Harvard Study Suggests Link Between E-Cigarettes and Lung Disease

E-cigarette flavors available for tasting at Vapor Haven, one of hundreds of vapor shops in Oklahoma. Popular flavors for teenagers include 'Sweet Tart' and 'Unicorn Puke', which one student described as “every flavor Skittle compressed into one.”

Critics are convinced that e-cigarette companies prefer to do business in what has often been characterized as a “regulatory Wild West.” “They’re operating in a completely unregulated environment right now, and it’s enabled the e-cigarette industry to go from virtually zero to billions of dollars a year over the past five or six years,” says Rees. “Who wouldn’t want to operate in a completely unregulated environment where profit is concerned?”

E-cigarettes are coming.  Some say they are already here.  Especially if you visit an average high school parking lot after school.

USA Today article on E-Cigarettes states how flavored e-cigarettes may seem like an alternative to smoking, but researchers warn that flavored e-cigarettes may not be worth the unknown long-term risks.

Researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health tested 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes and flavor canisters for diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione; three chemicals known to cause respiratory problems in factory workers.

The study tested popular e-cigarette flavors like bubble gum, cotton candy and tutti frutti, and found, at least one of the three chemicals were present in 47 of the 51 products they tested.

With around 7,000 e-cigarette flavors on the market, consumers are essentially at the mercy of the manufacturers, with little hope of knowing what chemicals are used in the products, according to Taylor Hays, director of Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.

“There are no FDA regulations on these products. It’s the Wild West of e-cigarettes,” Hays told USA TODAY Network.

He says the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to grow among adults that think the products will wean them off of regular cigarettes and among younger users. The percentage of teens using e-cigarettes tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to an April report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Prospectives.

Diacetyl has been directly linked to “bronchiolitis obliterans,” which in serious cases can require lung transplants, according to Robert Kotloff, chair of pulmonary medicine at Cleveland Clinic.

The disease, also known as “popcorn lung,” got its name from workers who developed the disease after inhaling diacetyl while working in popcorn factories, according to Kotloff.

While the study doesn’t provide a concrete link between flavored e-cigarette use and lung disease, it does further the debate over the unknown long-term consequences of e-cigarettes use.

“[The study] is an intermediary step showing the presence of a compound which could potentially predispose individuals to develop bronchiolitis obliterans,” Kotloff said.

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