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When e-cigarettes first made their appearance on the market, they were greeted with enthusiasm and relief by smokers and non-smokers alike. Anyone who expressed skepticism or a desire to learn more about the potential health hazards of this miracle product was met with harsh resistance. New information out of Harvard University has emerged, however, which incontrovertibly links e-cigarettes to lung disease. Apparently, the heavy focus on removing the combustion element of smoking overshadowed the other health hazards posed by the use of this device.

The discovered danger lies in the chemical flavourings used in e-cigarettes – more specifically, Diacetyl, a flavorings chemical that, according to Harvard, can lead to severe respiratory disease. The chemical is found in more than 75 percent of flavoured electronic cigarettes, alongside two other related and potentially harmful compounds used to produce flavours that appeal to a variety of young people, like cotton candy.

This is quite disturbing, particularly given the fact that there are currently more than 7,000 varieties of flavoured e-cigarettes and e-juices (the nicotine containing liquid used for refillable devices) available on the market.

The Harvard press release emphasized that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not tested e-cigarettes for safety and their potential health effects, and, what’s worse, they are not currently regulated.

We are dealing with chemicals that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the flavouring industry itself have warned workers about because of their association with the respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung.”

“Recognition of the hazards associated with inhaling flavoring chemicals started with ‘popcorn lung’ over a decade ago. However, diacetyl and other related flavoring chemicals are used in many other flavors beyond butter-flavored popcorn, including fruit flavors, alcohol flavors, and, we learned in our study, candy-flavored e-cigarettes.” – Lead author Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment sciences.

The study tested more than 50 types of flavoured e-cigarettes. Each e-cigarette was then placed into a closed off chamber attached to a lab-built device which drew air through the e-cigarette for eight seconds at a time. The air stream was then analyzed by researchers and they found at least one of three harmful chemicals detected in 47 of the 51 flavours tested.

“Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes. 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,” said study co-author David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics.”

As more research on e-cigarettes becomes available, it becomes increasingly clear that there are associated dangers which must be acknowledged. At this point, I think we can safely describe them as an uncontrolled experiment on consumers. And the Harvard study above isn’t the only one making noise; a study done by The German Cancer Research Center found that e-cigarettes and their emissions are not safe and that they contain cancer causing substances like volatile organic compounds, acetone, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzopyrene, and silicate, along with various other metal particles.

What Else Can You Do To Quit Smoking?

Aside from developing a true desire to quit smoking, which is the necessary and usually most difficult first step in making any significant lifestyle change, there are a number of steps one can take to quit. GreenMedInfo has put together a great list of options, including the research and evidence that goes with their efficacy.

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