Recently, there has been a trend of switching from the traditional cigarette to vapor cigarettes. One contributing factor may be due to the notion that vapor smoke has fewer carcinogens. Although the levels of carcinogens are less, there are other risk factors involved with vapor smoke.
These risk factors are associated with lung and cardiac pathology. Recent studies have demonstrated the formation of “popcorn lung” in vapor smokers, also known as Bronchiolitis Obliterans. There are chemicals that can disrupt the normal osmolarity of the lungs in vapor smoke. These chemicals include diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentadione, and are mostly found in the flavored vapor liquid. These chemicals draw the liquid coating the surface of lungs into the smoke which leaves the lungs dry and prone to collapse. Additionally, these chemicals may lead to inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. Over time the properties of these chemicals found in vapor liquid can lead to the development of “popcorn lungs”.
There are other chemicals found in vapor smoke that also contribute to the inflammation and scarring of lung tissue. These chemicals are referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Symptoms of popcorn lung can be easy to overlook as they may initially resemble asthma. However, over the course of time, they may progress to include persistent shortness of breath, dry cough, unexplained exhaustion, and rapid breathing.
Diagnosis of popcorn lung is suspected when a patient presents with new onset breathing symptoms in the absence of other respiratory conditions. Upon physical examination of such patients, healthcare professionals may suggest further testing to confirm diagnosis. Currently, there are no cures for popcorn lung. With time, the scarring and healing of lung tissue may lead to pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension can then progress to various pathologies and may even lead to death. As of 2016, all e-cigarettes came under the control of the U.S Food and Drug Administration. With more research on vapor smoke, regulation changes are expected.