STUDY: Dangerous amounts of cancer-causing toxin found in mint-flavored vapes

Duke University study suggests mint-flavored e-cigarettes contain more of the chemical than even menthol cigarettes

Caitlin Lally
September 16, 2019 - 1:40 pm
vape pen and cigarettes

(KMOX) — If you opt for mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarette and smokeless tobacco products, you may want to consider these findings published in a new study out of Duke University.

Published Monday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the study reveals a substance derived from mint plants known as pulegone has been found in three mint-flavored e-cigs.

Pulegone has been linked to liver and bladder cancer in animal studies, and in 2018, the FDA banned the substance from food products.

Related: Government plans to ban flavors used in e-cigarettes

However, this study is not the first to analyze the carcinogen. Initial studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected substantial amounts of pulegone in minty-flavored tobacco products (both smokable and smokeless) sold in the United States.

The Duke University study follows up on the CDC's research and suggests users of mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are exposed to higher levels of pulegone than the FDA considers acceptable, and even higher levels than those in which traditional menthol cigarette smokers are exposed.

"The tobacco industry has long known about the dangers of pulegone and has continuously tried to minimize its levels in menthol cigarette flavorings, so the levels are much lower in menthol cigarettes than in electronic cigarettes," said lead study author Dr. Sven-Eric Jordt, a Duke anesthesiologist. 

This research follows a summer of mysterious vaping-related illnesses that have affected hundreds across the country. "Six deaths have been reported, all adults and at least some with pre-existing lung problems or other conditions that may have made them more susceptible," according to the Associated Press.

Related: 'Avoiding e-cigarettes is a must': Local physician advises against vaping after multiple deaths in U.S.

While it is still unclear exactly what the threshold of "safe" consumption of pulegone is, the study suggests the lungs are highly sensitive to the toxin.

"Our findings appear to establish health risks associated with pulegone intake and concerns that the FDA should address before suggesting mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products as alternatives for people who use combustible tobacco products," the study concluded.

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