Even nicotine-free electronic cigarettes can damage lungs; parents urged to warn teens about dangers of e-cig smoking

Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest smoking rates, but electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are becoming more popular. These battery-powered vaporizers produce a vapor that usually does not contain nicotine. Some have claimed that e-cigs can help people quit smoking because the amount of nicotine can be reduced until it isn’t present in the vapor. However, new research shows that other substances in e-cigs may damage the lungs.

Research has found that nicotine in any form damages the endothelial cells that line the lungs, and can cause them to become inflamed or injured. The new research has found that e-cigarette solutions without nicotine contain other substances like acrolein, which damage the lungs in other ways.

“This research reports that components found in commercially available e-cigarette solutions and vapors generated by heating them may cause lung inflammation,” said lead researcher Irina Petrache. Long-term effects haven’t yet been studied, but the results of this study warn that e-cig inhalation may involve adverse effects on lung health, she said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research shows that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has tripled. “The development and marketing of e-cigarettes has the potential of hooking a whole new generation on nicotine,” Garry Sigman, director of the Loyola University Health System Adolescent Medicine Program, said. It’s very addictive and can lead to health issues such as lung disease, heart disease, hypertension and nervous system problems, he said.

Sigman said parents need to made sure their children understand that e-cigarettes are just as addictive as other substances. “Nicotine is so addictive that with only a few inhales, it can create an addiction,” he said. Because adolescents enjoy and use technology so much, the modern qualities of the e-cigs might make them seem cool. “Setting rules and monitoring behavior is essential to keeping our teens safe,” Sigman said.

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