Electronic cigarette use is becoming more popular with the CDC reporting that youth use tripled between 2013 and 2014 from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent, surpassing traditional cigarette use. Include “more than 20% of young adults” and all the “current smokers and recent former smokers” who are using the devices, and it adds up to a lot of people using a product that not much is known about the dangers. The devices have become popular because instead of inhaling harsh, smelly combustible tobacco fumes to get a hit of nicotine, you inhale a nicotine mist in a flavor of your choice. They are marketed as being a healthier alternative to cigarettes that can be used anywhere at any time. The problem is no one really knows how safe, or what long-term effects, inhaling vapor will have on the body.
We know that traditional cigarettes contain 599 ingredients, although the ingredients are not listed on any packaging. We also know those ingredients, when ignited, combine to make over 7,000 chemicals with about 70 that cause cancer. Studies of cigarette smoke have shown that free radicals are “the main source of oxidative stress,” and a “leading culprit in smoking-related cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (COPD). Studies on e-cigarettes have also found they contain “low levels of aldehydes that can cause oxidative stress and cell damage in e-cigarette smoke.” It appears scientists are just now looking at free radicals in e-cigarette vapor.
The free radicals were measured in the aerosols, which are the “tiny liquid particles suspended in a puff of air.” “E-cigarettes produce high levels of highly reactive free radicals.” According to the researchers, these levels fall between “more than you might get from a heavily air-polluted area, but less than what you might find in cigarette smoke.”
Researchers stated that although e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, you can’t say they are safe because they contain chemicals that “are potentially harmful.” Now it is up to researchers to determine just how dangerous.
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