E-cigarettes are often touted as safer than traditional tobacco products, but according to a study released by the Harvard School of Public Health , they may still be extremely harmful to smokers’ health.
According to the study, 75 percent of flavored e-cigarettes and refill liquids tested contained the chemical diacetyl — a chemical that causes an incurable disease known as “Popcorn Lung.”
“Popcorn Lung,” otherwise known as bronchiolitis obliterans, causes scarring in tiny air sacs in the lungs that lead to excessive coughing and shortness of breath. “Popcorn Lung” earned its nickname in 2004 when several workers at a Missouri popcorn factory developed the disease.
Though diacetyl is often associated with buttering flavor used in popcorn, it’s also found in fruit and alcohol flavorings often used in e-cigarettes.
What’s even more disturbing is that diacetyl was found in a number of e-cigarette flavors that could appeal to children, like “Cotton Candy,” “Fruit Squirts” and “Cupcake.”
Forty-seven of the 51 e-cigarettes and liquids tested in the study contained diacetyl or a chemical that “may pose a respiratory hazard.”
“Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes,” said study co-author David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics. “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.”
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that turn flavored liquids and nicotine into vapor. In 45 of 50 states , e-cigarette use is not necessarily outlawed in otherwise smoke-free venues.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.