Is Vaping Bad for Your Lungs?

By Dr. Annie Macpherson
Updated: 2019-09-14

Effects of Vaping on Lungs

Common short-term effects of vaping are:

  • mouth and throat irritation
  • and a dry cough [1, 2].

These symptoms do not last long and will resolve after you stop vaping. Your cough reflex is also reduced after vaping, but this seems to be dependent on nicotine – nicotine-free e-cigarettes don’t cause this effect [3].

So far, research suggests vaping appears to have almost no long-term effects on lung function, including lung carbon monoxide levels, forced vital capacity, and cough reflexivity [3, 4].

Could Vaping Cause Tobacco-Related Lung Diseases?

Here’s What The Study Says On Lung Cancer

lung cancer

X-ray image of lung cancer. Unlike smoking, there are no known links between vaping and lung cancer.

Researchers announced in early 2018 that mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour displayed DNA damage in their lungs and heart, a known precursor to cancer, renewing concerns about the effects of vaping on your lungs [5]. However, this work has been dismissed by members of scientific and vaping communities alike.

Mice in this study were exposed to 3000 times more e-cigarette vapour than the average vaper, resulting in complete intoxication and aerosol overdose [6].

There is currently no evidence linking vaping to lung cancer, although more long-term research is definitely required.


Learn More About This Lung Disease

COPD is a deadly lung disease caused by tobacco smoke, that will affect 20-30% of smokers [7]. Research from clinical trials and patient surveys shows that the overwhelming majority of patients with COPD who switch from smoking to vaping will see a positive impact on their COPD symptoms including improved quality of life, and reduced requirement for oxygen [8, 9].

When people with COPD quit smoking, their symptoms drastically improve, an effect that is not stopped by vaping, suggesting that vaping does not make COPD symptoms worse.

COPD On Lungs

Research from 2016 showed that mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour for extended periods of time will develop markers of COPD in their lungs, including lung tissue destruction. This effect seemed to be entirely dependent on nicotine. The study did not investigate how quickly cigarette smoke would induce a similar effect, so we are not able to compare the significance of this nicotine-dependent damage to smoking tobacco. The positive takeaway from this study is that nicotine-free, unflavoured e-cigarettes did not have any effect at all on the lung function of mice [10].


Here’s What Concluded After The Research

More research is required before vaping can be considered entirely safe. E-cigarettes are never advised for use in non-smokers. However, current research suggests vaping has limited and short-term effects on lung function, and the majority of experts tell us vaping could be 95% less damaging than smoking [11]. In contrast, a stark reminder comes from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a 2017 press release about the known dangers of smoking: “cigarettes – the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users,” [12].


References and Citations

  1. Caponnetto P, Campagna D, Cibella F, et al. EffiCiency and Safety of an eLectronic cigAreTte (ECLAT) as tobacco cigarettes substitute: a prospective 12-month randomized control design study. PLoS One. 2013;8(6):e66317.

  2. Characteristics, perceived side effects and benefits of electronic cigarette use: a worldwide survey of more than 19,000 consumers. Farsalinos KE, Romagna G, Tsiapras D, Kyrzopoulos S, Voudris V
    Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Apr 22; 11(4):4356-73.

  3. Chest. 2016 Jan;149(1):161-5.Effect of e-Cigarette Use on Cough Reflex Sensitivity.
    Dicpinigaitis PV1, Lee Chang A2, Dicpinigaitis AJ2, Negassa A3.

  4. Ferrari M, Zanasi A, Nardi E, et al. Short-term effects of a nicotine-free e-cigarette compared to a traditional cigarette in smokers and non-smokers. BMC Pulm Med. 2015;15:120.

  5. E-cig damages DNA in lung, heart, and bladder. Hyun-Wook Lee, Sung-Hyun Park, Mao-wen Weng, Hsiang-Tsui Wang, William C. Huang, Herbert Lepor, Xue-Ru Wu, Lung-Chi Chen, Moon-shong Tang. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan 2018, 201718185

  6. Assessment of E-cigarette impact on smokers: The importance of experimental conditions relevant to human consumption. Giovanni Li Volti, Riccardo Polosa, Massimo Caruso
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2018, 115 (14) E3073-E3074

  7. Institute of Medicine. Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, 2009 [accessed 2018 October 28]

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among Adults—United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2012;61(46):938–43 [accessed 2018 October 28].

  9. Polosa R, Morjaria JB, Caponnetto P, et al. Evidence for harm reduction in COPD smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes. Respir Res. 2016;17(1):166.

  10. Garcia-Arcos I, Geraghty P, Baumlin N, et al Chronic electronic cigarette exposure in mice induces features of COPD in a nicotine-dependent manner Thorax 2016;71:1119-1129.

  11. Public Health England E-cigarettes: an evidence update A report commissioned by Public Health England (accessed 27/10/18)

  12. FDA News Release – FDA announces comprehensive regulatory plan to shift trajectory of tobacco-related disease, death. [Accessed 27/10/18]


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Dr. Annie Macpherson
Dr. Annie Macpherson

Annie has a PhD in Genome Stability from the University of Sussex. She has first-hand experience in cancer and human disease research. This allows her to provide us with new and unbiased insights into the ongoing research of the public and health effects of vaping. She loves an adventure, and has travelled through South East Asia and Australia working for Vaping Insider.