Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs) are designed to heat and aerosolize mixtures of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine, and flavoring additives, thus delivering nicotine by inhalation in the absence of combustion. These devices were originally developed to facilitate smoking cessation and have been available in the United States for over a decade. Since 2010, e-cig use has expanded rapidly, especially among adolescents, despite a paucity of short- and long-term safety data. Patterns of use have shifted to include never smokers and many dual users of e-cigs and combustible tobacco products. Over the last several years, research into the potential toxicities of e-cig aerosols has grown exponentially. In the interim, regulatory policymakers across the world have struggled with how to regulate an increasingly diverse array of suppliers and products, against a backdrop of strong advocacy from users, manufacturers, and tobacco control experts. Herein we provide an updated review of the pulmonary toxicity profile of these devices, summarizing evidence from cell culture, animal models, and human subjects. We highlight the major gaps in our current understanding, emphasize the challenges confronting the scientific and regulatory communities, and identify areas that require more research in this important and rapidly evolving field.
Keywords: alveolar epithelium; bronchial epithelium; electronic cigarette; lung; smoking; toxicity.
Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society.