Some E-Cigarettes Contain Enough Alcohol to Affect Motor Skills, Study Finds

Some types of e-cigarettes contain enough alcohol to affect motor skills, a new study concludes. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine by vaporizing liquids, which may contain alcohol and other chemicals.

Yale University researchers tested people who used two commercially available e-cigarettes with either high or low amounts of alcohol. Neither group said they felt differently after they inhaled the vapor. But those who used e-cigarettes with high alcohol levels performed more poorly on psychomotor tests. In some cases, they had detectable levels of alcohol in their urine.

“They didn’t actually know they were under the influence of alcohol,” lead researcher Dr. Mehmet Sofuoglu told CNBC. “It still influenced their performance.”

About three-quarters of the commercial e-cigarette liquids tested contained less than 1 percent alcohol. Some e-cigarette users create their own liquids with high alcohol content, the researchers note in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Almost nothing is known about the prevalence of using e-liquids that contain alcohol, they said.

Sofuoglu said the findings are worrisome, especially in light of a recent government report that found e-cigarette use among teens tripled from 2013 to 2014. An estimated 13 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2014—compared with 9 percent who smoked traditional cigarettes.

“Given the widespread and unregulated use of e-cigarettes, especially by youth and other vulnerable populations, further studies are needed to evaluate both the acute safety and long-term health risks of using alcohol-containing e-cigarettes,” he said in a news release.

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    Fr. Jack Kearney

    January 21, 2016 at 12:23 PM

    According to Dr. Michael Siegel of the B.U. Department of Public Health “…this article concludes that vaping high alcohol e-liquids causes motor impairment that could lead to motor vehicle crashes from alcohol intoxication, despite finding that there was no alcohol detectable in the blood of high alcohol e-liquid vapers. This adds to the long line of recent anti-vaping studies which misrepresent or exaggerate their findings in an apparently biased attempt to demonize e-cigarettes. And in this case, at least two of the authors have financial conflicts of interest with Big Pharma – which markets a drug that competes directly with e-cigarettes in the smoking cessation market – creating a perception that these conflicts may have inadvertently influenced the reporting of the study results.

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    January 18, 2016 at 11:32 PM

    Mark Nason, you have some valid points however driving skills begin to be affected at .01, the first half beer, with a BAC of .05 increasing the probability of a motor vehicle accident with a 50% of someone dying. So lets say that you went out and drank four beers in four hours, you would be below the legal limit of .08. However, if you also smoked 4 e-cigarettes in the same four hours, you would probably be over the legal limit and definitely over a BAC of .05. In the drug world it is called the additive effect, one drug will not get you over but the combination of both will. If you get stop by a police officer, you lose.

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    Mark Nason

    January 15, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    This study points to the potential for impairment from e-cigarettes with high alcohol content. However, the authors’ conclusion from their own study was a stretch at best. On a test of dexterity, they found that those with a low alcohol content in the e-cigarettes improved over baseline, while those with the high alcohol content did not improve (did not go below baseline measure either). Their only citation for the level of “impairment” they found in their study being linked to increased crash risk was a study by Blomberg et al., 2009. The authors of that study, though, concluded that significant crash risk began between 0.04 and 0.05% BAC (p. 291). In contrast, the plasma alcohol levels for the high alcohol e-cigarettes “remained below the detection threshold” (p. 3). It appears that it would take a much higher alcohol content than the highest one they were able to find to truly increase crash risk.

    In sum, this study of e-cigarettes raises awareness of a potential future danger if alcohol content in e-cigarettes increase, at the expense of exaggerating the risk of the ones currently available.

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