Are e-cigarettes, 'vaping' safe?

Travis Saul started using e-cigarettes or vaping a year ago.

"Vaping is a way of life. If you want to quit smoking, vaping will work," Saul said.

The father of two said he turned to e-cigarettes to quit traditional ones.  It was an 18-year-old habit he wanted to kick for his family.

"I'd have to go outside to smoke and they'd want to be around me and I don't want them around it because the secondhand [smoke] is just as bad as the smoking," he said.

He's now the general manager of Vapure, a company that sells electronic cigarettes in stores, and online. Saul said they are safe.

"There is less in our e-liquid than the air you breathe every day," he said.

WATCH | How e-cigarettes work

There are no long term health studies on electronic cigarette vapor. They contain nicotine but work differently than tobacco cigarettes. 

"It heats up a mixture of nicotine, proplynegycal and other chemicals and that heated mixture becomes an aerosol, which is inhaled deeply into your lungs to deliver the addictive drug nicotine," Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, said.

Glantz is one of the leading researchers on e-cigarettes.  He believes calling vaping safe, is a lot of smoke and mirrors.

"If you are around somebody who is using e-cigarettes you are breathing in ultra fine particles and you are breathing in nicotine," he said. “There is no research that shows non-smokers around people using e-cigarettes, have detectable levels of nicotine in their bodies.”

With more cities banning e-cigarettes, we wanted to do our own testing.

Scientist Prue Talbot and her team at the University of California Riverside were among the first in the country to analyze e-cigarettes.

"I would say e-cigarettes are the cigarettes of the 21st century," she said.  Team 10News tested two brands using a smoking machine and a specialized microscope.

The first test showed us, "there is quite a bit of tin, most of this material is composed of tin … there is also some oxygen, some copper and some nickel," Talbot said pointing to the findings on a computer in her lab.

"I think the fact there is significant amount of tin in these pellets is important - this means the people using this product are going to be inhaling the tin," she said.

Talbot said inhaling tin directly or second hand can be dangerous.

"Nanoparticles in general can be toxic," she said. "In the case of e-cigarettes, the nanoparticles would tend to go deeper into the respiratory system."

Glantz added, "these particles are so very small they go from your lungs straight into your blood stream and carry the toxic chemicals into your blood and then appear in various organs.”

Talbot has tested many brands e-cigarettes -- and each one has a different result -- because each brand is manufactured differently.

For our second test, Talbot looked at the Mystic brand e-cigarette -- a different brand we bought in a drug store.

There was no tin found in the liquid in this brand.

In the vapor—she found concentrations of copper and calcium and potassium. But Talbot said she wants to do more research because this was only one study.

Still, Saul said e-cigarettes are safe.

He'll let his own kids vape when they turn 18, and said he will still be vaping, too.

"I'll probably just vape forever honestly," he said.


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