Ecigarettes are the healthier alternative to traditional smoking primarily due to the lack of smoke and tar (associated with smoking tobacco products). Ecigs use vapour technology, thereby creating a safer method of inhalation for tobacco users. Lately, however, reports have been surfacing suggesting there may be a link between the use of e-cigarettes and the presence of mold and other bacteria in a user’s lungs. 

Now, before we go any further with the subject, we would like our readers to note that we are not health practitioners. If you are concerned about the matter please contact your GP for a professional advice.  

Don't panic though - everything we do these days is a risk. Vaping is not an exception - vaping involves "safe" chemicals like PG and VG and nicotine (yes, nicotine is considered "safe") However, our bodies and especially our lungs are NOT naturally made to handle the amounts of these chemicals entering our airways. VG is a thick filmy substance when you let it settle onto a surface. If you think vaping is safe you are wrong, it is not. The only thing safe is clean fresh air going into your lungs.

Before we get accused of being the voice of doom, blow some exhaled vapour onto a cleaned smooth surface a few times, then take a clean oil free finger and wipe along where you exhaled the vapor. Yep, that's all is in lungs. 

However, it seems that it is the hygiene (or lack of it!) is the most probable reason for mold / bacteria in your lungs. An informal study at Tulsa University recently showed that in a small sample of currently used ecigarette devices, two-thirds of the samples detected the presence of mold, yeast and/or other kinds of bacteria. While the study was too small to be statistically valid, the presence of the bacteria strains is certainly a cause for concern. Dr. Mohammed Fakhry of Tulsa University found the samples he tested “were really full of a good number of bacteria species and also some fungi.” His suggestion is to put more emphasis on cleaning, he says his results are “a good reminder that you have to clean them out because there is high numbers [of bacteria], and even regular non-pathogenic bacteria in large numbers… you don’t know what they can do.”

Another study in San Diego focused on bacteria, and how they interact with the use of e-cigarettes. Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander of the University of California San Diego and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, found in her study that the use of ecigarettes could increase the aggressiveness of the bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus also known as MRSA. MRSA is most commonly seen as a skin infection. While the use of vapes does not introduce the bacteria in your system, it can make it more virulent.

Dr. Crotty Alexander suggested the rise in pH levels could be a contributing factor. When you inhale an e cigarette vapour there is an increase in pH levels. This makes the environment in which bacteria can exist more alkalotic, stressing the cells and encouraging them to fight off the antimicrobial peptides that the body produces to kill them. The important thing to remember is while inhaling vapour can create an environment that encourages stronger bacteria, it can only do so if the bacteria are already present. In addition, while the use of cigs can strengthen these bacteria, the use of regular tobacco smoke can increase MRSA’s virulence even more. Regular tobacco smoke, according to Dr. Crotty Alexander, induces environmental changes that are 10-fold greater for the growth of bacteria than e cigarette vapour.

Ecigarettes continue to be a safer alternative to traditional tobacco smoking, as long as proper hygiene is in place to combat mold and bacteria. As well as regular clean-up we recommend you do not share your ecig with others - this increases the likelihood of different bacteria spreading.