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What Kids Vape

This 2015 file photo shows bottles of various flavors of vapor solution, known as “juice,” for use in e-cigarettes at a shop in Sacramento, Calif.

According to new research from the Penn State College of Medicine, the flavor of e-cigarettes could either raise or decrease the level of toxins in e-cigarettes.

College researchers Monday announced that they found that many of the chemicals used to flavor e-cigarette liquid increased the production of free radicals, or toxins often associated with cancer and other diseases. Some chemicals used to flavor liquid actually lowered the level.

“When these products first came on the market, many people were saying they were harmless and that it was just water vapor,” said John Richie, professor of public health science and pharmacology. “We know that’s not true, but we also don’t have the numbers on how dangerous e-cigarettes are. But now we know that e-cigarettes do produce free radicals, and the amount is affected by the flavorants added.”

The college said free radicals can cause damage to cells and can eventually lead to conditions like inflammation, heart disease and cancer. People inhale free radicals when they smoke a combustible cigarette.

Researchers measured free radicals produced by 50 flavors of a popular brand of e-cigarette and compared them to flavorless e-liquid. The research found that about 43 percent of the flavors were associated with significantly higher levels of toxins, and only a few were associated with lower levels.

In breaking down the chemicals responsible for each flavoring, the research determined that six flavorants significantly increased the production of free radicals, including linalool, dipentene and citral, which are used to give products citrus or floral notes.

The flavorant ethyl vanillin, used for vanilla notes, decreased the production of free radicals by 42 percent.

Richie said the results could help consumers make better decisions about the products they buy, as well as help policy makers create regulations around e-cigarettes in the future.

“We found that many of these flavorings increase free radicals, but a few decreased them, as well, which raises the possibility that maybe there are things you can add to these liquids that could reduce radical production and might make them safer,” Richie said in a news release. “E-cigarettes are regulated by the Center for Tobacco Products in the FDA, and I think these results can be useful to help set guidelines in terms of regulating these products.”