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Menthol E-Cigarette Liquids Contain FDA-Banned Additive Linked To Cancer

Scientists continued to uncover the bad effects of vaping. A new study found high levels of a cancer-linked chemical in menthol-flavored electronic cigarettes.

The vape liquid contains pulegone that has long been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive because of its carcinogenic properties. Previous research found that the chemical causes lung and liver cancers in animals, which may also occur in humans. 

Many tobacco-based products also contained pulegone before the 1960s. Companies decided to remove the chemical from cigarettes after finding it was an irritant, according to WebMD

To date, the FDA ban does not cover pulegone's use in e-cigarettes. Manufacturers use the potentially harmful oil in vapes because it costs lower than other menthol and mint flavorings, according to Sven-Eric Jordt, lead researcher of the latest study. 

"If pulegone is not allowed in food, there's no reason why it should be allowed in e-cigarettes," Jordt said, who is also an associate professor of anesthesiology at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. “Many are small companies that likely buy some cheap compound, maybe even a skin oil or an oil for lamps or something.” 

The findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, come from the analysis of the ingredients used in different brands of regular menthol cigarettes. All of the products, which included e-cigarette brands and one smokeless tobacco brand, contained pulegone higher than the safe levels set by the FDA. . 

"This is a troubling study that highlights the fact that the FDA's continuing refusal to remove menthol from cigarettes and other tobacco products is harming people," Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the Center for Tobacco Control, Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, said. 

Erika Sward, an assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association, said the agency should increase efforts to protect the public from such harmful chemicals used in e-cigarettes.

The FDA previously announced a plan to suspend the sale of menthol e-cigarettes. However, the industry has yet to receive the official policy. 

Sward warned that e-cigarettes only entered the market within the decade. The scientific community is still trying to understand its long-term effects and consequences are likely to appear in the coming years.  

Vape Jam A visitor vapes and blows a smoke ring during Vape Jam 2019 at ExCel on April 13, 2019 in London, England. John Keeble/Getty Images