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July 29th, 2016:

One minute of secondhand marijuana smoke impairs cardiovascular function

One minute of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) from marijuana diminishes blood vessel function to the same extent as tobacco, but the harmful cardiovascular effects last three times longer, according to a new study in rats led by UC San Francisco researchers.

In a healthy animal, increased blood flow prompts arteries to widen, a process known as flow-mediated dilation (FMD). When FMD is compromised, as happens during SHS exposure, blood flow is impeded, and the risks of heart attack, atherosclerosis and other heart problems increase, said UCSF’s Matthew Springer, Ph.D., professor of medicine and senior author of the new study.

“Your blood vessels can carry more blood if they sense that they need to pass more blood to the tissues,” Springer said. “They dilate to allow more blood through. But that’s inhibited by exposure to smoke.”

Previous work by Springer and others has shown that as little as one minute of exposure to tobacco SHS diminishes FMD, but the effects of marijuana SHS hadn’t been examined. In the new research, published online in the July 27, 2016, issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, a team of scientists in Springer’s laboratory measured rats’ FMD, which works similarly to FMD in humans, before and after exposure to both tobacco SHS and marijuana SHS.

The researchers found that rats exposed to marijuana SHS experienced a more than 50 percent reduction in FMD, similar to the reduction in artery function seen in both rats and humans exposed to tobacco smoke in previous studies. As with tobacco, the reduction occurred after just one minute of exposure to SHS from marijuana.

However, while rats exposed for one minute to tobacco SHS recover within 30 minutes – an observation that was reproduced in the new study – one minute of exposure to marijuana SHS still significantly affected FMD 90 minutes after the initial exposure.

Filling a void in secondhand smoke research

The research group used equipment designed to mechanically “smoke” cigarettes and fill a reservoir with the resulting smoke. In a series of experiments using marijuana ciagarettes, when the smoke in the collecting chamber was determined to be at a level roughly comparable to those found in restaurants that allow smoking, the rats were exposed to the marijuana smoke.

Using methodology that they developed for previous tobacco studies, the researchers temporarily blocked off blood flow to rats’ legs after they were exposed to SHS. They then let the blood rush back into the arteries and used ultrasound technology to measure the resulting widening of the femoral artery, a vessel similar to the human brachial artery of the arm, where FMD is typically measured in clinical studies.

The study fills a void in SHS research, as marijuana studies are difficult to undertake because of its illicit status and the numerous agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, that must approve the use of the drug in experiments.

“The biggest reason that people believe marijuana secondhand smoke is harmless is because the public health community hasn’t had direct evidence of its harmful effects like it does with tobacco,” Springer said. “We hadn’t done the experiments, so I think there is definitely an underestimation of how harmful marijuana smoke is.”

To ensure the effect on FMD wasn’t a result of smoke from the rolling paper used in marijuana cigarettes or the cannabinoid compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana), the researchers also tested marijuana not rolled in paper and with cannabinoid compounds removed. Arterial function was still impaired in those situations, leading the team to conclude that smoke from burning marijuana plant matter itself caused the decline in FMD.

‘Just avoid smoke’

The rats were likely exposed to less SHS than people at certain rock concerts, such as one Springer attended in 2010, where there were so many people smoking marijuana that there was a haze in the air. This experience prompted his curiosity about whether marijuana SHS was really as benign as people made it out to be.

“It was really interesting to me, and distressing, because all these people in the stands would not tolerate it if the person next to them started smoking a cigarette,” Springer said, “but they were fine with the marijuana.”

Springer’s preliminary findings, presented at the November 2014 American Heart Association Annual Scientific Sessions, helped inspire California Assembly Bill 2300, a proposed law working its way through the State Legislature that would allow landlords to prohibit marijuana smoking —even for medicinal purposes—if smoking is already banned in their building. The medicinal use of marijuana complicates such public policy questions, Springer said, but he believes the current study solidifies the evidence that exposure to marijuana SHS carries risks.

“At this point, we’re saying that inhaling any smoke is detrimental to your health,” Springer said. “I think that people should avoid inhaling smoke whether it’s from tobacco or marijuana cigarettes, forest fires, barbecues—just avoid smoke.”

Study co-authors from Springer’s UCSF lab are Xiaoyin Wang, M.D.; Ronak Derakhshandeh, MS; Jiangtao Liu, M.D.; Shilpa Narayan; Pooneh Nabavizadeh, M.D.; Stephenie Le; Olivia M. Danforth; Kranthi Pinnamaneni, M.D.; Hilda J. Rodriguez; Emmy Luu; and Richard E. Sievers. Other UCSF co-authors include Suzaynn F. Schick, Ph.D., assistant adjunct professor of medicine, and Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., professor of medicine.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Elfenworks Foundation.

Electronic Cigarette Releases Toxic Elements And Two Cancer-Causing Chemicals

A new research shows that the vapor from electronic cigarettes has two chemicals that can cause cancer. It also contains toxic chemicals, according to researchers.

The study was published in Environmental Science & Technology. It was led by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, according to The Verge.

The team examined the electronic cigarettes vapor by simulating vaping at different battery power settings. They discovered that the vaporizers released 31 toxic chemicals.

These include the two possibly chemicals that can cause cancer. These were not previously found in e-cig vapor.

The chemicals that were produced varied depending on the temperature at which the liquids are vaporized by the device’s heating coil. There would be an increased amount of chemicals emitted if the temperature inside the coil is higher.

The researchers said that when vaporizing, the liquid emits toxic chemicals. These include the propylene oxide and glycidol, which are two probable carcinogens.

Carcinogens are substances or radiations that are involved in causing cancer. These may harm the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes.

The FDA warned the public that some electronic cigarettes have diethylene glycol, which is an ingredient used in antifreeze in 2009. Likewise, another study in 2015 revealed that aerosols from electronic cigarettes have formaldehyde, which is another cancer-causing substance.

Hugo Destaillats, a co-author of the study from Berkeley Laboratory said that advocates of electronic cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, he said that it may be true for certain users—for example, long time smokers that cannot quit—but the problem is, it doesn’t mean that they’re healthy. He concluded that regular cigarettes are super unhealthy and e-cigarettes are just unhealthy.

Could Tobacco Be the Next Big Sustainable Dye?

Tobacco doesn’t have to be a drag, according to Elise Comrie, a Fashion Futures graduate student at the London College of Fashion. One of 10 finalists for the Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, a joint effort between the luxury and lifestyle conglomerate and the university’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Comrie suggests using the plant as a natural dye. More specifically, the Canadian native proposes that Brioni, an Italian menswear couture house and one of the competition’s partner brands, develop a line of smoking jackets using materials dyed with tobacco.


It’s a stance that isn’t without controversy, of course. Consumed primarily through cigars and cigarettes, tobacco has been cited by the World Health Organization as the planet’s single greatest cause of preventable death. Then there’s the issue of child labor, a problem as endemic in Indonesia as it is in North Carolina.

But Comrie says that tobacco has qualities that lends it well to the sustainable realm. For one thing, it only takes 90 days to grow the crop for harvest. It also uses 40 percent less energy in the dyeing phase than cotton.

By supplanting synthetic dyes that contribute to toxic wastewater, Comrie says that tobacco-based products could help mitigate pollution in the textile industry.

Growing up in Saskatchewan shaped her view of the plant, as well. “I grew up with a close-knit relationship to indigenous peoples of the region that I’m from and at a young age I learned the spiritual and healing benefits of the sacred tobacco plant,” she said in a statement. “It was of prime importance to me that my history and who I am spoke clearly in my proposal. So much of the fashion industry is removed from people and their stories and I felt this to be an important aspect of my project.”

Comrie also drew from the decades of advertising that have conditioned us to associate—erroneously, for the most part—tobacco with masculine virility.

“I felt it necessary to have a masculine and yet innovative solution that the Brioni man could relate to,” she said. “I felt strongly about the innovative tobacco dye as a platform to help the Brioni client relate and see the importance of sustainability but still have the ‘cool’ factor.”

To create her palette, Comrie worked with Dimora Colours, formerly known as Ploughboy Organics, which specializes in the development of nontoxic tobacco dyes and fibers. She also consulted with faculty members from the school and Brioni’s own sustainability department.

Of her journey with Kering and the London College of Fashion, Comrie has nothing but praise.

“Having followed the Kering Award closely since its inception, it was a personal goal of mine to be a finalist,” she said. “The mentoring phase offered to the finalists is a rare opportunity for students to have guidance at this level.

Our questions as well as our innovations were welcomed and treated with such respect; it was a very positive experience.”

The hotter the vape, the more harm to the vapist

New research out of Berkeley Lab shows that not every puff is equal, and clearly outlines the factors that increase risk. Temperature, type, and age of the device all play a role in how much harmful emissions the e-cig produces, but the heat was a main point of interest.

In the paper, researchers detected significant levels of 31 toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, acrolein, propylene oxide, and previously undetected glycidol present.

Acrolein is used as a herbicide and is found in conventional cigarettes. Glycidol is an irritant that’s a potential carcinogen, as is propylene oxide. Formaldehyde, of course, is the tobacco industry’s most famous carcinogen. These and other toxins increased several-fold after sustained use of the vape, after it heated up around 20 puffs. High temperatures meant more harmful emissions.

Inhaling Fruity Pebble-flavored formaldehyde seems pretty gnarly, as does getting your leg blown up, and having your teeth knocked out of their sockets.

One of the authors on the Berkeley study summed up their findings thusly: “Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy.”

Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy, but to their credit, they don’t spontaneously blow up limbs. Sorry, vapists, but hitting the glazed donut vape juice sounds increasingly more akin to a drone strike than a safer cigarette alternative.

Why are E-Cigarettes Blowing Up?

E-Cigarette Explodes in Man’s Pocket:

The poor guy is simply trying to pay for something at the Shell station when the battery in the e-cigarette in his pocket explodes. He was hospitalized with burns to his groin and hand. Here’s another video about a guy in Florida who is in a coma after his e-cig blew up in his face while he was vaping. The explosion shot the mouth piece down his throat where it may have exploded again.

E-cigarettes have become a multi-billion dollar industry. The potential for these devices to cause horrific injuries can be appreciated by simply watching the first several You Tube videos under “exploding e-cigarettes” where surveillance video captured the explosions. Just Google “exploding e-cigarettes” and you’ll also discover pages of stories about e-cigarette explosions resulting in terrible burn injuries.

Why are e-cigarettes exploding?

All e-cigarettes rely on a heating element that boils a liquid chemical solution. The solution is typically a combination of nicotine, flavoring, and various chemicals. The power source for the heating element is a lithium ion battery.

These batteries contain flammable electrolytes. When the electrolytes are heated to their boiling point, the pressure inside the battery can cause the battery to rupture, which in turn causes the electrolytes to catch on fire. Similar to what happens to the defective propellant in a Takata airbag, the pressure can cause the e-cigarette container and the battery to break apart and spray burning shrapnel. Explosions have occurred during vaping and while the e-cigs were in the user’s pocket. Reported injuries from exploding e-cigarettes include severe burns to the face, groin, hands, and legs; eye injuries including blindness; and coma.

Legal issues

The bad news for victims is that approximately 90% of e-cigarettes sold in the United States were made in China. Most of those are sold by retail vaping shops that may or may not have sufficient insurance coverage. As the plaintiffs in the Chinese drywall litigation learned, Chinese manufacturing defendants can be difficult to serve.

Moreover, China may not recognize a U.S. judgment, so collection can be problematic. The good news is that the products liability laws in states like Virginia recognize legal theories based upon breach of warranties against distributors. Virginia also recognizes joint and several liability, which means that one can sue the manufacturer, distributor, component parts manufacturers (e.g., the lithium battery manufacturer) and retailers, and collect the entire judgment against the insured or solvent defendants.

Can e-cigarettes be made to be safe?

Even though these devices are blowing up in consumers’ faces and in their pockets, they have gone largely unregulated. The civil justice system is the only way to hold the manufacturers of these defective devices responsible and to effect the change necessary to make these devices safer. I hesitate to use the word “safe” because a new study shows that the vapor from e-cigarettes contains two previously undiscovered cancer-causing chemicals. As the Washington Post reported today, researchers found that e-cigarette vapor contains 29 chemicals, two of which are considered probable carcinogens. According the the New England Journal of Medicine, the chemicals are used to create artificial smoke. When these chemicals are decomposed by being heated, they also release toxic chemicals such as acrolein and formaldehyde. The myth that vaping is safe is being debunked by science.