Like Juul, e-cigarette manufacturers often advertise their products as being a safer alternative to cigarettes and free of the many harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. However, what most e-cigarette companies fail to warn consumers of is that their products contain diacetyl: a chemical that, if vaporized, is highly toxic and can have detrimental health effects to those who are exposed to its vapors. The most common injury associated with diacetyl vapor exposure is bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung), a rare condition that damages your lung’s small airways, making it difficult to breathe and causing individuals to experience aggressive coughing spirts. If untreated, popcorn lung can degenerate into total respiratory collapse, which can be fatal. Also known as coffee lung, it can also be found in manufacturing facilities that produce animal food, gum, or other food products.
In its natural form, diacetyl is a harmless additive, used to enhance the flavoring of e-liquids. But when heated in an e-cigarette, diacetyl is transformed into its hazardous vaporized state.
The health risks of e-cigarettes differ depending on which brand you choose. If you choose to Juul, you are choosing to use a product that has a higher concentration of nicotine than normal cigarettes but does not contain dangerous diacetyl. If you choose to use most other e-cigarettes, you are choosing a product that has a lower concentration of nicotine compared to cigarettes, but you are likely also putting yourself at risk of developing popcorn lung. Either way, you are still putting your health at risk because e-cigarette dangers are apparent in all e-cigarette products.
Research Reveals Dangerous Chemicals in E-Cigarettes
The American Journal of Physiology study found that other chemical additives found in e-cigarettes previously thought to be safe, such as propylene glycol, may be responsible for causing respiratory inflammation and other pulmonary problems.
While some e-cigarettes, such as the popular Juul e-cigarette, do not contain diacetyl, almost all do contain propylene glycol and other potentially harmful chemicals. A number of the flavor chemicals used in most e-liquids also contain aldehydes, which, when inhaled, can irritate the mucosal tissue in the respiratory tract.
The new research linking these chemical additives to lung inflammation may challenge Juul’s (and other manufacturers’) claims that their products are a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes.
The study published in the American Journal of Physiology, which was conducted by medical investigators at the University of Athens, Greece, found that when vaporized, the chemical flavorings and additives can cause considerable inflammation in the lungs. According to researchers, even short-term e-cigarette use can induce significant inflammatory lung damage. Although this inflammation does not appear to pose a cancer risk, there are a number of other serious health risks associated with this kind of respiratory strain.
“Electronic cigarettes are advertised as a less harmful nicotine delivery system or as a new smoking cessation tool. Our findings suggest that exposure to e-cig vapor can trigger inflammatory responses and adversely affect respiratory system mechanics.” explained the study’s co-author Dr. Constantinos Glynos.
Experts in the field say that this first-stage exploratory research, which was conducted on lab mice, should have been initiated years ago before e-cigarettes gained market approval.
“They [e-cigarettes] hit the market around 2006, 2007 before research could be conducted to determine what the potential problems would be. The manufacturers were the ones telling us that these products were safe to use,” explained Dr. Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control, a division of Northwell Health in Great Neck.
E-Cigarette Manufacturers Put Consumers at Risk
These e-cigarette manufacturers never actually tested the potential health risks of their products but based their safety claims about these flavorings and additives on previous approvals made by the FDA for a variety of food additives. As Dr. Folan accentuated in her comments, these flavorings and additives were deemed safe for consumption, but no tests were conducted on the long-term effects of inhaling these chemicals in their vaporized state. Only now, more than a decade later, are the first third-party researchers exposing e-cigarette dangers and Juul dangers.
Unfortunately, it may now be too late. The long-term effects of exposure to these chemicals could be detrimental to the millions of U.S. smokers who have made the switch to e-cigarettes and Juul.
With this new revelation of e-cigarette dangers, experts are calling for further research into the potential short-term and long-term effects of e-cigarette use.
“The observed detrimental effects in the lung upon e-cigarette vapor exposure in animal models highlight the need for further investigation of safety and toxicity of these rapidly expanding devices worldwide,” Dr. Glynos said.
Cigarettes are bad for you – but e-cigarettes are by no means a lesser of two evils. E-cigarettes, be it Juul or any other popular brand, still put you at risk of developing a serious and potentially fatal injury.
If we know about Juul dangers and e-cigarette dangers, why have the number of users been steadily increasing over time?
E-cigarettes feature two characteristics that make them appealing to smokers: enticing flavors that cut out the “bad taste” of cigarettes (1) and a concealable shape that allows them to be smoked virtually anywhere (2).