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Important lessons from the biggest e-cigarette study

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Those colourfully lit e-cigarettes are giving off way more than just “harmless water vapour”, according to a comprehensive new study review by UC San Francisco’s Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Users could also be inhaling and exhaling low levels of chemicals such as formaldehyde, propylene glycol and acetaldehyde (to name a few), and this secondhand vapor could be a potentially toxic source of indoor air pollution, Huffington Post reports.
While the levels of the toxins were still much lower compared to conventional cigarette emissions, the findings fly in the face of the e-cigarette industries’ claims that the handheld devices are just as safe as any other smoking cessation tool.
E-cigarettes as we know them today were invented by a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik in the early 2000s as a smoking cessation aid. They are handheld nicotine vaporizers that deliver an aerosol made up of nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals to users. It’s the chemicals in those vapours that are moving municipalities like Los Angeles, New York City, Washington DC, Chicago and Boston to restrict “vaping” in some way.
Formaldehyde, for instance, is a carcinogen that also irritates the eyes, nose and throat. Propylene glycol can also cause eye and respiratory irritation, and prolonged exposure can affect the nervous system and the spleen. Acetaldehyde, also known as the “hangover chemical” is also a possible carcinogen.
The secondhand vapor finding is just one of several that UCSF researchers highlighted in the broadest review to date of peer-reviewed e-cigarette studies. The findings, which were published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, include:
Some youth have their first taste of nicotine via e-cigarettes. Twenty percent of middle schoolers and 7.2 percent of high schooler e-cigarette users in the US report never smoking cigarettes. 

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