New Study Proves E-Cigarettes Are Not Safer Than Traditional Cigarettes

It turns out, e-cigarettes cause serious damage.

Since vaping and e-cigarettes hit the mass market in the mid-2000s, many have believed them to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. But the devices, which deliver a dose of nicotine by heating saline liquid that's inhaled as vapor, have become a growing matter of concern nationwide. Firstly, they're incredibly popular; and secondly, there's a lack of data on the effects of e-cigarettes on our health. But that's all starting to change. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is the first to provide evidence to suggest that smoking e-cigarettes is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine tested the e-liquid on cells that line the interior of blood vessels and found that these cells experienced a significant amount of damage and cell death. They also found that the liquid made it harder for the cells to create new blood vessels and heal wounds. The findings indicate that the saline liquid present in these e-cigarettes is therefore not nearly as harmless as people might have been led to believe.

"This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes," Joseph Wu, MD—director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and radiology, and the lead author of the study—said in a press release. "We saw significant damage. The cells … began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction."

The study also found that the nicotine levels in the blood of people who smoked an e-cigarette were comparable to those who smoke a traditional cigarette for 10 minutes straight, once again disputing the belief that they are a healthier alternative to smoking.

"When you're smoking a traditional cigarette, you have a sense of how many cigarettes you're smoking," Wu said. "But e-cigarettes can be deceptive. It's much easier to expose yourself to a much higher level of nicotine over a shorter time period. … It's important for e-cigarette users to realize that these chemicals are circulating within their bodies and affecting their vascular health."

The researchers specifically investigated the effect of six different popular e-liquid flavors—fruit, tobacco, sweet tobacco with caramel and vanilla, sweet butterscotch, cinnamon, and menthol—and found that all of them were moderately toxic to cells. Cinnamon and menthol, however, were found to be particularly harmful.

In March, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) restricted the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in an attempt to battle the "epidemic" levels of teen usage, given that these candy-like flavors seem particularly appealing to younger crowds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one out of every five high school students reported using an e-cigarette in 2018.

While the Stanford study is on e-cigarettes in general, there's a particular amount of concern surrounding the brand JUUL, due to its increasing and overwhelming popularity, especially among the nation's youth. According to the latest Nielsen data, the flash-drive-shaped JUUL is the most popular e-cigarette by far, with a yearly growth of more than 700 percent.

JUUL markets itself as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. In contrast to the grim images and warnings often found on a pack of cigarettes, a standard pack of JUUL pods has just one warning: "This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical."

In May, North Carolina became the first state to file a lawsuit against the company JUUL Labs, saying that its marketing campaign is targeting young consumers and "deceptively downplaying the potency and danger of the nicotine." In April, the FDA announced that they are taking "a series of new enforcement and regulatory steps" in order to "crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes—specifically JUUL products—to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers."

"We don't yet fully understand why these products are so popular among youth," the report reads. "But it's imperative that we figure it out, and fast." And for more of the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, read New Study Says E-Cigarettes Are Not Good for Lung Health.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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