E-Cigarette Flavorings Linked to Cell Damage and Heart Disease

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Vaping using an e-cigarette
Source: Lindsay Fox, “Vaping,” wikimedia.org, Mar. 26, 2016

A May 27, 2019 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the flavorings used in e-cigarettes caused DNA damage and cell death, among other health problems.

The researchers tested six flavorings on lab-grown cells: fruit, tobacco, sweet tobacco with caramel and vanilla, sweet butterscotch, cinnamon, and menthol. The latter two were found to be the most toxic, even without nicotine.

The flavorings damaged endothelial cells, a type of cardiovascular cell that lines blood vessels. The damage make it harder for the cells to form new blood vessels or heal wounds, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, Director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and senior author of the study, stated, “Until now, we had no data about how these e-liquids affect human endothelial cells. This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. When we exposed the cells to six different flavors of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage. The cells were less viable in culture, and they began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction.”

Some e-cigarette supporters promote vaping as a way to stop smoking. The Truth Initiative, an advocacy group devoted to eliminating tobacco, stated, “Using e-cigarettes is substantially less harmful to individual health than inhaling smoke from combustible tobacco, such as cigarettes and cigars.” A study published in New England Journal of Medicine found that smokers who turned to vaping were more successful at quitting traditional cigarettes than people who tried nicotine patches, gum, or other smoking cessation products.

An estimated 10.8 million American adults and 3 million high school students use e-cigarettes.

Discussion Questions
1. Is vaping with e-cigarettes safe? Explain your position.

2. Should teens be allowed to vape? Why or why not?

3. Should e-cigarettes be more regulated? Why or why not?

Sources:

Krista Conger, “E-Cigarette Use, Flavorings May Increase Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds,” med.stanford.edu, May 27, 2019

Angelica LaVito, “CDC Blames Spike in Teen Tobacco Use on Vaping, Popularity of Juul,” cnbc.com, Feb. 11, 2019

Bailey King, “Flavored E-Cigarettes May Lead to Heart Disease, Study Finds,” phillyvoice.com, May 28, 2019

Won Hee Lee, et al., “Modeling Cardiovascular Risks of E-Cigarettes with Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell–Derived Endothelial Cells,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, June 2019

Lauran Neergaard, “Study Suggests E-Cigarette Flavorings May Post Heart Risk,” apnews.com, May 27, 2019

Lisa Rapaport, “Almost One in 20 U.S. Adults Now Use E-Cigarettes,” reuters.com, Aug. 27, 2018

Peter Roff, “We Could Vape Our Way to Health—If the Government Gets out of the Way,” newsweek.com, May 10, 2019

Truth Initiative, “E-Cigarettes: Facts, Stats and Regulations,” truthinitiative.org, July 19, 2018