Spring 2020

Wrangling truths in the wild world of vaping

More people are turning to the Masonic Cancer Center for guidance on how to curb e-cigarette use


Following reports of three vaping-related deaths and 141 confirmed cases of severe lung injury in Minnesota alone, more people are looking to the University of Minnesota for guidance on curbing e-cigarette use.

The Masonic Cancer Center is finding answers through research. Evidence is mounting that vitamin E acetate, used to dilute cannabis-containing liquids, may be the culprit behind the surge of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths.

Here’s what they know so far:

  • E-cig use is more prevalent in youth than any other population; about 27% of high school and 10% of middle school students report trying e-cigs.
  • Users can become addicted to e-cigs; the amount of nicotine delivered differs by device and type of liquid used, but it can be significant.
  • Some people use both nicotine- and cannabis-containing liquids in their e-cigs, including unlicensed, black-market products.
  • Liquids can contain ingredients that are safe when ingested, but not when inhaled.
  • Many different generations of e-cigs are on the market, which slows down researchers’ progress in understanding long-term health outcomes.

Two proposed bills for the 2020 legislative session would raise the state’s minimum age for purchasing nicotine to 21 and ban flavored vape products entirely. 

That would be a good start, says Masonic Cancer Center member Irina Stepanov, Ph.D.

“I believe there’s a strong need for regulatory efforts,” says Stepanov, whose research into carcinogens has been funded by Minnesota Masonic Charities. “That’s especially important for young people. Some e-cigs can be highly efficient in getting a whole new generation addicted to nicotine.”

Editor’s note: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill raising the state tobacco sales age to 21 on May 16, 2020, reinforcing the federal Tobacco 21 law of December 2019.