E-cigarettes are as bad as cigarettes, flavouring can impair lung function


For smokers looking to quit smoking, e-cigarettes often seem to be a viable alternative. But there are many disadvantages to e-cigarettes, and many studies raise doubts about its safety. A new study done by the University of North Carolina in the US shows that a common e-cigarette flavouring has toxic chemicals similar to those found in tobacco smoke. The chemicals can even disrupt the lungs’ antibacterial defense system, the study has found.

Previous studies have shown that while people who use e-cigarettes smoke less and are more likely to quit smoking, they are also more likely to suffer from lung infection and liver problems. A study done by the Penn State suggested that the chemicals that make up different flavours in e-cigarettes also produce different levels of free radicals, toxins often associated with cancer and other diseases.

Aldehydes in cigarettes cause lung inflammation, and increase susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. (Shutterstock)

What the study says

The data suggests that cinnamaldehyde used in e-cigarettes to give a cinnamon flavour/odour has an effect similar to the toxic aldehydes in cigarette smoke. While aldehydes cause lung inflammation, and increase susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, cinnamaldehyde disrupts normal cell physiology in ways that can develop and increase levels of respiratory disease. “…(The findings) demonstrate that a common, food-safe flavouring agent, in the context of e-cigarette use, is capable of dysregulating a critical anti-bacterial defense system in the lungs,” said Phillip Clapp, at the University of North Carolina in the US.

Researchers performed their experiment by exposing human bronchial epithelial cell (HBEC) cultures to diluted cinnamon e-liquids and e-liquid aerosols from a third generation e-cigarette device. “E-cigarette emissions contain chemicals that have not been evaluated for inhalation toxicities,” said Clapp, adding, “The inhalation of flavouring agents poses a significant unknown in regards to the potential health risks of e-cigarette use, as many of these chemicals are structurally similar to toxic aldehydes in cigarette smoke,” he said.

Moreover, aldehyde flavouring agents are often used in high concentrations in e-cigarettes, which may lead to high exposure doses, he said.