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Flavored e-cigs irritate lungs, Roswell study finds

A team led by a Roswell Park Cancer Institute researcher recently reported that high levels of a respiratory irritant were detected in the vapor from most flavored nicotine products they studied, with the highest concentrations in vapor from cherry-flavored products.

The team, led by Maciej Goniewicz, analyzed 145 electronic-cigarette flavored products and found that many e-cigarette users may be exposed to benzaldehyde, a chemical compound used in many foods and cosmetic products. While it appears safe when ingested or applied on the skin, it has been shown to cause airway irritation in animals and humans, and may have different effects when heated and inhaled, Roswell officials said.

The authors, who include researchers from the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health and the Medical University of Silesia, both in Poland, measured benzaldehyde levels using an automatic smoking simulator and calculated daily exposure to users from 163 e-cigarette puffs. Their analysis detected benzaldehyde in the vapor from 108 (74 percent) of the flavored products studied, and found concentrations of the chemical that were 43 times higher in cherry-flavored products than in other flavors.

Goniewicz, the paper’s senior author and assistant professor of Oncology in Roswell Park’s Department of Health Behavior, noted the research was focused on a single toxicant and should be interpreted as a first step in understanding the potential health effects from flavored e-cigarettes.

“Health care professionals should be asking patients not just whether they smoke tobacco cigarettes but also whether they vape e-cigarettes, and whether they are using flavored products,” he said in a news release. “For e-cigarette users, it’s important that they pay attention to how the products are affecting them. If they notice irritation, maybe a cough or sore throat, when they use e-cigarettes, they might want to consider switching to a different flavoring. And it’s also important to keep these findings in perspective. The potential harm, if any, from inhaling flavored e-cigarettes would probably not even approach the dangerous, deadly effects of tobacco.”

The study, “Cherry-flavoured electronic cigarettes expose users to the inhalation irritant, benzaldehyde,” is available online at thorax.bmj.com.

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