E-cigarettes, which is short of electronic cigarettes, is a relatively new alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes or tobacco products.
These devices are battery operated, often charged via a USB attachment, that comes with the product. Unlike regular cigarettes, these devices don’t make users inhale smoke, instead they inhale vapor that is created by heating a liquid. They do however, contain nicotine as well as other chemicals.
Their ‘smokeless’ feature is what makes them enticing to those who want to get that nicotine buzz without the health hazards of the puffs of smoke that regular cigarettes provide.
In addition, e-cigarettes offer a variety of flavors making them more diverse for consumers who want varying choices. Some options include flavors like bubble gum, cotton candy, fruit squirts.
47 Out of 51 Samples Contain the Chemicals
While novel in purpose, new research shows that flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes have been associated with respiratory disease.
A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that in 51 flavored e-cigarettes tested by researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 47 of the tested flavors (92%) contained harmful chemical substances.
Flavoring chemicals including diacetyl, acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione were found in the products tested.
Chemical Flavorings Associated with Popcorn Lung
In the early 2000’s, flavoring chemicals gained notoriety because they caused a respiratory illness called bronchiolitis obliterans in workers who were employed at a processing plant for microwave popcorn, where these chemicals were used to make butter flavoring. The most known of these chemicals is diacetyl.
Inhalation of these flavoring chemicals caused scarring of the lung’s airways which leads of shortness of breath and coughing. It is an irreversible condition that can only be treated via lung transplant.
Because of its origin, this respiratory condition became known as “popcorn lung”.
Testing the E-cigarettes
The Harvard team tested the products in sealed chambers analyzing the air stream for chemicals.
What they found was:
- 39 of the 51 flavor samples tests contained levels of Diacetyl that exceeded laboratory limits
- 23 of the 51 samples had 2,3-pentanedione
- And 46 of the 51 samples contained acetoin
Alternative to Cigarette Smoking
The creation of e-cigarettes came as a smokeless alternative to regular cigarette smokers. This allows users to get the nicotine satisfaction along with the puff feeling of smoking, but inhaling vapor instead of smoke.
Having a smokeless alternative does seem practical considering the number of individuals who smoke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates around 40 million of smokers in the U.S. as of 2014, majority of whom (77%) smoke daily.
The prevalence isn’t limited in the U.S., as there are about 1.1 billion people who enjoy tobacco and cigarettes worldwide.
Considering the harmful effects of cigarette smoking to our lungs and respiratory system, e-cigarettes seemed to offer a solution.
How E-cigarettes Work
If you’ve never seen how electronic cigarettes work, the video below offers a brief introduction and explanation of how e-cigarettes work.
Popularity Among Teens and Children
While not as popular as traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are gaining ground, with users estimated to be over 2.5 million, around 7% of adults in the U.S. admitted to having at least tried them.
The more concerning fact is the gaining popularity of electronic cigarettes in the young.
According to the CDC, electronic cigarette use among high school students rose from 4.5% in 2013 to over 13% in 2014. This means around 2 million students have used e-cigarettes once in the past 30 days.
The CDC reports that these devices are also reaching middle school children, more than tripling in usage from 2013 to 2014.
In fact, electronic cigarettes are now the leading ‘tobacco’ product used by high school students, at 13.4% followed by the hookah at 9.4%, with cigarettes and cigars at 9% and 8%, respectively.