Nav: Home

Flavoring ingredient exceeds safety levels in e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco

September 16, 2019

DURHAM, N.C. -- A potential carcinogen that has been banned as a food additive is present in concerningly high levels in electronic cigarette liquids and smokeless tobacco products, according to a new study from Duke Health.

The chemical -- called pulegone (pronounced pju-leh-goan) - is contained in menthol and mint flavored e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Because of its carcinogenic properties, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned pulegone as a food additive last year in response to petitions from consumer groups.

Yet the agency does not regulate the chemical's presence in e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, which are promoted as safer alternatives to regular cigarettes.

"Our findings suggest that the FDA should implement measures to mitigate pulegone-related health risks before suggesting mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products as alternatives for people who use combustible tobacco products," said Sven-Eric Jordt, Ph.D., a professor of the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke and lead author of a study publishing online Sept. 16 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Jordt and research partner Sairam V. Jabba became interested in the topic because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published studies showing that mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarette liquids and smokeless tobacco products marketed in the U.S. contain substantial amounts of pulegone.

The two researchers analyzed whether several top brands of regular menthol cigarettes, three e-cigarette brands, and one smokeless tobacco brand contain enough pulegone to be a cause for concern. They compared the CDC-reported amounts of pulegone with the FDA's exposure risk data -- the levels at which exposure-related tumors were reported in animal studies.

Their analysis found that the levels in the e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco exceeded the thresholds of concern. Regular menthol cigarettes contained levels below the thresholds.

"Our analysis suggests that users of mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are exposed to pulegone levels higher than the FDA considers acceptable for intake in food, and higher than in smokers of combustible menthol cigarettes," Jordt said.

"The tobacco industry has long known about the dangers of pulegone and has continuously tried to minimize its levels in menthol cigarette flavorings, so the levels are much lower in menthol cigarettes than in electronic cigarettes," Jordt said. E-cigarette manufacturers may be less familiar with the dangers and use cheaper ingredients to lower costs.

One limitation of the study is that the FDA's exposure risk calculations are based on oral exposure in animal studies. These risks may apply to the oral exposure through smokeless tobacco but may differ from inhalation exposure through e-cigarette vapor. There is no toxicity data available on exposure via inhalation. This is concerning because toxicologists consider the lung to be more sensitive to toxic chemicals than the digestive tract.
-end-
The research was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (R01ES029435). The findings are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Duke University Medical Center

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Uncharted
There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 1: Numbers
In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.