For those looking to quit smoking, an increasingly popular option is to switch over to e-cigarettes. Giving users a hit of nicotine without the damaging chemicals that are found in tobacco means ‘vaping’ is considered a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Now however, new research shows that the chemicals used to flavour the vapour in e-cigarettes may be damaging the lungs in the same way as tobacco.
The study was carried out by the Cell Biology and Physiology Department of the University of North Carolina and was presented at the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference.
The study looked at 13 different flavours, and found that five of these (including Menthol Tobacco, Hot Cinnamon Candies and Banana Pudding) were toxic in high doses. These five were also found to change the cell viability, the cell proliferation and calcium signalling.
Lead author, Temperance Rowell (a graduate of the university) says the effects of chemicals in e-cigarette vapour are largely unknown.
“In our study using human lung epithelial cells, a number of cell viability and toxicity parameters pointed to five of 13 flavors tested showing overall adverse effects to cells in a dose-dependent manner.”
The study investigated the flavour’s effect on human airway epithelial cells. The cells were exposed to the liquid flavours for 30 minutes or 24 hours. Worryingly, after just 30 minutes, the flavours Menthol Tobacco, Banana Pudding and Hot Cinnamon Candies created a significant calcium response and became toxic in high doses. After 24 hours, the same flavours decreased cell proliferation and cell viability.
Ms. Rosewell has commented to say that her lab is continuing to test the toxic effects of these flavours.
“Given the increasing popularity of flavored e-cigarettes, a better understanding of their ingredients, the potential health risks of these ingredients, and the causes of these risks is urgently needed.”