Study Finds Smoking E-Cigarettes As Harmful As Smoking Regular Cigarettes

Researchers have found that smoking e-cigarettes delivers cancer-causing chemicals that get into the body, and fruity flavored e-cigarettes appear to be the most harmful kind.

Smoking e-cigarettes, or “vaping” as is more commonly called, has been promoted as a safer alternative to tobacco, and it has even been touted as helping cigarette smokers to quit. But a new study shows vaping isn’t much healthier than smoking regular tobacco. In fact, it may be equally as harmful.

The study, published on Monday, shows that vaping delivers potentially harmful chemicals to the lungs; however, users may not be aware of the harm e-cigarettes may be causing them because the chemicals are not listed on the ingredients of the vaping liquid. They’re found under the catch-all description of “flavorings.”

According to NBC News, Dr. Mark Rubinstein, of UCSF’s Division of Adolescent Medicine, and colleagues tested 67 teenagers who vape and compared them to 16 teens who both vape and smoke tobacco cigarettes and to 20 teens who do not use either type of cigarette. They tested their urine and saliva and asked questions about cigarette use.

Those who used both types of cigarette had significantly higher levels of dangerous chemicals, including acrylonitrile, acrolein, propylene oxide, acrylamide, and crotonaldehyde, the team reported, and those who used only e-cigarettes had much higher levels than those who used neither product. “Among our e-cigarette–only participants, the use of fruit-flavored products produced significantly higher levels of the metabolites of acrylonitrile,” they wrote.

Man Vaping
Featured image credit: Nam Y. HuhAP Images

Acrylonitrile is highly poisonous and is used to make plastics, adhesives, and synthetic rubber.

Additional research has found other potentially cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarette vapor, including diacetyl, the chemical blamed for causing “Popcorn lung” in workers at microwave popcorn packaging plants.

“Teenagers need to be warned that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor, but actually contains some of the same toxic chemicals found in smoke from traditional cigarettes,” Rubinstein said in a statement.

“Teenagers should be inhaling air, not products with toxins in them.”

To complicate matters, Business Insider reports that kids are going wild over Juul, the e-cigarette developed by students at Stanford University.

Juuls are the best-selling cigarettes on the market. They aren’t really new, having been launched in 2015, but it’s only recently that they became the latest craze for high-school vapers, who have found Juuls the ideal e-cigarette to take to school. Juuls are small and easy to hide. Their flavor pods look just like flash drives, which allow students to vape anywhere in school, with the most daring teens smoking them in front of their teachers.

Juuls come in appealing flavors like creme brulee, cool cucumber, and mango, but the flavors hide a cocktail of chemicals, including a potent dose of nicotine, 0.7mL per pod, which is equivalent to about one pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs.

“At first it was just fun and it was something that you could do anywhere,” one 15-year-old told the student newspaper at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “It’s so easy. Then it just became something I was doing nonstop, but I still felt a buzz. Now, I go crazy if I don’t have it. I don’t even feel a buzz anymore.”