Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

UCR professor of cell biology Dr. Prue Talbot and her team discovered the chemicals used to refill electronic vapor cigarettes (e-cigarettes) may be more harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Her team discovered that electronic vapor requires a consumer to take deeper breaths which may potentially draw in harmful chemicals to fragile parts of the lungs, as opposed to a tobacco cigarette that burns on the other end, allowing the consumer less inhalation.

“Our earlier studies with electronic cigarette refill fluids showed that some of these products were toxic to both mouse neural stem cells, (and) human embryonic stem cells as well as to adult lung cells,” she said in a UC press release.

In a subsequent study, Talbot’s team took apart a cartomizer, an e-cigarette’s cartridge which merges both flavored fluids and a battery-powered heater. When heated, they discovered that the cartridge contained 21 different elements, such as metallic tin from the joints of the cartomizer.

Her team is currently researching the effects of nicotine vapor in adults and expecting mothers, but says the long-term effects of electric vaporized nicotine are still ambiguous. “We need to know more about the full range of chemicals delivered by e-cigarettes, as well as their concentrations and their long-term effects on health,” Talbot stated.

Talbot’s research is being funded through a UC tobacco-related disease research program with the goals of understanding tobacco policies, prevention and cessation and tobacco-related diseases — all working toward a tobacco-free California.

Students, such as second-year electrical engineer Johnathan Knecht, felt apathetic toward the topic of e-cigarettes, since he was not an avid smoker himself. “They are cooler looking than the old ones, but they don’t bother me too much,” he said. “What I do notice now is a bunch of people hiding to smoke whether tobacco or vapor. We have a bunch of tobacco smokers hiding all over campus, as if they were smoking weed!”

Talbot and her team are currently studying various brands of e-cigarettes to determine the chemical concentrations most toxic to cells. “We hope that this research will help establish the safety of this new product and protect health of young people and adults,” said Talbot.