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Vaping – It’s No Smoke and Mirrors When it Comes to Urinary Health Issues

March 15, 2023 | By: Dr. Stephen Kappa

Your bladder doesn’t like arsenic. So why are at least one in 20 Americans inhaling it regularly?

That is the number of Americans now vaping (not smoking cigarettes). And research shows the tiny particles inhaled from vaping pens, or e-cigarettes, contain many of the same harmful chemicals as in tobacco, a leading cause of all cancers as well as urinary health conditions. 

All of which means that those who vape should pay close attention to signs of urinary dysfunction, and that especially includes young vapers. Data shows that 27.5% of teens vape, compared with 9% of adults.

First, Here’s What Smoking Does to Your Urinary Health

For context of the potential harm of vaping, it helps to understand what traditional smoking does to the body. Tobacco contains thousands of chemicals, at least 70 of which are known to cause cancer. These chemicals include nicotine, lead, formaldehyde, and arsenic. 

So how do these toxins affect your bladder and urinary system? Because as the body processes these chemicals, they are filtered through the kidneys (your body’s blood filter) and eventually pass into your urine. Evidence shows that smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of developing kidney cancer, for example, and that smokers are four to seven times more likely to develop bladder cancer.

Further, research links cigarette smoke to kidney stonesinfertility and erectile dysfunctioninterstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome), and even incontinence.

Vaping Is Not a Lesser Evil to Your Urinary Health

Some people think vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. However, the aerosols produced by vaping products can contain nicotine and other chemicals shown to be toxic or cancerous, the America Cancer Society reports. In addition to arsenic and lead, the chemicals traced in the aerosols of vaping pens include nickel, formaldehyde, and benzene. 

These chemicals, too, can contribute to urinary health problems – even if their levels are lower than in regular cigarettes. 

This is especially the case for young users because nicotine is addictive and can cause them to inhale the toxins for a long time. Adolescents who vape may be more likely to transition to cigarettes, The Centers for Disease Control reports.

How to Spot a Health Issue

Different urinary conditions produce different symptoms, although some are common across ailments. If you experience any of the following signs, it may be time to contact a urologist:

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Painful urination
  • Needing to urinate more frequently and/or with greater urgency
  • Pain in the back and/or sides (an indication of kidney stones and kidney cancer)
  • Cloudy urine (kidney stones)

Trying to Quit? Here are Some Resources for a ‘Vapeout’ 

There’s no rule that requires you wait to quit smoking or vaping until the Great American Smokeout, on Nov. 16, 2023. Your urologist would advise you start now. Here are some tips and resources to help.

  • Seek advice. If you’re not sure how to start, call 1-800-Quit-Now to talk to an expert about quitting.
  • Plan your strategy. Smokefree.gov offers a range of tools to help you map out your quit plan, as well as helpful tips if you slip (don’t be hard on yourself – slips are common). 
  • Have help at your fingertips. If you are struggling, seek live support through the National Cancer Institute’s live online support.
  • Load you tool box. Replace those vaping pens with these healthy, helpful tools, at QuitAssist.
  • Remember your body loves you. So love it back. Don’t feed your bladder arsenic, or your kidneys lead. Try to overcome the urge to vape by sipping a healthy fruit smoothie, or taking an exploring walk. 

Look beyond the vape pen, and see a healthier future.

Learn more about how smoking and vaping can cause serious health issues, why it’s so hard to quit, and tips for kicking the habit. Download our easy-to-share fact sheet here.

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