As Vaping Devices Evolve, New Potential Hazards Scrutinized

The smokeless tobacco industry that began with low-voltage cigarette look-alikes has evolved to include customizable, high-wattage machines capable of generating enormous clouds of vapor ― and potentially toxic substances.

As the technology continues to change, researchers are finding more evidence that the way vaping devices and e-liquids interact could harm consumers. High-powered devices may overheat vaping liquids to produce toxic chemicals, tobacco experts warn, and the aerosol that is inhaled may be contaminated with dangerous metals from the device.

Although researchers say they still don’t have enough data to know whether vaping devices are less dangerous than cigarettes, Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco, said the scientific evidence convinced him that vaping is far from a harmless substitute.

Many consumers credit vaping and electronic cigarette products with helping them kick their cigarette habit. But as the technology has changed, so have e-liquids. Formulas today can deliver the same amount or more nicotine than a cigarette in the same number of puffs, researchers say. The ingredients and materials that make up these products are often a mystery, even when they are made by legitimate manufacturers.

Liquids and devices are being scrutinized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify what is causing the outbreak of vape-related illnesses. As of Oct. 15, the CDC has identified nearly 1,500 lung injuries related to vaping. Thirty-three people have died, according to the agency.