require people to be protected in most places where they can be exposed to toxic heavy metals. People who work with these metals in industries like welding and electroplating, are required to wear respirators to protect them from breathing in heavy metals. But the story is different for vapes. Even though people who vape are exposed to these dangerous chemicals, there are no protections in place for them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for setting manufacturing standards, labeling, and package requirements for e-cigarettes,2 and yet under that responsibility, they have failed to issue manufacturing standards that would protect people, reducing cancer risks from vape products. They have also failed to require warning labels on vapes or vape packaging about exposure to carcinogens such as heavy metals.

Heavy metals in vapes are toxic

Multiple studies have found that harmful heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, are present in both cigarette smoke and vape aerosol.3 4 However, in this recent research, CDPH found that vape aerosol and e-liquids can contain a greater concentration of certain toxic heavy metals compared to cigarettes, including chromium, nickel, manganese, and lead.5 6

Exposure to heavy metals in e-cigarettes can have serious health consequences.7 It’s hard to believe anyone would want to put these chemicals into their lungs:

  • Chromium and nickel, found in multiple e-cigarette brands,8 have been linked to respiratory diseases, including lung cancer.9 10 Chromium and nickel compounds are used in electroplating, welding, and other industrial processes.
  • Manganese and lead exposure may cause neurological and developmental defects. Manganese compounds are used in steel production, pesticides, and batteries.11 Lead compounds are used in the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products, paints, and ceramics.12
  • Cadmium exposure can harm the kidneys and has been linked to lung cancer. Cadmium compounds are used in plating, pigments for coloring plastics, ceramics, glasses, and plastic production and are found in nickel-cadmium batteries.13

Heavy metals aren’t the only ingredients in e-cigarettes that increase cancer risk. Other chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are also carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, further putting people who vape at risk.14 In short, there are a lot of ingredients in e-cigarettes that could increase a user’s risk for cancer.

E-cigarettes contribute to other health complications

It’s not only cancer you need to worry about, though. E-cigarettes can contribute to many other health risks, too. They can increase risk of heart damage,15 and cause lung inflammation,16 nausea,17 and a decrease in lung immune system response.18 Solvents and additives used in vapes appear to be the culprits behind EVALI, the mysterious lung illness outbreak that occurred in 2019.19

Secondhand smoke from vape is harmful, too

E-cigarettes can be harmful to people who are around them too, not just to people who use them. The US Surgeon General has concluded that secondhand vape is an aerosol that contains a mixture of dangerous chemicals, including heavy metals.20

Don’t let the tobacco industry fool you – using a vape device is hazardous to your health. The studies have been piling up about the harm of vapes for nearly a decade.20 The best way to protect yourself against all the harms of vapes is to quit. If you need help quitting, call Kick It California at 1-800-300-8086 or visit KickItCA.org

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Hold the industry accountable

California has already protected people from other harmful products, and it's time to hold the tobacco industry to the same standards.