News Release

Research warns of hazardous health risks from flavored vapes

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Research warns of hazardous health risks from flavoured vapes 

  • Research predicts the potential formation of 127 acutely toxic chemicals in flavoured vapes 

  • Findings underscore the urgent need for comprehensive regulation of vaping products 


Wednesday, 8 May 2024: New research has uncovered the potentially harmful substances that are produced when e-liquids in vaping devices are heated for inhalation. The study, published in Scientific Reports, highlights the urgent need for public health policies concerning flavoured vapes. 

The research team at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dublin, used artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate the effects of heating e-liquid flavour chemicals found in nicotine vapes. They included all 180 known e-liquid flavour chemicals, predicting the new compounds formed when these substances are heated within a vaping device immediately prior to inhalation. 

The analysis revealed the formation of many hazardous chemicals including 127 which are classified as ‘Acute Toxic’, 153 as ‘Health Hazards’ and 225 as ‘Irritants’. Notably, these included a group of chemicals called volatile carbonyls (VCs) which are known to pose health risks. Sources for VCs were predicted to be the most popular fruit, candy and dessert flavoured products. 

Lead author, Professor Donal O’Shea, Professor of Chemistry and Head of Department, said the findings are very concerning: “We wanted to understand, before it’s too late, the likely impact flavoured vapes are having on the health of the growing number of vapers. Our findings indicate a significantly different profile of chemical hazards compared to what we are familiar with from traditional tobacco smoking.” 

“It is plausible that we are on the cusp of a new wave of chronic diseases that will emerge 15 to 20 years from now due to these exposures. We hope this research will help people make more informed choices and contribute to the conversation on the potential long-term health risks and the regulation of vaping, which this research suggests should be comprehensive.” 

The study also highlighted the complexities introduced by the huge array of flavours available in vaping products, which include 180 different chemicals blended in various amounts. This cocktail of chemicals, primarily derived from the food industry where they have a good safety record for specific uses, were never intended to be heated to high temperatures for inhalation. 

As vaping devices vary widely and are often user-customised, the temperature control and resulting chemical reactions can differ, increasing the unpredictability of potential health risks. This variability requires further research using the AI framework established in this study, which could also lead to the development of risk reports for individual flavours, providing an informative public health policy resource. 

Considering the popularity of flavoured vapes among non-smoking teenagers and young adults, understanding the long-term effects of these products on public health, morbidity and mortality is crucial. This study demonstrates that without comprehensive regulation, as we try to treat the nicotine addictions of older tobacco smokers, there is a substantial risk of transferring new health issues to younger generations. 

The research was carried out in conjunction with IBM Research – Tokyo and was supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Irish Research Council through the SFI-IRC Pathway Programme for Dr Dan Wu. Details are published in the paper ‘Forecasting vaping health risks through neural network model prediction of flavour pyrolysis reactions’ in Scientific Reports



For further information:  

Laura Anderson, Communications Officer, RCSI 

+353 87 199 0399/  


About RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences 

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences is ranked first in the world for its contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good Health and Well-being, in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings 2023. 

Exclusively focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide, RCSI is an international not-for-profit university, headquartered in Dublin. It is among the top 300 universities worldwide in the World University Rankings (2024). RCSI has been awarded Athena Swan Bronze accreditation for positive gender practice in higher education.  

Founded in 1784 as the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) with national responsibility for training surgeons in Ireland, today RCSI is an innovative, world-leading international health sciences university and research institution offering education and training at undergraduate, postgraduate and professional level. 

Visit the RCSI MyHealth Expert Directory to find the details of our experts across a range of healthcare issues and concerns. Recognising their responsibility to share their knowledge and discoveries to empower people with information that leads them to better health, these clinicians and researchers are willing to engage with the media in their area of expertise.  


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