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E-cigarette flavourings may kill off lung cells

19 May 2015

E-cigarette flavourings may kill off lung cells

The calls for more controls on e-cigarettes have gained traction recently. The relatively new-to-market product has exploded in popularity in recent years with the potential long-term health risks remaining unclear. One study, from Liverpool John Moores University, found that e-cigarette use was strongly related to binge drinking while researchers from Portland State University found potentially dangerous chemicals in the flavourings used in them. This latest study, by researchers from University of North Carolina and presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Denver, has found that e-cigarette flavourings can potentially kill off some lung cells.

The researchers purchased 13 representative flavours of e-cigarette liquid, and exposed human lung cells to them for either a half hour or a full day, testing their effects on airway epithelial calcium signalling, cell viability and cell proliferation. Five of these flavourings, hot cinnamon candies, banana pudding, kola, vanilla and menthol tobacco spurred cell death. Nicotine and other components of the e-cigarette liquid did not cause the same problems, however.

This latest finding will add to the growing calls for stricter e-cigarette controls but this latest finding has the potential to be the most important yet. Smoking tobacco has been associated with causing severe damage to the lungs and its debilitating effect is such that it helped lead to greater controls placed on tobacco. If e-cigarettes can cause similar long-term harm, then it may not be long before they are treated in the same way as conventional tobacco and cigarettes. 

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