Popcorn Lung: Health Risks and Other Side Effects Surrounding Vaping

Jennifer Liu

Aarya Dev, Leyden Streed, and Caroline Davis

With vaping becoming more popular among youth, there has been some speculation about how safe vaping actually is. Vaping has been advertised as safer than cigarettes due to the lack of tar and smoke. Although this seems safer, there are unknown, dangerous chemicals in vaping juices and pods. These chemicals have had unknown impacts which are being revealed as the vaping fad expands. Popcorn Lung is one of the effects which are detrimental.  

Vaping exposes users to addiction to nicotine. Many vape juices have higher concentrations of nicotine than cigarettes. Nicotine is one of the five most addictive substances, along with cocaine, heroine, methamphetamine, and alcohol. All of these substances have been proven to be extremely dangerous and harmful for the body, so it can be expected that nicotine has these effects, too. The majority of electronic cigarettes contain 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine, which is an average size of a pack. 

Popcorn Lung (scientific name “bronchiolitis obliterans”) gets its name because it is caused by breathing in the artificial flavouring often used in microwavable popcorn, called diacetyl. Once discovered, companies banned the use of diacetyl in popcorn, but it is still frequently used in electronic cigarettes. 

The disease can damage people’s airways, causing shortness of breath and frequent coughing. It also weakens the immune system, which makes the body more susceptible to frequent illnesses. Continued vaping after having this illness can cause it to develop into fatal conditions.   

More recently, Popcorn Lung has been associated with vaping. Vaping has appealed to many not only for the desire for nicotine, but also the temptation of various flavorings. Some flavors found in electronic cigarettes include mint, mango, green apple, and fruit punch. These flavors have led people to accuse electronic cigarette companies of condoning addiction, especially in targeting youth. This expands the dangers as youth are more susceptible and impacted long term by this dangerous epidemic. Now that people have discovered this condition found due to e-cig use, they have more reason to be concerned about the amount of youth vaping and its health effects. 

Along with Popcorn Lung, there are other health risks from vaping that are being investigated. Certain substances that have been found in the vapor used in electronic cigarettes can increase your risk of cancer. Teens who vape are more likely to smoke later in life. The FDA, CDC, and state health officials are investigating these cases further to determine the main causes and how to treat and prevent them.

Now that more negative outcomes of vaping are being discovered, the need for students to stop vaping is becoming more important. The FDA is calling vaping an “epidemic” among teens, and has taken action to help end it. 

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of students who have started vaping and when asked her opinion, MHS Health teacher Allyson Hornseth said, “[I] know we talk about it a lot in Health class but [we] really think it comes down to not us teachers telling you to stop, but you telling each other that its bad.”

Vaping has many negative side effects and many of them have not been discovered yet. Minnetonka High School cautions students to be aware of these effects, make good decisions and represent us well.