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UCSF vaping study challenges the presumed safety of e-cigarettes

Jeremy Wong smokes an e-cigarette at The Vaping Buddha on January 23, 2018 in South San Francisco, California.
Jeremy Wong smokes an e-cigarette at The Vaping Buddha on January 23, 2018 in South San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A new study out from the University of California-San Francisco says it’s the first to show evidence that teens who use electronic cigarettes are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals when they vape.

Researchers tested urine and saliva samples from 67 teenagers, the average age of whom was about 16, each of whom had vaped one or more times in the last month and at least 10 times in their life. They then compared those to samples from 16 teens who vape and smoke combustible cigarettes, and 20 teens who don’t vape or smoke traditional cigarettes.

Results showed the participants who vape and smoke cigarettes had the highest levels of cancer-causing chemicals, which likely won’t come as a surprise, but what the study authors say is notable is how much higher the levels of these chemicals were in the teens who only vape compared to those who don’t vape or smoke. The research team also said that among those participants who vape only, those who smoke fruit-flavored e-liquid produced “significantly higher levels of the metabolites of acrylonitrile,” which is a highly poisonous compound found in plastics and adhesives according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Larry Mantle will wade into the specifics of the study’s methodology from its lead author and hear reaction from a vaping industry advocate who says he's concerned that the headlines generated by studies like this one are perpetuating the idea among Americans that vaping is almost as dangerous as smoking combustible cigarettes.


Mark Rubinstein, lead author of the study “Adolescent Exposure to Toxic Volatile Organic Chemicals From E-Cigarettes”; he is an adolescent medicine researcher and physician, and a professor of pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco

Gregory Conley, founder and president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for sensible regulation of vapor products