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Research Says That E-cigarettes May Be Linked To Lung Disease

Research Says That E-cigarettes May Be Linked To Lung Disease

Did you know that the sales of e-cigarettes among teens doubled in the period between 2011 and 2012? There are now 4 million Americans who use these. But the big question that everybody is asking about this billion-dollar craze is whether these new cigarettes are really safer and healthier than old-fashioned tobacco cigarettes.

The main problem is that there has been very little research and, of course, it is probably far too soon to assess the longterm health risks. But there is one alarming fact that cannot be brushed under the carpet in spite of all the hype. It is this: these cigarettes contain nicotine and flavored chemicals — no less than 7,000 flavors have been developed!

Harmful chemicals may damage the lungs

One of these chemicals is called diacetyl and it has been found in almost 75% of the e-cigarettes studied by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that this chemical caused bronchial and other lung diseases in workers who were making popcorn with a vanilla flavour which contained it. This condition is called “popcorn lung” because these workers were inhaling it as they made the popcorn.

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When you use these cigarettes, there is no smoke because the battery does all the heating — there is no need for combustion. There is only “vaping,” that is, you are producing vapor as you inhale and exhale. Sounds pretty harmless but the whole process and the use of chemicals is worrying some doctors.

Why e-cigarettes may be harmful

Although there seems to be enough evidence to show that the lack of smoke produces fewer harmful chemicals than normal cigarettes, doubts remain.

What actually goes into the e-cigarettes seems to vary enormously. After all, there are 250 brands already on the market! The most alarming fact is that e-cigarettes remain unregulated and that means there is no guarantee at all in regards to their purity and safety. In addition, nobody knows what the longterm effects of the vapor may be.

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“As for long-term effects, we don’t know what happens when you breathe the vapor into the lungs regularly.” — Thomas Glynn, Director of Science at the American Cancer Society.

The harmful effects of nicotine

Normal cigarette smoking causes about 400,000 deaths in America annually. The burning of tobacco means the smoker is inhaling tar and other toxic chemicals which can lead to heart disease and cancer. Now, the number of chemicals in e-cigarettes is infinitely smaller (9 versus 11,000 according to the FDA), so that would suggest they are indeed much safer. But the nicotine is still in there and that leads to addiction, just as with normal cigarettes. It is so addictive that you can get withdrawal symptoms which can lead to depression and anxiety. The nicotine can also damage the heart and arteries in the long term.

Other harmful chemicals in the mix

The nicotine dose is mixed with propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine. While these are not officially carcinogens, they are believed to be “potentially carcinogenic,” as described in a French report on e-cigarettes. The French government is thinking of introducing a public ban on smoking these devices, including limiting their use to adults only. They are concerned about the health effects and the side stream smoke for those unlucky enough to be near someone who is vaping.

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Up to 42 chemicals have been identified in e-cigarettes. You can see the full list here. They include some rather notorious chemicals which we spend a lot of time avoiding because they are toxic and they may lead to cancer. This includes benzene, lead, nickel, toluene, and formaldehyde.

“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.” — David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics and co-author of the Harvard study.

When e-cigarettes hit the scene, they were regarded as harmless gadgets and a safer option to smoking. This is only partially true, as we have seen above, and their use should be better controlled for the sake of all our lungs.

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Featured photo credit: Vaping vs Smoking/ Vaping360 via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

What Should I Do Today? 30 New Things To Do Today

What Should I Do Today? 30 New Things To Do Today

It’s always fun to do something new, but often we fall into the trap of spending our weekends the same way.

If you’re stuck in the same old routine, it might be time to try something new.

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What should I do today? No ideas?

Everything listed here is something you can easily do no matter where you live, and even on a tight budget! Try out one of these 30 new things today, you’ll be happy you did.

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Try Out These 30 New Things To Do Today

  1. Visit a suburb in your city that you’ve never been to before, or somewhere you haven’t explored much.
  2. Learn ten phrases in a new language–what about Japanese, Italian or Portuguese?
  3. Listen to a genre of music you haven’t tried before–perhaps Jazz, Punk or Blues?
  4. Have a picnic in your local park complete with a packed lunch and your animal friends.
  5. Start a daily journal to write your thoughts in.
  6. Try a new cuisine–what about French, Lebanese or Korean?
  7. Visit your local library and borrow some books for the weekend.
  8. Plant some flowers in your garden. If you don’t have one, try an indoor potted plant.
  9. Visit a local museum or art gallery and view their latest exhibition.
  10. Learn a new skill–what about sewing, gardening or cooking? You’ll be surprised what you can learn in an afternoon.
  11. Say hello to a neighbor you don’t usually talk to.
  12. Make a card for a friend and send it to them with a handwritten note.
  13. Learn how to cook a new dish for dinner. We all get tired of eating the same thing, why not try making something new?
  14. Re-read an old favorite book. Don’t leave it gathering dust on your book shelf; get it out and read it all over again.
  15. Research the culture of a different country online–what about India, Guatemala or Sweden?
  16. Go for a walk or bicycle ride around your neighborhood.
  17. Watch a classic film like Casablanca, The Godfather or The Wizard of Oz.
  18. Make a photo album of a recent holiday you took. Don’t let your memories get lost on your computer hard drive; make a special keepsake album of your trip.
  19. Visit your local farmers markets and pick out some fresh produce. Farmers markets are full of delicious fresh fruit, veggies and more. Find your local market and take a visit.
  20. Plan a day trip to somewhere outside your city–it might be the seaside, mountains or another city!
  21. Check out what community events are running in your area and attend one.
  22. Make a birthday present for a friend. Handmade gifts are personal and much more special than anything you could buy from a store.
  23. Attend a play at your local theater. Support your local theater and have a fun night out at the same time.
  24. Volunteer with your local nature conservation society to plant some trees. Conservation societies are always looking for helping hands; do your bit and plant some trees.
  25. Be a tourist in your own city and visit all the popular tourist sites you’ve likely never been to (don’t forget your camera!)
  26. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to recently and have a good long chat.
  27. Put on your favorite song and dance your heart out. You might be surprised at how much fun you have!
  28. Invite some friends over for a BBQ. There’s nothing better than an afternoon spent with good friends and good food.
  29. Try out a new form of exercise like Pilates, tennis or swimming.
  30. Organize a clothing swap with your friends. You’ll have a great time, and save some cash and the environment all at the same time!

Now that you’ve read my list of 30 new things to try today, my question for you is, “what new things will you try today?”

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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