Vapers are warned that e-cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals that could harm their health, new researchers warn.
They contain potentially toxic industrial substances and caffeine – for that extra kick.
The compounds are not disclosed by the manufacturers – and are not found in conventional cigarettes.
Scientists analyzed four popular tobacco-flavored liquids, including Mi-Salt, Vuse, Juul, and Blu.
They identified the unique “fingerprints” of almost 2,000 chemicals using state-of-the-art scanning technology.
Six were potentially harmful – including three that have never been found in e-gigs before. The vast majority were not identified.
Worryingly, hydrocarbon-like compounds have been discovered – typically associated with combustion – which manufacturers say does not occur.
In conventional cigarettes, the condensed hydrocarbons produced during combustion are poisonous.
The main author Dr. Mina Tehrani said, “One of the main ways electronic cigarettes are marketed is by operating them at sub-combustion temperatures, which would make them safer than traditional smoking.
“Our study shows that this novel fingerprint approach can be used to assess whether combustion-like processes are taking place.”
She was particularly surprised to find caffeine in two of the four products.
The stimulant has so far only been found in the liquid flavors of e-cigarettes such as coffee and chocolate.
Dr. Tehrani said, “That could give smokers an extra kick that isn’t being disclosed. We wonder if they are adding it on purpose.”
In addition, three industrial chemicals, a pesticide and two flavorings were found that are associated with possible toxic effects and irritation of the respiratory tract.
Vaping products come in hundreds of flavors, from fruit, vanilla, and custard to chewing gum – and even donuts.
Senior author Dr. Carsten Prasse said: “People just need to know that they are breathing a very complex mixture of chemicals when they are vaporizing.
“And for many of these compounds, we have no idea what they actually are.”
This is particularly affecting teenagers who believe e-cigarettes are a safer option than smoking tobacco.
In the UK, more than one in three 15-year-olds has used the devices, although it is illegal to sell them to those under 18.
The team at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland used an advanced technique to test for organic compounds in food, sewage and blood.
It turned out that vaping could have negative health effects – and the risks have yet to be fully determined.
Dr. Prasse said, “Existing research comparing e-cigarettes with regular cigarettes has shown that cigarette contamination in e-cigarettes is much lower.
“The problem is, e-cigarette aerosols contain other completely unknown chemicals that could pose health risks that we are not yet aware of.
“More and more young people are using these e-cigarettes and they need to know what they are facing.”
Previous studies specifically looked for evidence of the dangerous chemicals found in traditional cigarettes.
Dr. Prasse became interested in e-cigarettes after his cousin, a former smoker, started vaping and insisted it was healthy. He plans to send him the results.
He said, “I have a problem with how vaping is being marketed as healthier than smoking cigarettes.
“In my opinion, we’re just not at the point where we can really say that.”
Co-author Dr. Ana Rule, an expert on metal exposures from vaping, says young people don’t make healthier choices – just risky ones.
She said, “There are millions of middle and high school students who would otherwise not think about smoking. For them there is no risk reduction – just an increased risk.”
Last year, researchers at the University of Bristol found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are almost five times more likely to smoke tobacco later in life.
Public Health England has repeatedly endorsed the devices. However, other experts are concerned about safety concerns and their use by young people.
It is estimated that one in nine children aged 11-17 in the UK have tried vaping.
Vaping has been linked to 200 health problems, including heart disease and pneumonia.
In August, another US team found that vaping can damage cells only once – increasing the risk of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
The latest study is in chemical research in toxicology.
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