MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — E-cigarettes are as dangerous as smoking tobacco, according to at least some new research at West Virginia University.

That’s what researchers have discovered at the West Virginia University School of Medicine after a recent animal study has revealed that inhaling e-cigarettes or using a vapor product can do just as much damage to your body as tobacco products. WVU School of Medicine Associate Professor Dr. Mark Olfert said this research has been overdue for a near decade long trend.

“E-cigarettes have only been around for little over a decade — so we’re just now starting to get to the point in humans where some of the earliest pieces of evidence might exist for those who only started ten years ago,” said Dr. Olfert on WAJR-Clarksburg’s “The Gary Bowden Show.”

E-cigarettes — also known as an “e-cig” or a “vape” — are part of an ongoing trend, particularly in the 18 to 35 age demographic, in an effort to find a safe smoking alternative. Dr. Olfert said younger people than the target demographic are using it as well, which he said is a problem.

“In some scenarios, actually, you can produce more of the harmful compounds at least in concentration compared to a cigarette because you can run the devices at higher temperatures,” Olfert said.

One of the prevailing reasons for the trend’s rise in popularity is the belief that it is a healthy alternative to cigarette smoking or other tobacco use. This is due to a different mixture in chemicals which, depending on the product, may contain nicotine levels significantly less than in tobacco.

According to Dr. Olfert’s research, the act of inhaling toxins at high temperatures is dangerous.

“The fact that you can ingest a flavoring or a vegetable glycerin which you find in ketchup or in food products, and that it’s safe for you in that route, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to atomize it make it into a vapor and breath it into your lungs,” he said.

Two chemicals that are considered the most dangerous, according to Olfert, are the chemicals some brands have marketed as “FDA Approved.” These two chemicals, which are used primarily for food flavoring, allow for the very common flavors that are easily marketable to a younger audience.

More than 7,000 flavors are available.

Among the affects being found by vape exposure through animal models includes dangerous cardiovascular effects that are very similar to effects of tobacco smoking. This has included increased blood pressure and early signs of various cardiovascular diseases.

What is concerning for Olfert, along with the effects found already, is that the study itself won’t have complete research for another 30 years.

“Kids have gotten the message that smoking is bad,” Olfert said. “We have the current generation of middle school and high school students, the vast majority of which won’t touch a cigarette but are trying this because of the marketing perception that it is safe.”

He continued: “It is clear from the literature that kids are flocking to the e-cigarettes because of the flavors.”

That’s counter to what older demographics tend to use these devices for — usually in hopes of smoking cessation.

Thus far, Olfert said blood vessels are seeing a 20 to 30 percent reduction or impairment in their full function, which he describes as “the early sign of disease.”

“What we see happens in animals largely reflects what happens in humans,” Olfert said. “I would say that, anyone that’s skeptical that we’re doing animal research, there’s a strong body of evidence that what we’re seeing in animals with respect to smoking and I would suggest for vaping as well is going to manifest in humans.”

Story by Joe Nelson

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