e-Cigarettes skyrocketed in popularity when they were first introduced, especially when flavored cartridge e-cigarettes came on the market. Many flavored cartridge e-cigarette models have since been banned by the FDA.
In some cases, e-cigarettes have been marketed as a safe(r) way for people using traditional cigarettes to stop smoking. The idea is that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic chemicals than regular cigarettes, making them a healthier alternative.
However, despite tighter regulations around cartridge-based e-cigarettes, disposable flavored e-cigarettes are still marketed and sold and are currently not banned by the FDA. And, to complicate matters, there is little research on the actual harmfulness of this type of e-cigarettes.
A research team at the University of California – Riverside sheds some light on the overall toxicity of this type of e-cigarette, pointing to an exceptionally high amount of toxic flavor chemicals and coolants used in these products.
In a study published in the Chemical Research in Toxicology, researchers looked specifically at 16 types of disposable e-cigarettes (Puff devices, specifically) and looked at their various components, including coolants, chemicals, and how much nicotine each contained. Coolants refer to compounds that create a “cooling” effect for an e-cigarette user. The team noted that a coolant called WS-23 was present in the liquids used in electronic cigarettes, a compound originally developed for and used in shaving cream.
Researchers identified about 126 different chemicals in the devices using chromatography and mass spectrometry. They then tested how bronchial epithelial cells responded to being exposed to these chemicals. The research team found these chemicals were present in high amounts in Puff e-cigarettes and were incredibly cytotoxic to human lung cells.
Researchers also found the Puff e-cigarettes had more coolants and flavor chemicals compared to brands like JUUL.
Overall, the findings suggest that the chemicals used to create flavorings and the chemicals present in coolant agents are toxic to humans and pose a significant health risk. As e-cigarettes, especially those with cooling agents in them, become more popular, more regulation may be warranted.