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E-Cigarette Flavors May Play Role In Toxicity: Study

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Amid continuing debate over the safety of e-cigarettes, which have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional smoking, new research suggests that some of the vaping flavors may be more toxic to users health than others, potentially causing widespread cell inflammation. 

In a study published last month in the medical journal Tobacco Control, researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York determined that flavors impacted the level of toxic chemicals in the vapor. E-cigarette vapor was more cytotoxic when flavored, especially when flavored with strawberry.

Researchers tested the effect of aerosol generated from e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) with different flavorings and voltage compared to traditional cigarette smoke and plain air as a control. They tested various commercial brand flavors, including tobacco, piña colada, menthol, coffee, and strawberry. They then identified the chemicals released using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and compared the levels of inflammation and cell damage to human lung cells after exposure to 55 puffs of tobacco smoke or e-cigarette vapor.

Cigarette tobacco smoke was the most toxic to the lung cells. However, researchers concluded e-cigarette vapor was also very toxic to human cells.

E-cigarettes had more toxic chemicals than plain smoke-free air. E-cigarette vapor also produced higher levels of toxicity and inflammation when the device was set to a higher voltage.

A study published last year indicated people who use e-cigarettes at a higher voltage had increased exposures to formaldehyde, putting them at increased risk of developing cancer. More formaldehyde was released when the devices were set to higher voltages. Research published in August appeared to confirm those findings, again linking e-cigarette vapor to two toxic chemicals, acrolein and formaldehyde, also at higher voltage.

This latest study also appears to confirm the findings of a study published earlier this year that linked e-cigarette vapors to increased levels of inflammation in the body and increased a person’s risk of developing bacterial infections.

“Product type, battery output voltage and flavours significantly affected toxicity of ENDS aerosol, with a strawberry-flavoured product being the most cytotoxic,” the researchers of the latest study concluded. “Our data suggest that characteristics of ENDS products, including flavours, may induce inhalation toxicity. Therefore, ENDS users should use the products with caution until more comprehensive studies are performed.”

Researchers advise that users experiencing cough or chest pain should consider switching the flavor or lowering the voltage of the device to reduce the effects on the body and level of toxicity.

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