Researchers are still in the early stages of figuring out the potential health hazards associated with certain vaping flavors — as well as the dangers of vaping in general. So it can be tough for e-cig enthusiasts to know just how much damage — if any — they might be doing to their health.
And that can be kind of annoying since, for many people, vaping is used as a alternative option to replace cigarette smoking, which is obviously all sorts of dangerous. For others, vaping is just a hobby, and one that comes with a variety of flavors to try. But it's still important to weigh the pros and cons, and recognize that vaping may be dangerous, when choosing a flavor.
If you've ever been to a vaping store in search of e-cigarette liquids, then you know the flavor choices are pretty much endless. There are common flavors like strawberry, cola, and cherry, as well as more exotic flavors like cereal and buttered popcorn. And then there are super bizarre flavors, with names like Blue Jupiter Moon Exploration. (I made that up.)
The problem with vaping liquids is, you never know what you're inhaling. And therefore, you should never assume any flavor is 100 percent safe. There may, however, be certain vaping flavors that are more risky than others, due to the chemicals that go into making them. Here are a few flavors all vapers might want to avoid, until we have more information.
The chemicals that go into creating the cinnamon flavor "are among the most toxic in terms of damaging white blood cells (monocytes) in e-liquid juices," Emily Wood, a Cannabis Advisor at Honest Herb, tells Bustle.
Cinnamon was even listed in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology as one of the most toxic vaping flavors. So even though it smells like a delicious breakfast, it may be one flavor worth avoiding.
Vanilla also tops the toxic list, due to the fact it contains the flavoring chemical "o-vanillin," which can be harmful to health. Again, chemicals like this one "have been linked to cell death," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle.
The thing is, certain ingredients can be tricky to avoid — due to the fact vaping ingredients aren't always clearly listed or made available to consumers — but it never hurts to read labels and avoid companies that aren't transparent.
Popcorn is another one to keep in mind — and it's a flavor with a rich history, in terms of the whole vaping/health debate. Back in the 1990s, several employees of a Missouri popcorn factory started complaining of coughing and wheezing symptoms. It was later discovered their lung problems were due to an "irreversible lung disease: bronchiolitis obliterans, which would later be nicknamed 'popcorn lung,'" reporter Diana Crow noted in The Atlantic. "Its cause was traced back to the chemical behind popcorn’s buttery flavor." Which they were breathing in all day, every day in the factory.
That's why it may not be safe to inhale popcorn flavored vaping liquids, especially if they contain the chemical the lends the flavor, called diacetyl. "It's best for consumers to avoid this chemical at all costs in their e-liquids and stick to vegetable glycerin (VG) e-liquids instead," Wood says. "VG juice has been shown to be a healthier alternative than other e-liquid chemicals on the market but consumers should be cautious using VG if they are allergic to coconut or palm oil."
Recent studies on tadpoles have revealed that fruit flavors might be more toxic, too. "What one study has found is that fruit and cream flavors caused the tadpoles to develop cleft features, whilst the menthol and tobacco flavors seemed to effect the tadpoles less," Wood says. "From the study: 'About 20 percent of tadpoles exposed to a flavor of strawberry, almond, caramel, vanilla, biscuit, Vienna cream and 70 percent of those exposed to a flavor of 'cereal, berries, cream, [and] citrus developed clefts'."
The tadpole study, which was conducted in part by Amanda Dickinson, a developmental biologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, was trying to see if vaping liquids might affect human embryos, judging by how the tadpoles reacted. And while some of the tadpoles did develop cleft pallets, the jury is still out regarding safety and how vaping might affect humans.
"Just because vanilla flavor or crème flavor is OK in your cookies doesn’t mean it’s OK when you heat it and then inhale it," Dickinson told Crow, in The Atlantic article. "It seems that it’s a roll of the dice.”
In terms of heart health, "nine chemical flavorings were tested for their short-term effects on endothelial cells (a.k.a. the cells that line the blood vessels and inside of the heart), according to a statement from the American Heart Association," Amber Brenza noted in Women's Health.
After being exposed to the cells for 90 minutes, all nine flavors, including mint, were shown to be "dangerous to the epithelial cells and caused cell death when used at the highest levels," Brenza said. The other flavors tested? Burnt flavor, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, butter, strawberry, banana, and spicy cooling.
If you go for mixed flavors like "banana strawberry" or "berries and cream," you might be inhaling even more chemicals than if you puffed on a single flavor alone.
As Wood says, "Research has shown that mixing multiple flavoring chemicals together creates far more cell destruction than inhaling single flavor e-liquids."
And this can be true for those made up mystery flavors, like Blue Jupiter Moon Exploration, that may have a million different notes in them, as well. "It's not necessarily the end flavors that end up being unhealthy ... but the additives that are used to create very complex flavors that consumers should be aware of," Wood says. "The more complex the flavor is, likely the unhealthier it will be for the consumer."
It's yet to be decided if vaping is safe, or if certain flavors are definitely more dangerous than others. But you should still proceed with caution.