Smokers decide to stop smoking in various ways, one of which is vaping. Other people try cigarettes, are not impressed, and find the multitude of flavors in vaping pleasing. Some vape for the adventure of it, some vape for stress relief, while others vape just because everyone else does it.
Vaping is often too young of an experience for many studies to have been conducted as to its safety. A few exist, though. These studies offer some not-so-startling conclusions, mostly the percentage of vapers' susceptibility to cancer.
Just what is in vape juice or e-liquid that is so awful? The liquid contains three ingredients: propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin (both of which are natural and are used in food processing), food-grade flavors, and nicotine (non-nicotine flavors are also very popular.) So what's the problem?
Keep in mind that the flavorings in e-liquids are the same flavorings in food. The flavor in your chocolate chip cookies or the cherry pie is the same flavoring in your e-cigarette. The problem is that eating something isn't the same as inhaling it.
The trouble also is that not enough studies have been done with test subjects in controlled circumstances to determine what effects the vapor has on smokers. It's not enough to say, “Oh, well, this change in the chemical makeup of the pumpkin spice vape juice is dangerous.” Just try to separate someone from their pumpkin spice latte, donuts, or whatever. Good luck with that.
What About the Studies?
Early in the 2000s, workers in a microwave popcorn factory developed a serious and potentially deadly condition called “popcorn lung.” The buttery flavoring in the microwave popcorn was a chemical whose properties when inhaled not only irritated the lungs, it caused a breathing condition called bronchiolitis obliterans. This is irreversible loss of lung function and can result in a lung transplant. The popcorn lung lawsuit that ensued ended in the workers being awarded millions.
This incident brought up the question of e-liquids, which became popular in the mid to late 2000s. Over 7,000 e-liquid flavorings exist today, with more being formulated every day. If the buttery flavoring chemical can cause such a terrible reaction, then what can all the other 7,000 do?
The chemical names of this buttery flavoring are diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione. These chemicals are added to others to make thousands of e-liquid flavors such as pina colada, strawberry, butterscotch, and caramel.
In another cigarette study, the amount of nicotine in the sample as well as the chemicals contained in the exhaled smoke would be of vital interest. However, it is well documented that the small amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes is not conducive to either addiction or lung damage.
The study tested the most popular 51 flavors (out of the thousands available) for inclusion of the above-mentioned three chemicals. Using lab-created machines, the flavorings were mechanically drawn in, the vapor trapped in a container, and then tested for the three chemicals.
Forty-seven of the 51 flavors included one of the three butter flavored chemicals. This result had the effect of legislation being passed that limited workers' time in inhalation exposure circumstances. There is “acceptable risk” rules now in place for workers breathing in questionable flavorings, such as someone in an air freshener facility.
Having learned all this, should you really be using that vape pen?