A report by researchers at Yale University indicates that teens are using e-cigarettes for a new technique called “dripping.”
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that roughly one in four high school students who reported e-cigarette use had tried dripping.
“What we are discovering with our work with youth is that kids are actually using these electronic products for other behaviors, not just for vaping e-liquids from cartridges or tanks,” lead author Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, professor of psychiatry at Yale, said in a press release.
E-cigarettes are generally equipped with a refillable cartridge that feeds e-liquid to a heating coil to create inhalable vapor. With dripping, individuals remove the cartridge and apply drops of e-liquid directly onto the heating coils.
This technique may produce thicker smoke, a stronger hit and a more pleasurable taste, the report says.
E-cigarette users can modify their devices for dripping. They can also purchase heating coils that are optimized for this activity.
In the study, more than 7,000 students from eight Connecticut high schools completed anonymous surveys about their behaviors and perceptions associated with tobacco use. Researchers identified 1,080 e-cigarette users in this group. More than 26 percent of students who used e-cigarettes reported dripping in their lifetime.
Researchers observed that dripping among high school students was associated with being male, being white, having tried more tobacco products and using e-cigarettes on a greater number of days in the past month.
Researchers say dripping could be more harmful than traditional e-cigarette use.
The Yale study refers to a report that suggested dripping could result in exposure to aldehydes, which are toxic chemical compounds such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
Dr. David Carpenter, director of the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, told CNN that the aldehydes acrolein and formaldehyde are known to cause cancer in humans. These chemicals are also linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a group of progressive lung diseases.
Krishnan-Sarin said e-cigarettes also contain chemicals such as propylene glycol and glycerine as well as flavor chemicals. When heated at high temperatures, these ingredients could produce high levels of compounds that have the potential to cause cancer.
However, she says further studies must be conducted to assess potential health risks of traditional e-cigarette use and alternative methods of use, such as dripping.
In 2016, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report outlining the patterns of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, assessing its health effects and describing strategies tobacco companies use to promote e-cigarettes to young people.
“E-cigarette use among U.S. youth and young adults is now a major public health concern,” wrote Murthy.
Consequences of youth e-cigarette use include reduced impulse control, mood disorders or addiction, Murthy wrote. Fetal exposure to nicotine during pregnancy can result in problems such as sudden infant death syndrome.
The surgeon general report stated that e-cigarette use among high school students grew by 900 percent from 2011 to 2015.
“Although we continue to learn more about e-cigarettes with each passing day, we currently know enough to take action to protect our nation’s young people from being harmed by these products,” wrote Murthy.
More teens reported past-month e-cigarette use than cigarette use in 2016, according to the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey. However, the percentage of teens who use e-cigarettes declined from 2015 to 2016.
During that time, the percentage of students who reported vaping in the past month fell from 9.5 percent to 6.2 percent among eighth-graders, 14 percent to 11 percent among 10th-graders and 16.2 percent to 12.5 percent among 12th-graders.