The use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool is growing in popularity, with reports of it reducing a lot of the risks associated with tobacco use. Although the use of e-cigarettes is safer for pregnant women than tobacco products, official advice says that they still carry significant risks to both the mother and the unborn baby.

A statement from the CDC says that “Although the aerosol of e-cigarettes generally has fewer harmful substances than cigarette smoke, e-cigarettes and other products containing nicotine are not safe to use during pregnancy. Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and developing babies and can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs. Also, some of the flavorings used in e-cigarettes may be harmful to a developing baby.”

New research has suggested that the use of e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the face and oral cavity. During the study, researched exposed frog embryos to chemicals found in e-cigarettes to see the impact they would have on development.

The researchers pointed out that frog embryos share “the same processes and genes govern major developmental events, such as craniofacial development, or the formation of the skull and face” as human embryos. “This means that if a chemical perturbs a frog embryo, it’s likely to do the same thing to a human embryo,” said lead researcher, Professor Amanda Dickinson.

Another researcher who took part in the study added that “Mammalian neural crest cells are also ideal models because they have a key role in embryonic facial development. Neural crest cells are extremely important in the development of craniofacial structures because they can form many different tissues like bones, cartilage, skin, teeth and glands

After the embryos were exposed to the vapour, which is a combination of nicotine, propylene, glycol, vegetable glycerin and various flavouring compounds, the study measured the facial development and any instances of cleft palette that arose. The results of the suggest that there is a strong correlation between the use of e-cigarettes and birth defects, and that use is likely to lead to an increased risk of all the frog embryos developing defects.

Professor Amanda Dickinson said that “We observed that very complex e-liquids that mix flavours, such as berries and creme and other food-related flavourings, may have the most dramatic effect on the face” Researchers ran the experiment with the nicotine free e-liquid and found that the cells were still dramatically affected, suggesting that the flavours are the main cause of harm to the embryos.

Researchers added that “We aim to educate the public about the dangers of vaping and compel policymakers to impose tighter regulations, such as warning labels”

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