Vaping (and the reasons not to do it) seem to be filling up the news cycle. And, in addition to potential harm to the lungs, vaping might not be doing eyeballs any favors.
Tobacco smoking and the second-hand smoke that goes along with it have long been known to contribute to problems with the ocular surface including dry eye, increased risk for cataracts, an increase of tear inflammatory cytokines, damage to the ocular surface epithelia, and an increased propensity to develop age-related macular degeneration. But not much research has been conducted on the effects of vaping on the eye (yet).
However, vaping exposes many of the same harmful compounds to your body that smoking does. Formaldehyde, propylene glycol, and diacetyl are just a few of the chemicals found in the cloud of “vapor” surrounding an e-cigarette user. (“Vapor” in quotation marks because it’s really an aerosol–a suspension of chemical solids in a gas.) And those compounds are known to cause irritation and inflammation to the eyes, as well as nose, throat, and lungs.
So there is reason to believe that most of the serious health effects of smoking also apply to vaping, whether on vision or the rest of the body. Vaping has not been around long enough for long-term studies, but since e-cigarettes have nearly all the same components that regular cigarette smoke does, minus the tar, it’s logical to believe that exposure to those toxic chemicals has similar effects.
For example, the nicotine that e-cigarettes deliver raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye (hypertensive retinopathy.) This is true whether the nicotine comes from a traditional cigarette or an e-cig.
So until research says otherwise, vaping seems to share many of the health risks of traditional cigarettes, for the eyes as well as the rest of the body.