Can vaping cause lung cancer? UAE doctors raise awareness, urge people to quit smoking

Preliminary studies have shown that nicotine and other chemicals from vape can stimulate cancer development and growth


Angel Tesorero

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Published: Tue 1 Aug 2023, 4:47 PM

Last updated: Tue 1 Aug 2023, 5:37 PM

On World Lung Cancer Day, observed every August 1, doctors in the UAE once again emphasised the urgent need for people to quit smoking. They stress that vaping, often perceived as a less harmful alternative, is equally addictive and not a safe substitute for traditional smoking.

Doctors noted, “If regular tobacco cigarettes contain around 7,000 chemicals – many of which are toxic – there is no doubt that vaping, or the process of inhaling a vapour created by an e-cigarette (electronic cigarette) or vape pen, also contain toxic chemicals like traditional cigarettes."

Dr Raiza Hameed KH, specialist pulmonology at Aster Clinic Bur Dubai (AJMC), explained to Khaleej Times: “In vaping, the liquid is vapourised, and organic compounds like aldehydes are released, which causes intense damage to lungs. The chemicals in the vape lead to chronic lung inflammation, eventually leading to cancer.”

Dr Raiza Hameed KH
Dr Raiza Hameed KH

Objectively speaking, Dr Hameed noted: “E-cigarettes have not been around long enough and hence more research is still needed to understand the lung cancer risks associated with vaping. It takes a while for the cancer to develop, and we need to follow study subjects over a period of time.”

“But preliminary studies have shown that nicotine and other chemicals from vape can stimulate cancer development and growth,” she underscored.

“Vaping can cause chronic lung inflammation. It can also cause other health effects like throat irritation, chronic bronchitis, asthma, head ache, anxiety, heart disease, acute lung injury, etc. Dr Hameed continued.

Highly addictive

Is vaping bad for you? Doctors noted nicotine is the primary agent found in regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. Nicotine also raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline that can increase heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.

“People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health,” noted Dr Gopal Chawla, specialist pulmonologist at NMC Specialty Hospital - Dubai Investments Park. He added: “There are emerging data that link chronic lung disease and asthma, and the dual use of e-cigarettes and (traditional) smoking with cardiovascular disease. Those who are vaping are exposing themselves to to all various chemicals that we don’t yet understand but are probably not safe.”

Dr Gopal Chawla
Dr Gopal Chawla

Not a tool to stop smoking

Dr Mitchelle Lolly, specialist pulmonologist at Prime Hospital, said: “An e-cigarette is composed of a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid. Although it was brought into the world to help people quit smoking, it was later found in various studies that it could be equally harmful and carcinogenic due to the various substances that are inhaled.”

Dr Mitchelle Lolly
Dr Mitchelle Lolly

Dr Lolly enumerated the chemicals found in vaping. She said: “The aerosol generated contains nicotine (may not be present), ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavouring agents such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to a serious lung disease), cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.”

“Due to the harmful substances that are produced by the aerosol, the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved of it to be used for quitting smoking cessation. In fact around 47 countries have banned its and sale due to its possibility of harmful effects. and to protect the future generation. Those who vape must understand that it is equally harmful and should not be used as smoking cessation tool,” she added.

Dr Noordin Wadhvaniya
Dr Noordin Wadhvaniya

Common substances in e-liquid:

Diacety – this additive used to enhance e-cigarette flavour can damage small passageways in the lungs

Formaldehyde – toxic chemical that can cause lung disease and contribute to heart disease.

Acrolein – most often used as a grass killer, this chemical can also damage lungs.

Quit now

Dr Noordin Wadhvaniya, specialist respiratory medicine at Canadian Specialty Hospital Dubai, said: “Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. It can harm nearly every organ in your body, including your heart, as nearly one-third of deaths from heart disease are the result of smoking and secondhand smoke.”

He gave the following precautions:

  • Don’t smoke or quit smoking now. If you don’t smoke, your risk of lung cancer starts coming down within five years of quitting.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke and other substances that can harm your lungs.
  • Eat a healthy diet and maintain a weight that’s healthy for you. Eating fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Get screened for lung cancer if you’re at high risk.

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