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Dangerous Molecules Discovered in E-Cigarette Aerosols

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine says they have found that electronic cigarettes produce free radicals, which are molecules that cause cell damage and can lead to cancer.

E-cigarettes will soon fall under the same rules as normal cigarettes – not for sale to persons under the age of 18 and restrictions on advertising, RTL Nieuws reports.

Instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes work by delivering nicotine in the form of water vapor, giving users an alternative to the many unsafe byproducts of burning tobacco.

Electronic cigarettes are often thought to be safer than cigarettes because they don’t produce smoke or contain the tar and chemical of tobacco.

Commenting on the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, John P. Richie Jr., Professor of Public Health Sciences and Pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine said, “There’s a perception that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, or at least not as harmful as regular cigarettes”.

“While e-cigarette vapour does not contain numerous toxic substances that are known to be present in cigarette smoke, it’s still important for us to figure out and to minimize the potential dangers that are associated with e-cigarettes”, he said in a statement.

To model the possible harmful effect of e-cigarette vapor, which contains among other things nicotine and flavorings, British American Tobacco partnered with tissue engineering firm MatTek to use a smoking robot with respiratory tissue.

Previous studies have found low levels of aldehydes, which are chemical compounds that can cause oxidative stress and cell damage, in e-cigarette vapor. However, no-one has paid attention to the ‘free radicals’ that can also potentially be produced by e-cigs – even though these are considered to be the primary reason for smoking-related cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“This is the first study that demonstrates the fact that we have these highly reactive agents in e-cigarette aerosols”, Richie said. The researchers measured free radicals in e-cigarette aerosols. Results were published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Further research is needed to determine the health effects of highly reactive free radicals from e-cigarettes.

Richie says there’s a perception that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, but his team’s findings suggest the devices may not be free from harm. They are potentially harmful.

Researchers are hoping to eventually measure total numbers in e-cigarette aerosols in order to see how exactly these may impact human health.

National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Tobacco Products of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration funded this research

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