In a Haze About e-Cigarettes? 5 Things to Know

John Watson


July 31, 2018

What Are the Health Risks of e-Cigarettes?


The increased amount of nicotine compounds the dangers of e-cigarettes. In young vapers, early exposure to nicotine can reduce prefrontal cortex activity and negatively affect concentration and memory.[3] In adults, the higher levels of nicotine increase cardiac adrenaline levels, potentially elevating risk for an event in those with cardiac disease.[10] This is worth considering for both former smokers and current vapers, whose lifetime of plaque build-up could be an ill fit with spiking adrenaline.

But the larger danger may be posed by the estimated 7700 e-liquid flavors on the market, most of which have not been tested for toxicity in vaporized form.[4] The basic ingredients of e-liquids are propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin—which, although thought to be nontoxic when ingested orally, have a high capacity for toxicity when inhaled, especially as more ingredients are added.[4]

Emerging evidence identifies the flavoring chemicals as particularly problematic. Some flavors include cinnamaldehyde, an agent found to impair lung function in human bronchial epithelial cells,[11] as well as the known carcinogenic formaldehyde, which can be deposited deeper in the lungs than the gaseous formaldehyde produced by tobacco smoke.[12] Biopsies obtained from chronic vapers revealed a markedly different bronchial epithelial proteome than that in healthy controls.[13] How all this may translate into long-term lung disease rates may not be apparent for years to come.

And it's not just the liquid component that has possible health risks. Evidence suggests that the heating coil used to generate aerosol in popular e-cigarette devices can transfer highly toxic metals, such as lead, chromium, nickel, and manganese.[14]


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