In the news today, Zuckerberg says he’s sorry that Facebook is such a cesspit, Bill Cosby’s back in court ... and speaking of sexual assaulters, is it bad news for a President when his personal lawyer is raided by the FBI?
Never mind. Close your browser tabs, put on your vintage smoking jacket and fire up your battery powered cigarette substitute of choice and have a listen to a science story instead — but choose your liquidised flavour wisely.
The huge popularity of e-cigarettes has produced an explosion in the number of flavoured liquids available to consumers, from menthol to rhubarb and custard. New research shows that the ingredients used to create many of these flavours increase the production of chemicals called free radicals, which are linked to cancer and other diseases.
Inhaling e-cigarette vapour, or just vaping, has been hailed as a harmless alternative to smoking — after all, users are just breathing in flavoured water vapour, and the flavours have been tested and approved as safe by the appropriate authorities.
Research published this week in the Journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine by scientists at Penn State College of Medicine shows there is a flaw in this approval process: the chemicals are not tested when heated, which is what happens inside an electronic cigarette. Heating can change the chemistry taking place inside the liquid, producing different amounts of free radicals.
The researchers measured the levels of free radicals produced by 50 flavours of e-cigarette liquids, and found that almost half of them increase the amount of free radicals compared with unflavoured liquid. They also identified a few flavours that reduced free radical levels.
The research team used these results to isolat six specific flavour ingredients that produce significantly higher levels of free radicals, and one that almost halved free radical production.
The findings suggest that e-liquid flavours could be carefully designed to minimise health risks. With vaping rapidly increasing in popularity across the world, and with many flavours like bubblegum and sherbet clearly marketed to children, this research provides important data to help authorities understand the risks of vaping and regulate potentially harmful e-liquids.