by: Kelvin Ngo
“Ay bro can I hit your Juul please bro? Can I hit your Juul dude? Come on dude!”
The last few years have seen a rapid spike in the popularity of e-cigarettes, with the Juul device being the most prominent on the market. Self-proclaimed “Juul fiends”, seen campuswide vaping away at their cucumber and mango-flavored nicotine juice, are testaments to this recent popularity. The recent surge of e-cigarette use can be attributed to their discreteness and the belief that e-cigarettes provide the fun of a nicotine buzz without any of the health detriments. However, a recent study from University College London upsets this popular opinion of e-cigarettes and provides new data on their potential health risks.
The study collected urine and saliva samples from smokers – those who smoke an average of 5 conventional cigarettes a day – and non-smokers – former-smokers who have not used any tobacco products in at least 6 months. Both groups had members who have been at least weekly users of vaping devices for the past 6 months, as well as members who did not use e-cigarettes. The samples were tested for tobacco-related carcinogens and toxins; saliva samples were used to test for nicotine and cotinine amounts, while urine samples were tested for main nicotine metabolites and minor nicotine alkaloids.
The study found that e-cigarette users will intake roughly the same, if not greater, amounts of nicotine as conventional cigarette users. The main difference between the two is that saliva samples revealed that the e-cigarette users retain about half the nicotine and cotinine amounts in their bloodstreams when compared to conventional cigarette users. The biggest difference was in minor nicotine alkaloids, which are only found due to tobacco exposure, and not found in other forms of nicotine exposure such as e-cigarettes.
In order to analyze the future risk of disease, the study used exposure tobacco-related biomarkers that are known to be associated with lung cancer such as 4-1-1-butanone (NNAL). When comparing the NNAL levels between different classes of smokers, e-cigarette-only users showed a much lower amount than those who were cigarette-only users or cigarette and e-cigarette hybrid users.
The findings confirm that the low levels of carcinogen and toxin exposure from e-cigarettes do mean a lower risk of complications from long-term use, but that does not mean there are no complications. The study suggests that, given the known involvement of these carcinogens and toxins with cancer, pulmonary diseases, and cardiovascular diseases, it is best not to use an e-cigarette due to the potential risks of these diseases if one has no addiction or need for nicotine. Be a cool kid. Not a Juul kid.