Although vaping has been considered a safer option compared to smoking cigarettes, researchers now warn that regular use of e-cigarettes carries its own set of risks.

Teenagers who frequently vape may face increased exposure to harmful metals like lead and uranium, which could potentially impact brain and organ development adversely, a new study revealed.

Based on the findings published in the journal Tobacco Control, the researchers recommend the implementation of regulations and prevention initiatives specifically aimed at teenagers.

Vaping is prevalent among teens, with approximately 14% of U.S. high school students (about 2.14 million) and over 3% of middle school students (about 380,000) reporting vaping within the last month of 2022.

Earlier studies have shown that certain harmful metals are found in e-cigarette aerosols and liquids, that are particularly risky during developmental stages, leading to cognitive impairments, behavioral issues, respiratory problems, cancer, and heart disease in children.

In the latest study, researchers examined if vaping frequency and flavor correlate with potentially toxic metal levels. They used data from Wave 5 of the PATH Youth Study, analyzing responses from 1607 teens aged 13 to 17. The study included vaping flavors such as menthol or mint, fruit, sweets such as chocolate or desserts, tobacco, clove or spice, and alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.

Among the participants, 200 teens were included in the final analysis as exclusive vapers. Their urine samples were tested for the presence of cadmium, lead, and uranium. Based on their vaping frequency, they were categorized as occasional (1–5 days/month), intermittent (6–19 days), and frequent (20+ days) vapers.

There were 65 occasional users, 45 intermittent, and 81 frequent users, and vaping frequency information was missing for 9. Regarding the flavors, 33% of vapers said they used menthol/mint flavors, while 50% preferred fruit flavors, just over 15% opted for sweet flavors, and 2% used other flavors.

"Analysis of the urine samples showed that lead levels were 40% higher among intermittent vapers, and 30% higher among frequent vapers than they were among occasional vapers. Urinary uranium levels were also twice as high among frequent vapers than among occasional vapers

A comparison of flavor types indicated 90% higher uranium levels among vapers who preferred sweet flavors than among those opting for menthol/mint," the news release stated.

Since the study is observational, definitive conclusions cannot be made on toxic metal levels and vaping frequency/flavors. Also, the levels of toxic metals in vapes will vary by brand and type of vaporizer used (tank, pod, mod).

"E-cigarette use during adolescence may increase the likelihood of metal exposure, which could adversely affect brain and organ development. These findings call for further research, vaping regulation, and targeted public health interventions to mitigate the potential harms of e-cigarette use, particularly among adolescents," the researchers concluded.