If you’re unnerved by the amount of teenagers and young adults walking around with e-cigarettes, this post isn’t going to bring you much comfort.
When they were first launched, TV advertisements like this one touted e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking. “You’ll be the envy of all your friends who are stuck on traditional cigarettes,” was the general message.
One advert even said, “it’s water vapor,” implying that it is somehow safer than traditional smoke.
And for a while, it was considered safer. But now that the studies are beginning to pour in, we’re learning it’s anything but.
A study released by the Harvard School of Public Health says that while e-cigarettes don’t cause all of the health complications of traditional cigarettes, they do cause others that traditional smokes don’t.
The study found that 75% of all flavored e-cigarettes contain diacetyl, which is a chemical linked to several types of respiratory diseases, including the incurable popcorn lung.
Despite its lighthearted name, popcorn lung – technically called bronchiolitis obliterans – is a debilitating disease that causes scarring in the lungs and excessive coughing.
Popcorn lung earned its name when several workers at a popcorn factory developed the disease in 2004. This led many leading microwave popcorn brands to pull diacetyl from their products, but the chemical is rampantly being used in e-cigarettes, which puts an even wider demographic at risk considering the currently lax regulations.
22% of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have tried e-cigarettes, according to a government survey, and they are very commonly used indoors.
Co-author of the Harvard study David Christiani warns that popcorn lung may be the first of many health risks we find to be associated with e-cigarettes, considering they are a relatively new technology.
Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes. In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage.
It is incredibly important that consumers keep this in mind — The electronic cigarette industry is profiting hugely from the misconception that their products are safe. Reuters reports 10% of U.S. adults use e-cigs as of 2015 compared to 2.6% in 2013.
You can learn more about the dangers of e-cigarettes in the video below.