When a Harvard study was conducted of e-cigarette flavorings, it confirmed that 47 of the 51 flavors tested contained one of three closely related chemicals: diacetyl, 2,3 pentanedione and acetoin. The chemicals are used as flavoring agents. The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Diacetyl and its close cousins, 2,3 pentanedione and acetoin, have been under scrutiny in recent years because of their links to serious lung diseases such as bronchiolitis obliterans, better known as “popcorn lung” because of the popcorn flavoring factory workers that were diagnosed with the disease. It’s only treatable by lung transplant, so it’s no minor illness. But when the study discovered that this potentially harmful chemical is found in e-cigarettes, it caused an uproar in the vaping community.
Many in the vaping community roll their eyes at the literature warning of the dangers of diacetyl, arguing that vaping is still better than smoking regular cigarettes.
Although that may be true, Russ Wishtart, host of the vaping podcast Click Bang!, feels that’s a weak argument. “If the bar that you’re setting is ‘better than smoking,’ then you’re setting the bar awfully low,” Wishtart said.
“It’s very clear that diacetyl and other similar flavoring chemicals can, in some workers, cause this severe, irreversible, untreatable lung disease,” said Dr. Cecile Rose, an expert in lung disease at the University of Colorado Denver. “Why would we allow the possibility of that occurring and then wait until there’s some dead bodies to count before something’s done about this?”