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You like the act of smoking or vaping, but you’re not down with the laundry list of health risks both carry. Vaping water surely must be a safer alternative, right?

In theory, vaping water sure seems like a loophole for risk-free vaping. But this is one of those theories that doesn’t translate well into real life.

While there isn’t any research on the topic, basic chemistry offers a few answers.

For one, water turns into steam around 212°F (100°C), much lower than the lowest setting on just about any vape. At worst, this could burn your airways or mouth. At best, you’ll just be inhaling a little steam.

Plus, vaping water won’t produce the thick clouds that people who vape are usually after, since those come from propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).

There’s also a good chance you’ll damage your device, potentially flooding out and rusting the coils and other components.

If you’re looking to vape and produce those thick clouds mentioned above without any nicotine, e-juices specifically designed for vaping are the way to go. But they’re far from harmless.

Research from 2016 found that at least one harmful chemical in 92 percent of the vape juice flavors tested. The study focused specifically on three chemicals: acetoin, acetylpropionyl (2,3-pentanedione), and diacetyl.

If that last one sounds familiar it’s because it’s often mentioned in news stories and articles on e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI), which is popcorn lung caused by vaping.

Popcorn lung is an irreversible lung disease that causes scarring in the tiny air sacs in the lungs, leading to thickening and narrowing of the airways.

Vape flavoring agents get a lot of bad press, but they’re not the only toxic ingredients found in e-juices.

According to a 2018 study, PG and VG — two flavorless main ingredients in e-cigarettes — are toxic to cells. And a 2019 study found that PG and glycerol (another common e-juice ingredient) damaged blood vessels and affected blood flow.

All of these ingredients become toxic during the vaporization process and can increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Yes — but only if you already smoke and vaping helps you cut back or quit.

A review from 2019 notes that vaping does indeed pose fewer threats to respiratory health. If you’ve had difficulty quitting smoking and find that vaping (with or without nicotine) is a helpful strategy, then it’s definitely a safer alternative.

But if you’re looking for a way to take up vaping without any of the usual risks, you’re out of luck. There simply isn’t a totally safe way to vape.

If a totally safe vaping experience is what you’re after, you’re out of luck. You’re not going to get anything from vaping water, except maybe a mouthful of flavorless hot steam and possibly some discomfort.

Vaping nicotine-free and flavorless vape juices may be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes — but they’re not entirely free of risk, as they may contain other potentially harmful chemicals.

Finally, keep in mind that vaping is still relatively new, and experts are still researching its short- and long-term effects.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.