E-cigarettes introduce same toxins into the body as traditional cigarettes

There has been a new trend of taking up vaping or using electronic cigarettes among teenagers. Some studies have shown that these electronic devices can help individuals quit smoking or at least cut down on smoking. Reports have found that middle schoolers and teenagers are taking up e-cigarettes.

According to a latest study, the e-cigarettes are not as safe as believed and they cause the same levels of toxins in teenagers that traditional cigarettes do. The latest study was published yesterday (5th March 2018) in the journal Pediatrics. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Image Credit: NeydtStock / Shutterstock
Image Credit: NeydtStock / Shutterstock

For this study that came from the University of California-San Francisco, around a 100 teenagers were recruited. Of these 67 adolescents (average age 16.4 years) used e-cigarettes only while 16 used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. The remaining 20 did not smoke at all. Secretions from salivary glands as well as urine from these participants were tested for toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals including ethylene oxide, benzene, acrylonitrile, acrolein and acrylamide are those that lead to cancer in many individuals. They were found in teenagers who smoked or used e-cigarettes but were absent in those who did not smoke or vape at all. Further these chemicals were three times higher among cigarette smokers compared to vapers. E cigarette users also had three times higher levels of acrylonitrile, acrolein, propylene oxide, acrylamide, and crotonaldehyde compared to those who did not smoke or vape at all.

According to lead author Mark L. Rubinstein, MD, a professor of pediatrics at UCSF, teenagers should be “inhaling air, not products with toxins in them.” He adds that these are not “harmless water vapors” that emanate from the e-cigarettes but similar to smoke from traditional cigarettes. He added that these devices are marketed for adults as a means to quit or reduce smoking. He said they are sold to adults as a means to “harm reduction” and adolescents should not be using these at all.

Rubinstein says two of the chemicals - propylene glycol and glycerin are used to maintain the e-cigarette fluid in its liquid form is FDA approved to be harmless at room temperature. However when these are subjected to high temperatures, these can produce cancer. Authors add that those who use fruit flavors have higher levels of acrylonitrile compared to others who use tobacco, menthol or candy flavors. Acrylonitrile is a potentially carcinogenic chemical found in plastics, synthetic rubber and adhesive manufacturing. They also noted that 55 percent of all e-cigarette users and 67 percent of all smokers (e-cigarette or traditional) preferred fruity flavors.

According to researchers this study establishes the presence of harmful cancer causing chemicals in e-cigarette users. For the first time they are also found among teenagers who vape, they write. Authors of the study warn teenagers about the harm that these e-cigarettes were causing while the users were convinced that they were choosing a safer option. They add that e-cigarettes are too new a trend for studies to have linked them with cancer. This study however shows that the risk of cancer may remain with e-cigarette use.

Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/03/01/peds.2017-3557

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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