Robots not just blowing smoke in $20M vaping study

Feb 19, 2019

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers are using robot smoking machines from back in the day for a new use.

The old technology was once used to determine the effects of cigarettes on the health of a body. Now, Roswell Park has a new $20 million study to determine the health effects of electronic cigarettes.

"They're just adapted so that they kind of fit the technology that's used for the e-cigarettes, but in principle, you smoke them or you consume them," said Health Behavior Department Chair Andrew Hyland. "There's smoke or vapor that comes off and then you can analyze that. Some of the studies that we've done is we blow that smoke or that vapor over cells and see how they mutate."

Hyland said e-cigaretes may be safer than tobacco, but not necessarily, since many use the same nicotine that causes addiction in tobacco use.

"Sometimes you may have something that's generally regarded as safe in a liquid form, often even some of these flavors they're safe to eat," Hyland said. "But when you burn them, when you burn those chemicals, they turn into different chemicals. Sometimes, they are not so safe when you burn them. So what you get in the package isn't always what you get when you vape it."

Hyland said the researchers are finding thousands of chemicals being used for vaping, with flavors like bubble gum.

"Basically, it's a big chemistry problem, because it's the chemicals that are in there that one perceives to be a cherry flavor or cinnamon or whatever the flavor might be," Hyland said. "So understanding how those chemicals interact with the other compounds in the vapor and then in the body is key to understanding what the toxicity of those products are."