Menthol vapors could be even more toxic to the lungs
By Steven Reinberg
health day reporter
TUESDAY, April 11, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Adding menthol flavoring to e-cigarettes may damage your lungs more than regular e-cigarettes, a new study reveals.
The common mint flavor helps deliver significantly more toxic microparticles, compared to e-cigarette pods that don’t contain menthol. It is these microparticles that damage lung function, researchers say.
“Beware of additives in e-cigarettes,” said lead researcher Kambaz Benam, an associate professor in the division of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“If you vape, they can cause you to inhale more particles into your lungs. Don’t assume that since menthol is a naturally occurring substance in mint plants and added to some foods and beverages, it would be good to inhale,” did he declare.
“The menthol flavor leads to a significantly higher number of particles than one would take into the lungs when vaping,” he said. “E-cigarette aerosols are known to contain many harmful substances, such as nicotine and formaldehyde.”
A number of studies have suggested that e-cigarette vapor can cause lung inflammation, oxidative stress, DNA damage and airway hyperresponsiveness that can trigger asthma, Benam said. Vaping these substances can cause lung damage that impairs lung function. Menthol, he added, is such a toxic substance.
To examine the potential harm of menthol, Benam’s team developed a “vaping robot” that mimics temperature, humidity, puff volume, and vaping duration to predict lung damage caused by e-cigarettes. .
The system measures the size and number of aerosolized microparticles and their mode of action, depending on what is in the liquid. The effects are tested on a device called “lung on chip” which calculates the potential toxicity. What did he find? There were more toxic microparticles emitted with the menthol vape liquid.
An accompanying analysis of patient records for e-cigarette smokers found that menthol vapers took shallower breaths and had lower lung function than non-menthol vapers.
In previous research, Benam’s group found that vitamin E acetate, a common additive in e-cigarette liquid that contains THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), generates tiny toxic particles that lodge in the small airways of the lungs and the walls of the trachea and bronchus.
This latest study, published online April 11 in the journal Respiratory researchsuggests that menthol additives could be as dangerous as vitamin E acetate, the researchers noted.
Meanwhile, a movement is brewing to ban menthol. In 2022, the United States Food and Drug Administration proposed banning menthol in regular cigarettes and denied the marketing of two menthol-flavored e-cigarettes as a means of preventing children from starting to smoke or vape.
“E-cigarettes were believed, and in many cases continue to be believed, to be a better alternative to combustible cigarettes,” said Jennifer Sidi, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, NY.
“However, research is ongoing to refute this belief. E-cigarettes also contain many dangerous chemicals, and it is becoming apparent that they are not necessarily a healthier option,” she said.
Menthol is known to cause a numbing or cooling effect on cigarettes, making smoking more enjoyable, Sidi explained.
“The addition of menthol, however, allowed smokers to inhale more deeply, leading to the inhalation of more carcinogens. This leads to an increase in lung cancers and lung cancers that are discovered deeper in the lung cavities,” she said.
Adding menthol to e-cigarettes has a similar impact to menthol added to combustible cigarettes, Sidi noted.
“A greater volume of dangerous chemicals is inhaled with the addition of menthol. These chemicals can cause increased lung damage, just as they would with regular cigarette smoking,” she said. “This raises the question of whether there is really any benefit to smoking e-cigarettes over combustible cigarettes.”
Unfortunately, e-cigarettes continue to grow in popularity among young teens. “Research proves they are not a safer option,” Sidi warned, “and the young, impressionable demographic is the one being targeted to buy e-cigarettes.”
To learn more about menthol, visit the American Lung Association.
SOURCES: Kambaz Benam, DPhil, associate professor, division of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Penn; Jennifer Sidi, NP, director, Center for Tobacco Control, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, NY; Respiratory researchApril 11, 2023, online