RALEIGH, N.C. – As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continue to investigate the outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes, surveys show a record number of teens continue to vape.
What are the potential health risks down the road?
A top toxicologist said vaping poses very different dangers than smoking cigarettes.
Wade Taylor switched from smoking cigarettes to vaping because he believes it’s safer.
“There’s like 400 and something chemicals in a cigarette," Taylor shared.
Ilona Jaspers, professor for the Department of Pediatrics, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said while that’s true, vaping presents a different health threat than smoking.
“The disease manifestations. The pathology we see in these individuals is not something you would ever see in a smoker,” Jaspers said.
Jaspers, who studies the adverse effects of inhaled chemicals, said we know cigarettes can cause COPD, cancer and emphysema, but what about e-cigarettes?
“We don’t know what this may cause 20 years down the road,” Jaspers said.
That’s one reason why Jaspers’ research team is taking a closer look at what’s in these products. They filled a plastic container with a popular flavoring agent found in liquid nicotine and let it sit for two hours.
“We just put a drop of the cinnamon flavoring there and it etched away the plastic and basically ate it away,” saud Phillip Clapp, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Jaspers said the real concern is more young people are vaping nicotine without knowing the consequences.
“It delivers a high dose, very quickly, so it gets these teens addicted much faster than a cigarette does,” Jaspers said.
And she said you don’t always know how much nicotine you’re getting.
“In Europe you can only have 2% nicotine, whereas here we have up to 8%,” Jaspers said.
She agrees regulation is key but said the priority is stopping the growing number of teens from vaping.
“Prevention, education and getting these kids off of the nicotine addiction,” she said.
Jaspers speaks to middle and high school students about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping products.
She urges those in states where there is no e-cigarette ban to contact their legislators and ask for an additional small e-cig tax where that money can be used for prevention and education.