Electronic Cigarettes, Vaporizers & Vape Pens

What are E-Cigarettes and Vapes?

Sleek new vaping devices, now sold in a variety of different flavors, have taken America’s youth by storm. E-Cigarettes and “Vapes” are electronic handheld devices that heat solutions into a steam-like vapor that is later inhaled by the user. Solutions or “e-liquids” typically include nicotine, humectants (moisture preservatives) and flavoring. E-Cigarettes and Vapes have become widely popular, specifically with the younger crowd due to the variety of flavors being produced and marketed. The problem is that despite allegedly being a “safer” alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other carcinogenic chemicals that America’s youth has ostensibly disregarded and not been made aware of.

Are E-Cigarettes and Vapes Safe to Use?

Despite a push by juggernaut tobacco companies to advertise electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, a growing body of research suggests otherwise. A recent study conducted at the New York University School of Medicine found that the nicotine in e-cigarettes can cause an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.[1]

In the study, researchers subjected mice to the equivalent of ten years of e-cigarette vapor and observed DNA damage to their lungs, bladder, and heart. Cultured human lung and bladder cells were also exposed to e-cigarette vapor and researchers found that the DNA cells were damaged and slow to heal. Moon-shong Tang, a professor of environmental medicine at NYU, stated that such an effect on human DNA cells increases the likelihood of the cells’ mutation into cancer. Tang also likened the DNA changes to the adverse effects second-hand smokers of traditional cigarettes experience.[1] 

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend of vaping e-cigarettes as a permanent alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, as opposed to a step toward quitting tobacco products altogether. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists on its website a 2016 study that found that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults were current e-cigarette users and more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.[2] It appears that as the number of people vaping e-cigarettes increases, so too does the body of research indicating that doing so may lead to serious health complications.

Studies such as the one discussed above serve to bolster the reality that “e-cigarette litigation is lighting up.” Exploding batteries and adolescent-targeted marketing with overwhelming flavor variety are two common grounds by which individuals are bringing claims against large tobacco companies and e-cigarette manufacturers.[3] This study potentially provides validity to claims concerning health complications such as cancer and heart disease linked to long-term e-cigarette vaping.

America’s Youth has Resorted to Vaping & Yes, It’s Still a Health Risk

With the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigs”) has come a dangerous cultural perception that they are somehow harmless to your health. This perception is exacerbated by a significant marketing effort to promote e-cigs as a “safer” alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. A growing body of research suggests otherwise, however, including new studies finding that e-cigs can carry formaldehyde and diacetyl – chemicals known to be carcinogens. 

What is Formaldehyde?

The Environment Protection Agency lists formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure.”[4]  Although e-cig manufacturers do not deliberately include formaldehyde as an ingredient in its products, the carcinogen can be generated through the natural inhalation process when the glycerol used to help the nicotine and flavors flow through the device is exposed to battery heat.

In one study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the amount of formaldehyde measured in e-cigs during normal inhalation conditions exceeded the “ceiling limit” of the workplace, a level that is absolutely prohibited by most industry standards.[5]

Diacetyl – the Convenient Flavoring Chemical

Unfortunately, formaldehyde is not the only danger of e-cigs to your health. A study conducted by Dr. Joseph Allen, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found diacetyl in over 75 percent of e-cigs tested.[5] The inhalation of diacetyl, which is used for the various flavorings of e-cigs, is closely linked to what is known as popcorn lung disease – “a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways.”[6] Popcorn lung, also known as constrictive bronchiolitis obliterations, is typically irreversible.

The predominant symptoms linked to the inhalation of diacetyl include a “persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, phlegm production, fatigue, drowsiness, headache, fever, aches, and nausea.” Further, lung volumes or chest X-rays may show hyperinflation, which occurs when air becomes severely trapped in the lungs, causing them to overinflate.[7]

Youths are Particularly Targeted

Despite the negative health effects of diacetyl, however, e-cig manufacturers continue to use the chemical to produce new flavors in order to target the youth population. Dr. Robert Jackler, chair of otolaryngology at Stanford, believes that such flavorants are not only dangerous but are manufactured in part to target American youth. Jackler says that the tobacco industry has used different flavors to attract young people.[8] This reality is alarming because the health effects of e-cigs are exacerbated by prolonged exposure to the dangerous chemicals described above.

The National High School Epidemic

The youth in America has undoubtedly fallen victim to the aggressive marketing tactics employed by large tobacco companies and the allure of more than 7,000 different e-cigarette flavors. A 2016 Report of the Surgeon General found that in 2015, 37.7 percent of high school students have used e-cigarettes, up more than 10 percent from 2014. Of the high school students who used tobacco products in 2015, 58.8 percent were current users of e-cigarettes.[9] Prior to that, the e-cigarette usage among high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products.[10]  To put these numbers in perspective, the US surgeon general cited a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette vaping by high school students from 2011 to 2015.[11]

Tobacco Companies Targeting Youth

The above statistics, although staggering, come as no surprise since large tobacco companies are aggressively targeting this demographic. Clearly, their tactics have been effective because about 7 in 10 middle and high school students – more than 18 million people – see e-cigarette advertising in various mainstream forms.[12] 

“The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.[12] In fact, it was estimated that spending on e-cigarette advertising rose from $6.4 million in 2011 to approximately $115 million in 2014.[12] 

Mr. Frieden also acknowledged that tobacco companies are using and promoting more than 7,000 different flavors as a marketing tactic to attract young people. This has led to numerous critics of e-cigarette advertising to advocate for a ban on advertising to children. Such efforts have proven difficult, however, because unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are grossly under-regulated as it is.

Flavors are Exacerbating the Health Risk

Dr. Joseph Allen, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, conducted a study analyzing the presence of artificial flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes. His study, as discussed in a separate Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC blog, found that dangerous chemicals such as diacetyl are produced by flavoring compounds that are associated with popcorn lung disease, a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs causing a thickening and narrowing of the airways.[13]

If you or a loved one has suffered adverse health complications or injuries you believe are a result of e-cigarettes or vaping devices, contact Paul M. da Costa, Esq. at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC to schedule a consultation. Call  973-274-5200 or email pdacosta@sarnolawfirm.com to schedule your consultation.