The University of Rochester Medical Center has received a multi-million dollar federal grant to fund new research into e-cigarettes.
There’s a public impression that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to conventional smoking, the university said, but precious little research has corroborated that idea.
“The perception on the part of the public is that, ‘oh, I’m just inhaling vaporized water that has some flavorings in them that are safe, because, what’s wrong with peach?’” said Deborah Ossip, who’s one of the researchers on a URMC team led by Irfan Rahman. In fact, Ossip said, “We really don’t know, for many of these products, what the impacts of aerosolizing them and inhaling them are.”
Ossip said e-cigarette manufacturers use thousands of combinations of ingredients that make flavors ranging from menthol, to fruits, to chocolates and candies, to cocktails like piña colada.
And, she said, those flavors are being marketed successfully to youths, despite a dearth of knowledge of what the combinations of chemicals in them do to the body when they’re inhaled.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in youth uses of these products. And we know that among kids who are using e-cigarettes, or vapes, or Juuls, 80 percent are using a flavored product,” Ossip said.
URMC will split the $19 million grant with the Roswell Park cancer center in Buffalo, and the two campuses have announced the creation of a new joint research center.
The aim, Ossip said, is to fill in the gaps in scientific understanding of how e-cigarettes affect health, and help the federal government make better rules to govern their use and sale.