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Study: Vanilla, cinnamon, and butter e-cig flavors are more harmful than others

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The jury is still out on what the exact health impact of smoking e-cigarettes might be. However, a new study led by researchers the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that one of the big negatives of vaping may not be related directly to the e-cigs themselves, but rather to some of the commonly used chemicals and liquids used to add flavoring. Specifically, they found that cinnamon, vanilla, and butter e-cig flavors rank among the worst in terms of toxicity, and that mixing multiple e-cigarette flavors has a much worse effect than exposure to only one.

The use of e-cigarettes has dramatically increased over the past decade, with almost 8,000 uniquely flavored “e-juices” currently available to consumers. When these liquids are heated and inhaled, the flavoring chemicals enter the lungs. In the University of Rochester’s study, researchers compared the health effects of vaping nicotine-free flavored e-liquids with smoking regular cigarettes. They concluded that these flavoring chemicals affect immune cells in the body, specifically a type of white blood cell called monocytes.

The study’s author Dr. Thivanka Muthumalage suggests that, although such flavorings are considered safe for ingesting, they can prove damaging when inhaled. “Cinnamon, vanilla, and butter flavoring chemicals were the most toxic, but our research showed that mixing flavors of e-liquids caused by far the most toxicity to white blood cells,” Muthumalage said in a press release.

Since this is still a new area of research, more investigation needs to be carried out. The researchers next plan to do experiments to simulate the effects of live, and call for a long-term human study to investigate the health effects. For now, though, they suggest that e-cigarette flavors should be regulated and e-juice bottles made by law to include a descriptive listing of all the ingredients they contain. This is particularly important when the flavorings are ones which are named to attract younger vapers, such as candy, cake, cinnamon roll and mystery mix.

A study describing the work, “Inflammatory and Oxidative Responses Induced by Exposure to Commonly Used e-Cigarette Flavoring Chemicals and Flavored e-Liquids without Nicotine,” was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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