TIME Research

What to Know About the Science of E-Cigarettes

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

A guide to understanding conflicting and ongoing research

Two Columbia University professors warned in a new study Thursday that the health fears over electronic cigarettes are hindering research. The very same day, another new study showed that smoking e-cigs, or “vaping,” can produce cancer-causing formaldehyde.

Clearly there’s some disagreement among scientists about the risks and benefits of a product that’s growing in popularity. Here’s what you need to know about the latest science.

What’s with the latest disagreement?

Columbia public health professors Amy Fairchild and Ronald Bayer argue in Science magazine that the staunchest opponents of electronic cigarettes are so concerned about the potential downsides that they advocate for an anti-e-cigarette regulatory and research approach that may be bad for public health. This approach of “deep precaution,” they argue, “has served as a kind of trump argument, hostile to the notion of trade-offs, seeing in them perilous compromise. Such a posture does not serve either science or policy well.”

MORE The Future of Smoking

It “may be years before the disagreements over the evidence” about the effects of electronic cigarettes can be resolved, Fairchild and Bayer wrote. On the one hand, electronic cigarettes may serve as gateway drugs for young people to start smoking cigarettes, and “dual” use of electronic cigarettes with tobacco cigarettes may stop some smokers from quitting. Electronic cigarettes may also carry unknown health consequences of their own. On the other hand, they may provide harm reduction for people who have been unable to quit any other way.

Given these two competing possibilities, the authors argued that the best formula for public health is to acknowledge the possibility for costs and benefits and to push for a regulatory scheme that is flexible enough to account for both outcomes. It is better to make public policy and execute scientific research under the assumption that e-cigarettes could bring good as well as bad.

But also on Thursday, the New England Journal of Medicine published a new study reporting that chemicals inside e-cigarettes—like propylene glycol and glycerol—can produce a type of the cancer-causing chemical called formaldehyde when heated during the vaping process. The researchers report that when testing samples of the aerosol from vaped e-cigs, they found that the e-cigs can contain formaldehyde-releasing agents slightly different from regular formaldehyde, and that the levels are especially high when a user vapes at high voltages. Scientists don’t yet know if formaldehyde-releasing agents carry the same risk as pure formaldehyde, but the researchers said in their report that if they assume the substances do carry the same risks, then long-term vaping could be associated with a significantly higher risk for cancer compared to long-term smoking. The researchers said formaldehyde-releasing agents may actually burrow into the respiratory tract more efficiently than regular formaldehyde, though the observation wasn’t confirmed.

Are there other reasons experts are concerned?

There’s also debate over the safety of the liquid nicotine inside e-cigarettes. In April 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing what they called a “dramatic” rise in e-cigarette-related calls to U.S. poison centers. Calls went from one a month in September 2010 to 215 calls a month in February 2014, and more than half of the calls involved children age five and under. Forty-two percent involved people age 20 and older. Symptoms of liquid nicotine ingestion are known to be vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

Researchers are also wary of the long term effects of inhaling propylene glycol, one of the main ingredients in e-cigarettes. The jury is still out, but some physicians are concerned. “As for long-term effects, we don’t know what happens when you breathe the vapor into the lungs regularly,” Thomas Glynn, the director of science and trends at the American Cancer Society, told ABC News. “No one knows the answer to that.”

Are they really attracting young people?

Several recent—but fairly small—studies say yes. A December 2o14 study in the journal Pediatrics surveyed 1,941 Hawaii high school students and found that about 17% of the high schoolers smoked e-cigarettes only, 12% smoked both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, and only 3% smoked conventional cigarettes. The findings suggested that kids who smoked e-cigarettes scored lower on outside risk factors to pick up a conventional smoking habit. “The fact that e-cigarette only users were intermediate in risk status between nonusers and dual users raises the possibility that e-cigarettes are recruiting medium-risk adolescents, who otherwise would be less susceptible to tobacco product use,” the authors wrote. Numbers released in 2013 from the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that the percentage of middle school and high school students who have tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012.

What’s the argument in favor of e-cigarettes?

Some smokers use e-cigarettes to help them curb their traditional cigarette habit, or even quit. An August 2014 study that surveyed over 20,000 Americans showed that among adults who used a product to help them quit smoking, 57% chose e-cigarettes. That’s compared to the 39% who used prescription drugs like Chantix and the 39% who used other over-the-counter methods like patches or nicotine gum. Another study from July 2014, which reviewed 80 studies on e-cigarettes’ safety and their effects on users, revealed that not only can e-cigarettes help smokers quit, but they are less harmful to smokers and bystanders’ health compared to regular cigarettes.

What’s the FDA doing about it?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes, though the agency has proposed a rule that would give it more regulatory power over e-cigarettes but that has not yet been implemented. The FDA has suggested a ban on sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and admits that there is a lot consumers don’t know about the product like whether they attract kids and teens or just how much nicotine is inhaled when a person vapes.

TIME cities

Maybe Millennials Don’t Want to Live in Cities After All

Suburban street
Barbara Fischer—Getty Images

Two-thirds want to own a home in the suburbs, study says

The accepted wisdom about millennials is that they shun the suburbs for the cities. They want to be in urban cores next to easily accessible public transportation options that allow them to seamlessly hit up bars, restaurants and any space with wi-fi.

But any blanket statement about a group that’s roughly 80 million strong will have holes, and a new survey appears to run against that common perception. The poll, released Wednesday by the National Association of Home Builders, shows that Americans in their 20s and mid-30s actually would rather settle down in the suburbs than in city centers.

(MORE: Millennials Will Overtake Baby Boomers to Become Biggest Generation)

According to NAHB’s study, 66% of respondents who were born in 1977 or later said they would prefer to buy a home in an outlying suburb or close to a suburb, while only 24% preferred buying a house in a rural area and 10% would rather have a home in the center of a city.

(MORE: Turns Out Millennials Do Want to Own Cars)

Those numbers seem to show that while millennials may love living in urban cores while they’re young and largely childless, they realize that it may be too expensive in the long-term to buy. It also may signal that apartment living is taking its toll as millennials get older. More than 80% said they wanted to live in a home with three or more bedrooms.

TIME

2-Year-Old Fatally Shoots Self With Father’s Gun in Florida

Kaleb Ahles was in the car while his parents Kevin Ahles and Christina Nigro loaded boxes

(TARPON SPRINGS, Fla.) — A Tampa Bay area toddler is dead after finding his father’s .380-caliber handgun in the family’s car Wednesday afternoon and shooting himself, officials said.

Kaleb Ahles, 2, was in the car while his parents Kevin Ahles and Christina Nigro, both 23, loaded boxes as they prepared to move, according to Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies. Somehow, the boy opened the glove compartment, where his father had stored the gun.

The child lifted the gun, turned it so that it faced his chest and squeezed the trigger, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

His parents told deputies they heard a loud pop and ran to the car. The mother performed CPR, and the boy was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“He probably barely got the trigger pulled,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. He described the gun as a lightweight weapon usually carried in a pocket or on a hip.

Gualtieri called the incident a “tragic situation.”

“It’s just one of those things that happens where everything happens the wrong way,” he said.

The sheriff said the parents won’t face criminal charges — no one could punish them more than they’ll punish themselves, he said.

The child’s grandfather, a retired Tampa police detective who is also named Kevin Ahles, stood near the police tape outside the house Wednesday evening. “A great little kid was killed today,” he said. “That’s all there is to say.”

TIME cities

The 5 U.S. Cities Bouncing Back Strongest From the Recession

Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas Murat Taner—Getty Images

Metro areas in the South and the West are flourishing

U.S. cities in the South and West are more likely to have recovered from the recession while metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast have largely struggled, according to a new report.

The Brookings Institution report finds that Austin, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., have outpaced other U.S. cities in terms of GDP growth per capita and rising employment since 2007, with Fresno, Calif., and Dallas rounding out the top five.

(MORE: Oklahoma Shakes—Is Fracking to Blame?)

The report, released Thursday, tracks how cities around the world have fared since the recession. Globally, the main metropolitan drivers are found in developing countries, especially China and Turkey.

In the U.S., the cities with the strongest GDP growth and employment levels since the Great Recession are generally found in the south and west, largely due to the growth of the energy sector.

“Those places are the epicenter of what has been the shale energy boom that’s been occurring in the U.S.,” says Joseph Parilla, a Brookings research analyst and lead author of the Global MetroMonitor report.

(MORE: The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America)

Cities in Texas and Oklahoma have especially benefited from the expanded production in oil and gas thanks to an increase in fracking, a process that extracts natural gas from shale.

The cities that have seen the least progress are largely clustered in the Midwest and Northeast in areas that are historically industrial and manufacturing hubs. Most of those cities—like Kansas City, Mo., Allentown, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio—have only partially recovered or not recovered at all, according to Brookings.

As the U.S. continues to see good economic numbers, many of which were touted by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, most cities are still struggling to rebound from the recession. More than half of U.S. metropolitan areas either have not recovered from 2007 GDP per capita levels or have not fully seen a rebound in employment.

TIME fire

New Jersey Fire Leaves 1,000 Homeless

Massive fire at apartment complex in New Jersey
Firefighters at the scene after a fire broke out in an apartment complex at in Edgewater, N.J. on Jan. 22, 2015. Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Officials are still investigating the cause of the blaze

A massive fire at a luxury apartment complex in New Jersey on Wednesday night left more than 1,000 people homeless on Thursday.

There were no deaths in the blaze that destroyed the complex in Edgewater, just across the Hudson River from New York City, NJ.com reports, and only a few minor injuries were reported. Officials were still investigating the cause of the fire Thursday morning. The Avalon complex was quickly engulfed in flames that destroyed 240 units, leaving 500 residents homeless. It then spread to nearby homes, displacing another 500.

“Everyone got out,” Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said. “You can always rebuild.”

[NJ.com]

TIME Economy

See the State With the Cheapest Gas in the U.S.

Gas prices in Missouri plummeted to $1.58 in January

At first look, the collapse in oil prices over the past year, from $107 per barrel in June to below $50 a barrel today, seems like the proverbial free lunch for American consumers. The decline in prices is the equivalent of a $125 billion tax cut. And it’s effectively a progressive one, since the biggest beneficiaries will be working- and middle-class people who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on gas for their cars and heating fuel for their homes. American households with oil heat could save $767 each this winter. That cash can now be spent on a new car—or a washing machine, an electronic gadget, clothes or a few dinners out.

That should boost spending, and …

Read the full story, which appears in the Feb. 2, 2015 issue of TIME, here.

TIME 2016 Election

Most New Jersey Voters Don’t Think Chris Christie Should Be President

Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hands at the St. John's Church soup kitchen on Nov. 26, 2014, in Newark, N.J. Julio Cortez—AP

It's very hard to win the presidency if you lose your home state

As Chris Christie gears up for a potential 2016 bid, it looks like he’ll have trouble even wrangling his own state.

In a new Quinnipiac poll, nearly 3 in 5 registered voters in New Jersey do not think their Republican governor would make a good president, according to Reuters.

Overall, 57 percent of the registered voters polled said they did not think Christie would make a good president, including nearly a third of registered Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.

In a hypothetical race between Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 52 percent of the poll respondents said they would vote for Clinton, a Democrat, including 11 percent of registered Republicans.

[Reuters]

TIME Drugs

Drone Carrying Meth Crashes Near Mexico Border

A drone loaded with packages containing methamphetamine lies on the ground after it crashed into a supermarket parking lot in the city of Tijuana on Jan. 20, 2015.
A drone loaded with packages containing methamphetamine lies on the ground after it crashed into a supermarket parking lot in the Mexican city of Tijuana on Jan. 20, 2015 AP

The craft was carrying six pounds of drugs

A drone loaded with methamphetamine crashed in a Mexican parking lot near the California border on Tuesday.

The craft was carrying close to 6 pounds of meth, and officials say it may have crashed because it was overloaded, according to the LA Times. It fell in the parking lot of a supermarket in Zona Rio, near the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Drones that are used to carry drugs over the border are called “blind mules,” says the Tijuana Public Safety Secretariat. This recent incident is under investigation.

[LA Times]

TIME Utah

Porcupine Hunting With a Republican Watchdog

See nature snaps from the Congressional chairman zooming in on the White House

It’s like they always say: You’ve never been porcupine-hunting until you’ve been porcupine-hunting in the snowy hills of Park City, Utah, with the Republican incoming chairman of a congressional committee and his 14-year-old daughter.

I tagged along one December day with Rep. Jason Chaffetz—who was then on the cusp of his fourth term representing Utah’s Third District but his first as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Subscribers can the full story here in the Feb. 2 issue of TIME.) Chaffetz’s new perch means he’ll have the White House in his sights as Congress’s top watchdog. He’ll try to surface scandals that make the administration look bad.

Our expedition mercifully involved a Canon Rebel TI1 camera rather than a rifle; Chaffetz says he prefers the challenge of a bloodless hunt. Wildlife photography happens to be Chaffetz’s favorite recreational activity at home (this has something to do with a 2005 leg injury that keeps him off Utah’s renowned ski slopes). And the particular challenge on this day was to find a porcupine before sunset. Chaffetz had photographed elk, moose, wild horses and even a bald eagle before, but he had never captured the spiny rodent.

To see the fruit of Chaffetz’s labor, take a look at 12 photographs the Republican has taken over the years. As you will see, in this gallery of Chaffetz’s photos, the man got his prize.

TIME

In The Latest Issue

Cheap Gas Cover Time Magazine Cover
TIME Photo-illustration. Photographs by Jody Dole–Getty Images; Foodcollection/Getty Images

The Cost of Cheap Gas
Exploring the ramifications of cheap oil for the U.S., the world—and you

Should the U.S. Export?
A domestic Bonanza has some lawmakers rethinking 40 years of policy against selling American crude overseas

Texas Takes a Hit
Shale Riches created jobs and wealth. Now the state faces life after the boom

The Big Loser
Black markets. bread lines. In Venezuela, falling oil prices mean a reckoning for the socialist revolution

Global Forecast
With OPEC’s sway diminished, lower prices may have staying power. That means opportunities along with a sobering price tag

Barack Obama Is Ready to Rejoin the Battle
In the story of a Minnesota couple, an embattled President rediscovers his voice and his purpose

Obama Is Wasting His ‘Morning in America’ Chance
How he could be the Redistributor in Chief

China’s Bad Crowd
Beijing has fostered trade ties, but lacks reliable allies

Thinking Outside The Can
Campbell’s Soup CEO Denise Morrison is cooking up a new recipe to court consumers obsessed with healthy eating

The Republicans’ White House Watchdog
Jason Chaffetz starts his hunt for slip-ups

How the Super Bowl Became Pop’s Biggest Stage
Halftime is a hit

The Culture

Pop Chart

American Sniper’s Chances Rise in the Oscar Race
Clint Eastwood’s war film makes a bundle and snarls the competition

Xavier Dolan: Drama King
The blockbuster dreams of Canada’s indie wunderkind

Knope and Change
“Parks and Recreation” bet against cynicism and won

Where to Vacation With a Strong Dollar
How to get better deals for vacations abroad

College Admission Impossible
Trust me, students, you do not want to see the comments on your application

World

Briefing

Troubled Waters on Planet Earth
New reports on the state of the oceans paint a grim picture

What the Egg Carton Really Means
How to unscramble confusing label claims

Something Ventured
New tech startups are being primed by a major boom in funding

Gay Marriage and the Law of the Land
The Supreme Court is poised to settle the fight once and for all

Tom Brady’s Last Shot?
The clock is ticking on a superstar

Milestones

Barbra Streisand
Platinum queen

Tony Verna
Invented instant replay

What You Said About …

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