Fertility Answers - Helping Build Families

Vaping: What’s the Harm?

Vaping may have adverse effects on fertility

Vaping: What's the harm?Drawn to their fruity flavors, or trying to wean from traditional tobacco products, or even to curtail hunger, many people believe e-cigarettes or “vaping” is safer than smoking cigarettes. But recently, the CDC has sounded the alarm about EVALI, a newly coined acronym meaning E-cigarette Vaping-Associated Lung Injury. And while the effects of vaping on the lungs is becoming more widely known, research on its damage to the human reproductive system is just getting started.

Vaping invites harmful and unknown chemicals into the body and bloodstream. Vapes, vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs), and e-pipes are some of the many terms used to describe electronic nicotine delivery systems. These products use a liquid that may contain nicotine, as well as varying compositions of flavorings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and other ingredients. The liquid is heated to create an aerosol that the user inhales.

These cancer-causing agents reach deep into the lungs, irritating the bronchi and cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, as well as compromise adequate flow of blood to the heart and restrict of the arteries. The “vapor” inhaled also leads to gum disease, chronic cough, and decreases wound healing.

Vaping has been linked to low sperm count and embryo implantation problems

Increased use of e-cigarettes in reproductive-aged women and men represents a rising health concern. Given the newness of vaping as a cultural phenomenon and as an alternative to traditional tobacco products, research on vaping’s possible damage to the reproductive system is on-going, but preliminary data find:

  • Use of e-cigarettes is associated with lower sperm counts in a cross-sectional study of young men from the general population. In fact, compared to non-users, daily e-cigarette users had significantly lower total sperm count (147 million vs 91 million) as did daily cigarette smokers (139 million vs 103 million), in adjusted analyses. Importantly, this is the first human study to indicate that not only cigarette smoking but also use of e-cigarettes is associated with lower sperm counts. This could be important knowledge for men trying to achieve a pregnancy, especially those with already low sperm counts, as e-cigarettes are often considered to be less harmful than conventional cigarette smoking.
  • Moreover, a new study conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that using e-cigarettes before conceiving delays implantation of a fertilized embryo in the uterus, thereby delaying and reducing fertility.
  • While approximately 25% of women quit smoking when pregnant, many supplement or replace tobacco products with e-cigarettes thinking they will be less harmful. However, e-cigarette refill flavor fluids are cytotoxic to human embryonic stem cells as trace levels of formaldehyde, nickel and lead are still present. Additional substances are also present that are untested for human pregnancy.

Bottom line: If you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, quit smoking, and that includes vaping, too.

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