There’s Enough Alcohol in Some E-Cigs to Affect Motor Skills

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Wilmington NC E-cigarettes are known for delivering nicotine, not alcohol, via flavored liquids, but a new study has found that there’s enough alcohol in some of them to give users a buzz.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are used by people who want a nicotine fix, but don’t want to smoke traditional cigarettes. The battery operated e-cig vaporizes a liquid that contains nicotine along with other chemicals and flavorings. Users inhale the vapor in the same way they’d smoke a cigarette.

Most users probably aren’t thinking about alcohol levels in the liquids they vape; they’re more concerned with nicotine levels, which can be purchased in different strengths. Some users even start with a higher strength and cut back gradually until they are vaping liquids that contain no nicotine.

A study done by the Yale School of Medicine made some interesting discoveries on the levels of alcohol found in the liquids. Researchers tested 31 liquids they bought on the Internet to see how much alcohol they contained. One third didn’t have a significant amount. But 40 percent had 0.75 percent of less alcohol, with about 23 percent containing 1-3 percent of alcohol. Overall, about 75 percent of the liquids tested contained less than 1 percent alcohol, which is not significant enough to cause impairment.

However, one brand they tested had an alcohol content of 23.5 percent. Researchers noted that many people create their own liquids instead of buying products that are commercially made, making it harder to document what people are ingesting.

During the study, they asked participants to test liquids on two separate days. They answered questions afterwards to determine if they were feeling intoxicating effects from the liquids with a higher alcohol content. While many of them couldn’t feel the effects, when tested on their motor skills, the ones who had vaped with higher alcohol liquids did worse on the tests than the people who had not vaped liquids with alcohol in them.

Researchers concluded that there could be a danger when people vape liquids with a higher alcohol content because they're not aware of their impairment in the same way they would be if they were drinking. They also noted that they couldn’t determine how long the effect lasted. It could be a few seconds or it could be several minutes.

There could be concern for recovering alcoholics who vape because they may not be aware they are ingesting alcohol. It could reinforce the addictive properties of alcohol.

Another concern is the increasing use of e-cigs among young people. Data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 280,000 middle and high school students had used e-cigs in the past month.

The senior author of the study, Mehmet Sofuoglu, said, “Given the widespread and unregulated use of e-cigarettes, especially by youth and other vulnerable populations, further studies are needed to evaluate both the acute safety and long-term health risks of using alcohol-containing e-cigarettes.”

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