‘Toxic’ chemicals in flavoured vapes could lead to ‘wave of chronic diseases’ in future, researchers say

RCSI team used AI modelling to predict hazards created as flavouring is heated for inhalation

A “new wave of chronic diseases” could result from widespread use of flavoured vapes, the lead author of a study which predicts the potential formation of “acutely toxic” chemicals in the devices has said.

The study by a team at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and published in Scientific Reports used AI modelling to suggest that 127 damaging chemicals are potentially formed as devices heat liquid for inhalation. A further 153 harmful chemicals classified as “health hazards” and another 225 chemicals described as “irritants” may also be present.

Some of these harmful chemicals included a group of chemicals called volatile carbonyls (VCs) which are known to pose health risks. The fruit, sweet and dessert flavoured vaping products were predicted to be the main sources of these VC chemicals.

“It would be reasonable to anticipate that lung exposure to a large number of chemical entities can only increase health risks,” states the study.


“The research team at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, used artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate the effects of heating all 180 known e-liquid flavour chemicals found in nicotine vapes,” said Professor Donal O’Shea, the study’s lead author.

“We wanted to understand, before it’s too late, the likely impact flavoured vapes are having on the health of the growing number of vapers. Our findings indicate a significantly different profile of chemical hazards compared to what we are familiar with from traditional tobacco smoking.”

“It is plausible that we are on the cusp of a new wave of chronic diseases that will emerge 15 to 20 years from now due to these exposures. We hope this research will help people make more informed choices and contribute to the conversation on the potential long-term health risks and the regulation of vaping, which this research suggests should be comprehensive.”

The study illustrates how the cocktail of over 180 different chemicals that are used in the wide variety of flavours are blended in different amounts to make up the vaping device’s flavour profile

This study explains that a large number of these chemicals are derived from the food industry where they have a “safety record” when they are used for specific purposes, but not when heated for inhalation.

The authors of this study see understanding the long-term effects of vaping products on public health, morbidity and mortality as crucial due to the high demographic of non-smoking teenagers and young adults who use vaping products.