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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

4 Weird Health Effects of E-Cigarettes

May 17, 2015
TIME Health
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E-cigarette research is heating up, and scientists are starting to show that using e-cigarettes can have some surprising health effects, according to new findings presented at the meeting of the American Thoracic Society.

"Millions of people around the world that are puffing e-cigs," says Peter Dicpinigaitis, professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and one of the authors of new e-cigarette research, "but when you look at the scientific literature about the effects of e-cigs, there’s nothing out there."

Here are some of the newest findings:

Using e-cigarettes suppresses your ability to cough

Smoking an e-cigarette makes you less likely to cough, even when coughing would benefit your health, according to research by Dicpinigaitis. Researchers asked 30 nonsmokers to puff an e-cigarette 30 times in a 15-minute period. After puffing, people in the study were less sensitive to capsaicin, a component of chili peppers that induces coughing. You might think stopping a cough would be a positive side effect, but coughing keeps you from choking and removes agents that may cause infection, says Dicpinigaitis. He presumes that those the effects would continue throughout the day for someone who uses an e-cigarette frequently.

E-cigarette temperature may affect how many chemicals you're exposed to

People tend to think about the effects of cigarette smoke or e-cigarette vapor when they consider how the products harm their health. But the mechanics of e-cigarettes may also contribute to how much smoking harms your health, according to new research from University of Alabama School of Medicine professor Daniel Sullivan. His research found a correlation between coil temperature and the creation of harmful chemicals like acrolein, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde in the e-cigarette. There are no configuration standards for e-cigarettes, and Sullivan's research suggests that the lack of consistency makes it hard to assess uniformly the health effects of smoking e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette flavors may have different effects

Researchers tested the effects of flavored e-cigarette liquid on calcium in the lungs and found that not all flavors had the same effect. Five of 13 flavors tested caused changes to calcium signaling in the lungs, according to a study by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher Temperance Rowell. Hot cinnamon candies, banana pudding and menthol tobacco were among the flavors that disturbed the lungs.

Evidence is growing that e-cigarettes probably aren't an effective way to quit smoking

E-cigarettes are a popular tool people use to stop smoking, but they may not be the best way, suggests one research review. Using e-cigarettes improved the likelihood that a smoker would quit smoking cigarettes for the first month on the new technology, but the effect dissipated at 3 and 6-month followups, according to a meta-analysis of four studies by University of Toronto researcher Riyad al-Lehebi. He recommended that people who want to quit smoking consider "other more well-established options."

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