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Vaping and its effects on health

Vaping, the trendy alternative to smoking, comes with health risks. Let’s explore the science behind vaping’s impact on our well-being.

The use of electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as vaping, has grown exponentially and has gained popularity as an alternative to traditional cigarette smoking (1). Research in this method of smoking is growing, and some published works have started to examine the effects of vaping on health, shedding light on the potential health risks associated with e-cigarettes/vaping.


In South Africa, the South African Medical Research Council was commissioned by the National Department of Health to conduct the SA version of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, reminding us that smoking is a leading cause of preventable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory illnesses (2). The inhalation of toxic substances in tobacco smoke, such as carbon monoxide and arsenic, poses severe health risks not only to smokers but also to non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Children are particularly vulnerable, with second-hand smoke increasing their risk of respiratory infections, asthma, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)​.


It may that perceived by some that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, or that it assists in attempts to quit smoking, however the long-term health effects of vaping is still being researched (3). What we do know though, is that the vapour produced by e-cigarettes can contain harmful substances like heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing chemicals​. For example, one study found that vaping can lead to the release of hazardous substances such as formaldehyde and acrolein, which are known to cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and may have negative effects on lung function and respiratory health, in general (4). The inhalation of the toxins found in vaping can slow the overall growth process of the lungs and potentially cause irreversible lung damage, particularly in adolescents (5).


An interesting study in 2021 was conducted, whereby researchers performed a Content Analysis (using social media platforms as part of investigating a research topic), and found that forced quitting of vaping resulted in a decrease in positive affect (negative mood and emotional states), suggesting that there may be psychological drawbacks to quitting vaping for those who have tried it before, and subsequently posted about it online (6). One study found that there are varying degrees of trust of national information sources when Health Departments communicate information as part of Health Promotion initiatives. The study looked at different health topics, including tobacco information and electronic cigarettes. The authors suggest a more targeted approach to disseminating information about health, and since social media is being used as a search engine these days, the information can be curated, uploaded and published on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, X, and TikTok, making important health information readily available for young people (1,7).


In our quest to deliver the most updated information to our readers, we encourage youth to seek reliable information, understand the potential long-term consequences of vaping, and consider healthier alternatives to manage stress or social pressures​. To stay up to date, the Western Cape Government has put together a blogpost as well. Read more here.


If you, or anyone you know is wanting to kick the habit of smoking/vaping habit - it’s always easier said than done… Doing it on your own isn't always easy. Our friends at CANSA are  ready to help you quit using tobacco through their eKick Butt Programme - details below:

CANSA eKick Butt Programme
Tel: 0800 22 66 22 (toll-free)


Yours in Sports Science,

The Sports Science Institute of South Africa