Vaping News Roundup 2019
Smoking e-cigarettes or “vaping” has been marketed as an alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes to help existing smokers “kick the habit”. However, their popularity is also rising among non-smoking adolescents – from 2017–2018 e-cigarette use increased by a staggering 78% in high school students – with the primary appeal cited as being the variety of available flavors.
But how safe are the ingredients in e-cigarettes? Here we highlight some of the studies exploring e-cigarette safety, published during 2019.
Even Short-term Vaping Causes Inflammation in Non-smokers, Says Pilot Study
Researchers reported the first evidence of biological alterations correlated with e-cigarette use in never-smokers in October. The team tested for inflammation and smoking-related effects using bronchoscopy. Thirty, “healthy”, non-smoking volunteers were recruited into the pilot study. They observed a measurable increase in inflammation following four weeks of e-cigarette use. The e-cigarettes used in the study did not contain nicotine or flavorings. Whilst the extent of change was small when compared to the control group, the data indicates that even short-term exposure can lead to cellular inflammatory changes.
Published in: Cancer Prevention Research
Researchers Highlight Heart Risks Linked to Vaping
According to a review published this year, there is growing evidence to suggest that vaping can harm the heart and blood vessels. Preclinical and clinical data were analyzed from both short- and long-term studies on the cardiovascular effects of e-cigarette use. Findings suggest that e-cigarettes are not a “harm-free” substitute to traditional tobacco cigarettes. The review authors state that: “Further preclinical research and randomized trials are needed to expand basic and clinical investigations before considering e-cigarettes safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes.”
Published in: Cardiovascular Research
Study Highlights E-cigarette Health Concerns
A study published September 4, 2019 highlights health concerns related to the use of e-cigarettes. Using a mouse model, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine demonstrated that chronic exposure to vapors from e-cigarettes can; disrupt normal lung function and reduce the capacity of immune cells within the lungs to respond to viral infection. These changes were observed in mice exposed to vapors without nicotine, suggesting more extensive investigation may be warranted to determine the safety of solvents in e-cigarettes.
Published in: Journal of Clinical Investigation
Potential Carcinogen Present in High Levels in E-cigarette Liquids
According to a study conducted by Duke Health researchers, a potential carcinogen called pulegone is found in high quantities in e-cigarette liquids and smokeless tobacco products. Pulegone is present in menthol and mint favored e-cigarettes. Last year the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned pulegone as a food additive due to numerous petitions from consumer groups. The researchers compared the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-reported levels of pulegone in menthol and mint e-cigarettes with the FDA’s exposure risk data (this data indicates the levels at which exposure-related tumors were reported in preclinical studies). The team found that the levels surpassed the threshold of concern.
Published in: JAMA Internal Medicine
Cannabis E-cigarettes: Additives Result in Higher Toxins for User
A research group from Portland State University have studied what occurs when additives are included in vaping products. More specifically, they explored the chemical reaction that happens when cannabis is “vaped”. The team discovered that of the known toxins formed during vaping, more toxins originated from terpenes, compared to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The team raised concern towards the “additives” rather than the active ingredients in vaping products: “It’s not the active ingredients, like THC or nicotine, that appear to be causing the hospitalizations and deaths, but what they are combined with.”
Published in: ACS Omega
Marker for Mysterious Vaping Illness Is Identified for the First Time
Healthcare professionals have discovered a previously unrecognized characteristic of vaping-related respiratory illness. This “marker” has been emerging in, what the team describe as “clusters, over a series of months. Within the lungs of those affected were lipid-laden macrophages – observed in six of six cases. The cells were recovered from samples obtained via bronchoalveolar lavage – a procedure that involves fluid being squirted into a small section of the lungs which is then collected for examination. The team now wish to determine if these cells are specific for the respiratory illness linked to vaping or whether they are also seen in vaping patients who are asymptomatic/ are not ill.
Published in: New England Journal of Medicine
Nicotine-free Vaping Can Damage Blood Vessels
Earlier this year scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania published findings from their investigation into the short-term impacts of vaping. The team conducted MRI examinations on 31 “healthy” non-smoking participants before and after vaping a nicotine-free e-cigarette that contained propylene glycol and glycerol with tobacco flavoring. They then compared the pre- and post-MRI data. Blood flow was reduced after vaping and endothelial function was impaired in the large femoral artery that supplies blood to the thigh and leg.
Vape Flavors' Harmful Effects Modeled in Stem Cell-derived Endothelial Cells
Cinnamon and menthol are the most toxic e-cigarette liquid flavorings according to research published in May this year. The researchers tested six different e-liquids with varied concentrations of nicotine and collected blood from e-cigarette users. Using human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived endothelial cells (iPSC-ECs), high-throughput screening was performed to assess the endothelial integrity following exposure to the six different e-liquids and to the blood serum. They found that exposure led to worsened endothelial dysfunction, which often precedes cardiovascular disease.
E-cigarette User Found to Have Rare Form of Lung Scarring Typically Seen in Metal Workers
A team from the University of California, San Francisco believe that vaping caused a patient they were studying to develop a rare lung condition known as hard-metal pneumoconiosis. The lung condition causes an unusual and distinctive pattern of damage to emerge in the lungs, and causes difficulty breathing. As the name suggests, it is typically found in those who work with “hard metals”. The researchers state that this is the first known case of hard-metal pneumoconiosis that has been linked to vaping. The team tested the patient’s personal vaping device and found cobalt in the vapor, along with other toxic metals including; nickel, aluminium, manganese, lead and chromium.
E-cigarette Flavorings Damage Human Blood Vessel Cells Grown in the Lab
A study led by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that liquid e-cigarette flavorings may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease when they are inhaled. The team tested endothelial cells in vitro to explore the effects of the e-liquid. When exposed to the e-liquid or exposed to the blood of e-cigarette users, the cells were less viable and exhibited increased quantities of molecules linked to DNA damage and cell death. The authors noted that the cells were also less capable of forming new vascular tube and their ability to migrate and participate in wound healing was compromised.