Cancer and E-Cigs
March 29, 2018
When e-cigarettes first started becoming popular, most people thought that they had to be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Although there is much more for scientists to learn about these relatively new products, numerous studies indicate that “e-cigs” aren’t safe at all. Vaping has become popular amongst adolescents as well as adults – but does anyone really know how dangerous the ingredients (and even the products themselves) are?
A team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) determined that teens who vape test positive for cancer-causing chemicals – especially the ones who use fruit-flavored cartridges. Even though e-cigarettes can appear safer than conventional cigarettes (they’re smokeless and profess to be less harmful), they contain many of the same ingredients. The researchers confirmed that teens who smoke traditional tobacco products had the highest amount of cancer-causing chemicals in their bodies, but also found that teens who vape had a significantly higher amount than their non-smoking counterparts.
Promoting e-cigarettes as more safe than traditional tobacco products is a dangerous thing to do. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the surgeon general’s office are both concerned that this could cause more teens to start smoking, and in the long run become addicted to cigarettes. In fact, the CDC’s website explicitly states that “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults” or people who “do not currently use tobacco products”.
In one of its latest reports, the CDC found that approximately 20% of high school students say they’ve used a tobacco product recently. Most of the teens said they’d used e-cigarettes instead of cigarettes, jar tobacco or other tobacco products. This could be showing a dangerous trend, because just two years ago only 11% of high school students polled had used tobacco products within the previous 30 days.
Vaping may lead to cigarette smoking, but more needs to be understood about what chemicals teens inhale when they use their vape pens, said UCSF researchers – which is why they launched their investigation. The chemicals aren’t listed on the ingredients because they’re considered part of the “flavoring”, especially for the popular fruit flavored cartridges. Teens who vaped had the following chemicals present in their bloodstreams, according to the UCSF’s study:
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acrolein is toxic to humans “following inhalation, oral or dermal exposure”;
- Acrylonitrile – which has been labeled as a “highly poisonous compound” by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI. This chemical is typically used to manufacture adhesives, synthetic rubber and plastics;
- Diacetyl, the compound that caused “Popcorn lung” in microwave packaging plant workers;
- Acrylamide, a dangerous chemical found in cigarette smoke that may or may not cause cancer, and:
- Propylene oxide and crotonaldeyde, both “probable” carcinogens (or cancer-causing)
One of the scariest parts is that manufacturers aren’t required to label their products with these ingredients, and that our nation’s youth are continuing to inhale deadly (and addictive) chemicals. Even the CDC’s website says: “it’s difficult for consumers to know what e-cigarette products contain […] some e-cigarettes marketed as having zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine”. This is not only an example of how many manufacturers can avoid listing the dangerous chemicals they’ve added to their products, but also illustrates that e-cigarettes are especially likely to be mislabeled and misleading.
According to the CDC, e-cigarettes are dangerous because they create three major hazards:
- They contain cancer-causing chemicals and small particles that can travel deep into the lungs,
- They contain nicotine, which is known to be extremely addictive, harmful to teenage brain development and toxic to developing fetuses (and more), and:
- The products themselves can start a fire or explosion, and can cause serious injuries (e.g. burns).
Parents and caregivers of teenagers should learn how to talk to their child about the true dangers of e-cigarettes. Most teens may believe that e-cigs are relatively harmless and are unaware of how dangerous their habit can really be. The Surgeon General’s website offers numerous helpful tips on how to talk to teens about e-cigarettes. Here are a few examples:
- Don’t lecture. You want to have an open conversation – and it doesn’t have to all happen at one;
- Lead by example. If you need help quitting tobacco products, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW;
- Talk to your teen about how his or her brain is still developing, and explain this makes them more vulnerable to addiction later in life (particularly towards methamphetamines and cocaine);
- Becoming hooked on e-cigs can affect a person’s memory and ability to concentrate, so tell your teenager that performing in school can become difficult, and:
- Discuss how the chemicals in e-cigarettes can inflict lung damage
If you’d like to read more of the Surgeon General’s tips for family members, please visit: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/SGR_ECig_ParentTipSheet_508.pdf.
The UCSF’s study also calls to attention the need for more stringent labeling regulations for manufacturers. If we know that teens are most likely to be using e-cigarettes, how can we not insist on knowing exactly which chemicals they contain? Through tougher regulations and guidelines, perhaps manufacturers would be forbid to put certain carcinogens and other deadly chemicals in products that they know teens are using, therefore putting their lives in danger and potentially setting them up for even more dangerous habits.
If your teenager was injured because of a defective e-cigarette or you believe he or she became ill as a result of one, please contact a representative at our firm who may be able to help.
Philadelphia Product Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured by Electronic Cigarettes
If you sustained injuries or became ill as a result of electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigs” or “vapes”, please contact the Philadelphia product liability lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.