NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — E-cigarettes have been touted as an alternative or a way to actually quit smoking. They’re said to be safer because they don’t have tar and other carcinogens of real cigarettes.
But as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday, they contain flavorings that may be bad for your heart.
There has been very little research into what effect those flavorings may have. Most of the focus has been on the addictive nicotine in e-cigarettes, while the flavorings that are often part of the vapor in e-cigs have been thought to be relatively safe.
A new study says maybe not.
“I want to keep Juul and other e-cigarettes away from me my friends and other kids our age,” sixth grader Yael Mintz said.
Yael is adding to the growing chorus calling for a ban on menthol and flavored e-cigarettes.
“I just think that flavors are what’s really getting kids,” Yael said.
Gummy bears and cotton candy are just some of the flavors that make e-cigarettes or vaping attractive to young people. Then it’s the nicotine in the vapor that gets people addicted.
But at least it’s safer than smoking real cigarettes, right? Dr. Joseph Wu, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, said not so fast.
“The assumption has been that these e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, but we don’t know that,” Dr. Wu said.
A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by Dr. Wu and colleagues studied six of the most common flavorings in e-cigarettes to begin to determine the biological effects of the flavorings.
“Remember, there are thousands of compounds in e-vapor that we haven’t begun to study,” Dr. Wu said.
His team used cells in tissue culture as proxies for what might be happening in people inhaling the flavorings. They exposed cells grown to resemble those that line blood vessels in the body to the six flavorings and found significant toxic effects on the cells, the worst being cinnamon.
The fear is how these cellular effects will translate into human health effects down the road.
“We could see an epidemic of cardiovascular disease in people who vape, 20, 30, 40 years down the road,” Dr. Wu said.
Advocates say e-cigarettes are an important tool in getting adults to either switch from real cigarettes or to quit altogether, but sweet flavorings and the perception that vaping is safer has led to a nearly 80-percent increase in e-cigarette use among high schoolers and 50-percent increase among middle schoolers in the past year alone. And we don’t know what the long-term effects of that trend will be.