electronic cigarette

There’s no way around it: E-cigarettes probably aren’t much better for you than normal cigarettes.

Today, the health journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a new study conducted by researchers at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health concerning additives found in e-cigarettes and the results are not encouraging.

According to their findings, more than 75 percent of flavored e-cigarettes and refill liquids contain diacetyl, an organic compound—known for its buttery taste—that’s often used in creating cotton candy, “Fruit squirts” and cupcake flavoring for e-cigarettes.

Nearly two decades ago, prolonged diacetyl inhalation was definitively linked with “popcorn lung,” a life-threatening, obstructive lung disease most often found in workers at microwave popcorn factories.

In addition to testing for diacetyl, the researchers looked for traces of acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione, two other flavoring compounds that have been deemed potentially dangerous over long periods of exposure by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association. 47 of the 51 products tested contained at least one of the three chemicals.

For now, e-cigarettes and refills—of which there are more than 7,000 on the market—remain woefully unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means consumers haven’t been properly educated on the dangers of using these increasingly popular products.

“Our findings confirm the presence of diacetyl and other high priority flavoring chemicals in flavored e-cigarettes,” the researchers concluded. “Due to the associations between diacetyl, [popcorn lung], and other severe respiratory diseases observed in workers, urgent action is recommended to further evaluate this potentially widespread exposure via flavored e-cigarettes.”

Let’s hope that the FDA comes to the same conclusion—and soon.

(Image via iStock)