Menthol in e-cigs could damage lungs, UH research finds

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Menthol in e-cigarettes may be harmful to respiratory health, according to a new study by a team from the University of Hawaii among the experts of Mānoa. The findings come as e-cigarette use is on the rise among Hawaiiit is youth.

Yi Zuo, uh Mānoa, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, has invented a revolutionary method to study the health impact of e-cigarette aerosols. This groundbreaking research was published in June 2022 in the American Journal of Physiology – Cellular and Molecular Physiology of the Lung“Menthol in e-cigarettes causes biophysical inhibition of pulmonary surfactant.”

Zuo’s research found that flavorings used in e-cigarettes, particularly menthol, altered a lipid-protein film on the air-water surface of the lung. This film is called lung surfactant. It plays a central role in maintaining normal respiratory mechanics of the lung. Therefore, Zuo’s research indicated that menthol in e-cigarette aerosols can negatively impact the user’s respiratory health.

“E-cigarettes were originally heralded as a healthier and safer alternative to conventional smoking when they first appeared in the mid-2000s,” Zuo said. “However, increasing research evidence, particularly long-term (more than 10 years) toxicological data that has only emerged in recent years, has suggested that e-cigarettes are not as safe as advertised. ‘origin.”

E-cigarette use is on the rise among HawaiiAccording to a Youth Behavioral Risk Survey conducted by the uh Mānoa College of Education. Survey respondents who reported using an e-cigarette or vaping product at least one day in the past 30 days before completing the survey increased from 25.1% to 30.6% from 2015 to 2019. respondents who used vaping products for more than 20 days in the 30 days prior to completing the survey increased from 3.6% in 2015 to 10.4% in 2019.

Flavor is a main attraction for e-cigarette users, especially young people. In 2018, there were over 15,000 different e-cigarette flavor blends available on the market. Although most of the flavorings used in e-cigarettes are food grade additives and fragrances, their safety and health impact on the respiratory system, at the levels inhaled by e-cigarette users, has so far been largely unknown.

Menthol is a substance found in peppermint, spearmint, and other mint herbs. It provides a cooling and soothing feeling and is used to relieve minor pain and irritation. Menthol is added to products as a flavoring, including cough drops, drinks, gum and candies. However, none of these products are smoked or inhaled when used. E-cigarette makers, on the other hand, add menthol to their products to make them more appealing and seemingly less harmful when used.

Zuo hopes that these research results can contribute to a better understanding of the health impact of e-cigarettes, especially on young people, and to better regulation of e-cigarette products. This research was a collaborative effort between Zuo’s lab and professors Ellinor Haglund and Rui Sun in the uh Mānoa Department of Chemistry. This research was supported by an award from the National Science Foundation and the George F. Straub Trust and Robert VS. Perry Fund of the Hawaii Community foundation.

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-By Marc Arakaki

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