Flavored E-Cigarettes Have Higher Lung Irritant Than Cigarettes: Study

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Jan 30, 2016 07:57 PM EST

Caption:SAN RAFAEL, CA - JANUARY 28: E-Cigarette vaporizers are displayed at Digital Ciggz on January 28, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The California Department of Public Health released a report today that calls E-Cigarettes a health threat and suggests that they should be regulated like regular cigarettes and tobacco products. (Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Better doesn't always mean healthier.

A new study, published online in the journal Thorax on January 28, revealed that users of e-cigarettes, particularly flavored ones and of the cherry-flavor variant, are probably inhaling a chemical that can irritate their airways called Benzaldehyde.

New smoking trend e-cigarettes work by heating an either flavoured or unflavored liquid solution to a boiling point, which then produces a vapour that users inhale. In most cases, the liquid contains nicotine and other flavorings.

Benzaldehyde is usually found in foodstuff and cosmetics, and is reported to be a key ingredient in natural fruit flavorings, according to Eureka Alert. However, it has been reported to be a hazard in airways in animal and workplace exposure studies.

Maciej Goniewicz and his colleagues used an automatic smoke inhaler to measure the chemicals in the e-cigarettes. They then analyzed the benzaldehyde contained in 30 puffs taken from 145 different e-cigarette liquids of which the variant breakdown are as follows: berry/tropical fruit (40); tobacco (37); alcohol (15); chocolate/sweet (11); coffee/tea (11); mint/menthol (10); cherry (10); and others (11).

Benzaldehyde was detected in 108 of 145 study samples, according to senior author Goniewicz, who is an assistant professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. "It might be the case that if the user of an electronic cigarette experiences some side effects, like coughing, it might be attributed to the flavorings," he noted, as per WebMD.

However, e-cigarette industry group Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association said in a statement that these findings prove e-cigarettes remain a better alternative to regular and traditional tobacco cigarettes. "Let's not lose sight that vaping presents substantially less risk than combustion cigarettes, which expose smokers to over 7,000 chemicals including more than 60 known or suspected carcinogens," the group's statement said.

"This research shows that even with cherry e-cigs, it would take three years of vaping to reach the 8-hour work shift permissible occupational exposure limit," they added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association, noted that Goniewicz and colleagues' study puts forth the need for proper regulation of e-cigarettes.

"To me, it's another piece of evidence that we don't know what's in those things," Edelman explained, as per WebMD. "It's terribly important that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use its power to regulate them. The first thing they can do is find out what is in them," he advised.

"It's safe when we eat it, or when we apply it to our skin, but inhalation is a completely different mode of exposure," Goniewicz explained in his research, as told by WebMD.

Benzaldehyde can irritate the airways when inhaled. Vapor from the same substance can also can irritate the eyes, he added.

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