Researchers found that flavored e-cigarettes, particularly the cherry-flavored ones, contain a chemical that irritates the lungs. A study discovered that a chemical called benzaldehyde was present in 108 out of 145 flavored e-cigarettes involved in the research.

Senior study author Maciej Goniewicz said e-cigarette side effects can include coughing, which can be linked to the flavorings. Goniewicz is a Roswell Park Cancer Institute oncology assistant professor.

Benzaldehyde, which is a popular flavoring agent that can also be found in medicine, can taste like almonds or cherries. Goniewicz said the chemical is relatively safe when ingested or applied to the skin. However, exposure via inhalation is a different story as it can irritate the airways and its vapor can irritate the eyes based on animal studies.

"If someone is using electronic cigarettes right now and experiences some of these side effects, this study suggests that they should try a different flavoring that might be less irritating to the users," said Goniewicz.

The team used an automatic smoking simulator to generate aerosol vapor. In two series, a total of 30 puffs were taken from each flavored cigarette (15 puffs per segment with a five-minute interval). The researchers came up with an estimated daily dose of inhaled benzaldehyde per e-cigarette wherein an experienced vaper is assumed to go through 163 puffs per day.

The team found that the benzaldehyde is present in 108 out of 145 flavored e-cigarettes. The highest levels were found in cherry-flavored e-cigarettes where the dose was 43 times higher.

The estimated inhaled benzaldehyde dose from the 30 puffs was higher compared to the normal cigarette. The estimated rate from cherry-flavored e-cigarettes was over 1,000 times lower than the estimated allowed dosage that workers could be exposed to within an eight-hour shift.

The researchers added that despite the fact that e-cigarettes provide a promising new way to reduce health risks among smokers, findings suggests that the products can lead to the repetitive benzaldehyde inhalation. Long-time users risk regular exposure to the chemical.

The team stressed that they used an automatic smoking simulator in the study, which may not result to the real-time inhalation rate through vaping. However, the findings suggest that there is a possible health risk stemming from cherry-flavored e-cigarettes.

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