As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continue to investigate the outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarettes, surveys show a record number of teens continue to vape.
What are the potential health risks down the road? A top toxicologist says vaping poses very different dangers than smoking cigarettes.
Wade Taylor switched from smoking cigarettes to vaping because he believes it’s safer.
“There’s like 400 and something chemicals in a cigarette," Taylor shared.
Ilona Jaspers, PhD, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says while that’s true, vaping presents a different health threat than smoking.
“The disease manifestations, the pathology we see in these individuals is not something you would ever see in a smoker,” explained Jaspers.
Jaspers, who studies the adverse effects of inhaled chemicals, says we know cigarettes can cause COPD, cancer and emphysema, but what about e-cigarettes?
Jaspers continued, “We don’t know what this may cause 20 years down the road.”
That’s one reason why Jaspers’ research team is taking a closer look at what’s in these products. They filled a plastic container with a popular flavoring agent found in liquid nicotine and let it sit for two hours.
“We just put a drop of the cinnamon flavoring there and it etched away the plastic and basically ate it away,” shared Phillip Clapp, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Jaspers says the real concern is more young people are vaping nicotine without knowing the consequences.
“It delivers a high dose, very quickly, so it gets these teens addicted much faster than a cigarette does,” stated Dr. Jaspers.
And she says you don’t always know how much nicotine you’re getting.
“In Europe you can only have 2% nicotine whereas here we have up to 8%,” said Jaspers.
She agrees regulation is key but says the priority is stopping the growing number of teens from vaping.
Jaspers concluded, “Prevention, education and getting these kids off of the nicotine addiction.”
Jaspers speaks to middle and high school students about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping products. She urges those in states where there is no e-cigarette ban to contact their legislators and ask for an additional small e-cig tax where that money can be used for prevention and education. For more information on Jaspers' research at UNC Chapel Hill, click here.