Vaping risks: Chemicals used to flavour e-cigarettes could damage lungs in a similar way to tobacco

Potentially toxic flavours included Hot Cinnamon Candies, Banana Pudding and Menthol Tobacco

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Some of the chemicals used to flavour e-cigarettes could alter cellular functions in lung tissue in a similar way to tobacco and could also be toxic in high doses, according to new research.

The results of a study conducted in the Cell Biology and Physiology Department of the University of North Carolina were presented at the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference.

Of the 13 flavours tested in the research, five (including Hot Cinnamon Candies, Banana Pudding and Menthol Tobacco) changed cell viability, cell proliferation, and calcium signalling (calcium homeostasis is also affected by tobacco exposure) and were shown to be toxic in higher doses.

The e-cigarette market is rapidly expanding

The researchers believe that coupling these results with the chemicals identified in each flavour could help identify which constituents produce adverse effects in users.

"The effects of the various chemical components of e-cigarette vapor on lung tissue are largely unknown," said lead author Temperance Rowell, a graduate student at the University.

"In our study using human lung epithelial cells, a number of cell viability and toxicity parameters pointed to 5 of 13 flavors tested showing overall adverse effects to cells in a dose-dependent manner."

The study used cultured human airway epithelial cells, which were then exposed to doses of the 13 e-cigarette liquid flavours for 30 minutes or 24 hours.

The 30 minute test showed that the flavours Hot Cinnamon Candies, Banana Pudding, and Menthol Tobacco created a significant calcium response and were toxic at higher doses.

During the 24 hour exposure test, the same three seemed to decrease cell proliferation and cell viability.

"The specific chemical components underlying the toxic effects of these e-cigarette flavors on cell viability, proliferation, and calcium signaling in airway epithelia are undergoing further study in our lab," said Ms. Rowell.

"Given the increasing popularity of flavored e-cigarettes, a better understanding of their ingredients, the potential health risks of these ingredients, and the causes of these risks is urgently needed," she added.