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E-cigarette Liquid Flavorings May Still Cause Lung Damage Even Without Nicotine

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Findings of a new study have shown that e-cigarette liquids, particularly those with cinnamon and vanilla flavorings, may cause damage to the lungs even if these chemicals do not contain nicotine.

Effects Of Exposure To E-Cigarette Liquid Flavorings

In the new study published in Frontiers in Physiology on Jan. 11, Irfan Rahman, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues investigated what happens to a type of white blood cell known as monocytes when these are exposed to the flavoring chemicals that are used in popular e-cigarette liquids.

None of these liquids have nicotine but researchers found that the flavoring chemicals still appear to increase biomarkers for tissue damage and inflammation. Many of these chemicals also caused the cells to die.

The researchers also found that human lung cells that were exposed to the liquids in the laboratory increased their production of inflammation-related chemicals that may lead to a range of lung damage which include chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, fibrosis, and asthma.

"Our data suggest that the flavorings used in e-juices can trigger an inflammatory response in monocytes, mediated by ROS production, providing insights into potential pulmonary toxicity and tissue damage in e-cigarette users," the researchers wrote in their study.

Dangerous Flavors

E-cigarettes turn liquid nicotine and flavorings into vapor that users inhale. Since the flavoring chemicals are considered safe to eat, these devices are often promoted as healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The results of the study showed that even though the flavoring compounds are deemed safe for ingestion, they are not safe for inhalation. The lungs are still exposed to the flavoring chemical when the users inhale the vapors.

Exposure to a variety of flavors also caused worse reaction to the cells than exposure to just a single flavor. Of the single flavors, vanilla and cinnamon were found to be the most toxic to the lung cells.

"Our scientific findings show that e-liquid flavors can, and should, be regulated and that e-juice bottles must have a descriptive listing of all ingredients. We urge regulatory agencies to act to protect public health," Rahman said.

E-cigarette Use In The United States

Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of 2016, 3.2 percent of adults in the United States are current e-cigarette users. Young people, however, are more likely than adults to use these vaping devices. In 2016, 4.3 percent of middle school students and 11.3 percent of high school students in the country have used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

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