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E- Cigarettes Linked To Popcorn Lung

popcorn lungE- Cigarettes Linked To Popcorn Lung

E-Cigarettes or ‘vaping’ as it is also known as, has become increasingly popular in the past two years. It is seen as almost fashionable to smoke an e-cigarette as opposed to a regular cigarette. Marketing advertisements have deemed them as the cheaper and safer alternative to cigarettes. Almost 50,000 people in Ireland have switched from tobacco to an e-cigarette with the hope that it will be less harmful to their health. But how healthy is ‘vaping’?

According to Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment sciences at the
Harvard T.H. Chan School of public health the chemical ingredients in e-cigarettes are
harmful to a person’s lungs. Studies showed that 74.2 % of e-liquids tested contained
diacetyle. He says “Recognition of the hazards associated with inhaling flavouring chemicals started with ‘popcorn lung’ over a decade ago. However, diacetyl and other related flavouring chemicals are used in many other flavours beyond butter-flavoured popcorn, including fruit flavours, alcohol flavours, and we learned in our study, candy-flavoured e-Popcorn lung (Bronchiolitis obliterans) is a serious condition that is irreversible. It is named after the artificial butter flavouring, diacetyle which is used on microwaveable popcorn. It is considered safe to eat but harmful to inhale.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is an inflammatory obstruction of the bronchioles and the main symptoms of it are difficulty in breathing, a dry cough and wheezing. In the late 1990’s eight employees of the Gilster-Mary Lee popcorn plant in Missouri developed the condition after being exposed to the toxic fumes of diacetyle while working at the factory. Currently there are no regulations for e-cigarettes so it is unknown exactly what other chemicals are in them, and if they will cause serious, long term health risks. There are a wide variety of e-cigarettes on the market, including e-pipes, e-pens, e-hookah and e-cigars.

How do e-cigarettes work?

The end part of the cigarette lights up as you inhale and when you exhale, a smoke like substance is emitted. They have a battery inside them, a heating element and a cartridge that contains nicotine and other chemical flavouring liquids. There are almost 500 brands and 7,700 flavours of e-cigarettes on the market. None of which have had an FDA assessment to determine what chemicals are in them.

In 2009 the FDA tested the chemicals in e-cigarettes and detected quantities of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, in two popular brands and 18 different cartridges. A further review showed that the chemicals in e-cigarettes varied between different brands. In 2014 a study found that the vapour excreted from the e-cigarettes contained a high level of formaldehyde, which is another chemical linked to causing cancer.

A study this year at the University of California tested an extract from the ‘smoke’ of e-cigarettes and used it to treat human cells in a lab. This caused DNA damage to the cells and they died sooner than the cells that were left untreated. The Nicotine free e-cigarettes triggered 50 percent more DNA strand breaks and the ones containing nicotine had a three-fold increase over a two- month period. Dr Jessica Wang-Rodriquez, who was one of the leading researchers in the study and is professor of pathology at the University of California, San Diego, says; “There haven’t been many good lab studies on the effects of these products on actual human cells.
Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public. We were able to identify that e-cigarettes on the whole have something to do with increased cell death. We hope to identify the individual components that are contributing to the effect. Based on the evidence to date I believe they are no better than smoking regular cigarettes”.

The Irish Cancer Society does not endorse the use of e-cigarettes as a replacement for regular cigarettes, because e-cigarettes contain nicotine and administer a “hit” of nicotine to the smoker, so the person is still addicted to the substance. NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products such as gum, patches and lozenges contain a much slower releasing quantity of nicotine which help to alleviate cravings. They also have scientifically been proven to encourage smokers to quit. The Irish Cancer Society suggest that more scientific testing needs to be done in order to prove the effectiveness of e-cigarettes. They advise that until e-cigarettes have been regulated by the Department of Health, a smoker should use gum or patches instead. They should also ask their doctor or local smoking cessation advisor about helpful ways to quit smoking.

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