VAPING MIGHT BE CONSIDERED TO BE A MORE ACCEPTABLE and healthy alternative than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes, but recently presented research indicates that the substitute may be more harmful to the lungs and immune system.
The new information was explored last Friday at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
Ilona Jaspers, the Deputy Director of the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology, presented findings that suggest that e-cigarette significantly affects immune genes. She further demonstrated that the most significant immune modifier came from strongly cinnamon-flavored vape liquids. Jaspers concluded, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classify chemical flavoring as generally safe for consumption orally, it may not be as safe when inhaled.
The findings will be a concern for users who have moved off tobacco to a ‘healthier alternative’. There is an estimated 3.7 percent of American adults using electronic cigarettes on a regular basis. That figure represents more than 9 million adult consumers.
“Of course more studies need to be done in this area, because research especially in toxicology of e-cigarettes and their potential toxicity, the science is lagging behind the product manufacture, and we need to catch up in that area,” lead researcher Judith Zelikoff of NYU Langone Medical Center said in her closing statement in Washington.
E-cigs are still a relatively new product and their long-term effects aren’t yet clear. Researchers are thus calling for further toxicology research on the effects of vaping, considering the increase and range of available products on the market. Those considering stepping down from smoking tobacco might want to keep in mind that vaping is not a consequence-free smoke yet.
E-cigarettes: Are they a safe way for smokers to stop or a gateway to getting kids hooked on a habit that's known to cause deadly diseases of the heart and lungs as well as cancer?
Public health experts and tobacco researchers are trying to find out. So far, results are mixed.
One thing is certain. They're not hard to find. Stores selling them -- called "vape shops" -- are everywhere across the country.
In the summer of 2016, new rules about their sale went into effect. So you have to be 18 to buy them and show an ID if you're under 27.
E-liquid begins with the main base, vegetable glycerin. Manufacturers use it as it produces a lot of vapour.
Another ingredient propylene glycol (PG) which is usually cited by alarmists as being a "main ingredient in antifreeze." This is incorrect, as they're confusing it with diethylene glycol, which has actually been found in mass market e-cig products. Propylene glycol is a main ingredient in albuterol, or asthma inhalers, and is perfectly safe to inhale when vaporized.
Flavorings are food-grade, can be natural or artificial, and are limited only by the imagination of the juice maker. A note about these ingredients—the "we don't know what's in these things" arguments dissolve in the face of numerous studies, showing that not only do we understand completely what's in these things, but we also have a solid understanding of their (negligible) toxicity when vaporized.
The final ingredient is pharmaceutical-grade nicotine, and all juice manufacturers make their product available in varying nicotine strengths. They range from ridiculous (up to 36 milligrams per milliliter—basically a Lucky Strike with the filter ripped off) all the way down to nothing at all. That's right, zero.
Two new studies from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have uncovered an association between vaping and mental fog. Both adults and kids who vape were more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than their non-vaping, non-smoking peers. It also appeared that kids were more likely to experience mental fog if they started vaping before the age of 14.
While other studies have found an association between vaping and mental impairment in animals, the URMC team is the first to draw this connection in people. Led by Dongmei Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at URMC, the team mined data from two major national surveys.
"Our studies add to growing evidence that vaping should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco smoking," said study author Li.
The studies, published in the journals Tobacco Induced Diseases and Plos One, analyzed over 18,000 middle and high school student responses to the National Youth Tobacco Survey and more than 886,000 responses to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey from U.S. adults. Both surveys ask similar questions about smoking and vaping habits as well as issues with memory, attention and mental function.
Both studies show that people who smoke and vape -- regardless of age -- are most likely to report struggling with mental function. Behind that group, people who only vape or only smoke reported mental fog at similar rates, which were significantly higher than those reported by people who don't smoke or vape.
The youth study also found that students who reported starting to vape early -- between eight and 13 years of age -- were more likely to report difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions than those who started vaping at 14 or older.
"With the recent rise in teen vaping, this is very concerning and suggests that we need to intervene even earlier," said Li. "Prevention programs that start in middle or high school might actually be too late."
Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, especially for higher-order mental function, which means tweens and teens may be more susceptible to nicotine-induced brain changes. While e-cigarettes lack many of the dangerous compounds found in tobacco cigarettes, they deliver the same amount or even more nicotine.
While the URMC studies clearly show an association between vaping and mental function, it's not clear which causes which. It is possible that nicotine exposure through vaping causes difficulty with mental function. But it is equally possible that people who report mental fog are simply more likely to smoke or vape -- possibly to self-medicate.
Li and her team say that further studies that follow kids and adults over time are needed to parse the cause and effect of vaping and mental fog.
But what if you want to try vaping and you’re not a smoker? That depends on why you want to try it. If you’re tempted to try smoking then, by all means, try a vape instead, it’s a much safer alternative, and if you can divert yourself away from lit tobacco that’s all good news. In this case, why use nicotine if you don’t already?
On the other hand, if you want to start vaping because you want to try tricks, or you think it looks cool, it’s probably best not to bother. The “tricks” aren’t really that impressive, and vaping will not turn you into a sex god. Most experts believe e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than smoking, but while the risks are very small they probably aren’t zero, why expose yourself to them just so you can suck vapour up your nose on YouTube?
If there really is a problem with nicotine-free vaping, though, it’s most likely to be one for smokers who cut down to fast. Unless you taper off the nicotine very slowly, you’ll probably compensate by vaping more, you’ll get the same amount of nicotine by inhaling a lot more liquid. If there is a health problem with vaping it’s most likely to be connected to flavourings, so why increase the amount you vape?
In the worst case, someone who’s dropped their nicotine to zero could vape a lot of nic-free liquid in an attempt to satisfy their cravings. That means they’ll be inhaling huge amounts of flavouring. Is there a real risk in this, though? Theoretically there might be – some health effect of vaping flavourings could appear in twenty or thirty years. But is it likely? No, probably not.