Vaping refers to products popularly known as e-cigarettes. More than 3.7 percent of American adults use e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Some vapers find mint or menthol flavored e-cigarettes particularly appealing, but unfortunately this is not a good choice. A University of Pittsburgh study reports that menthol flavoring is even more dangerous to our lungs than vaping unflavored liquids.

The researchers uncovered the connection using a specially designed robotic system that mimicked human breathing and vaping behavior. The “vaping robot” was biologically inspired to precisely replicate the temperature, humidity, puff volume and duration of vaping in order to show how mixing vaping liquids with added flavorings affects human health. In this way, the robotic machine was able to stimulate the pattern of healthy and diseased breathing and reliably predict lung toxicity related to e-cigarettes.

Menthol flavoring is even more dangerous to our lungs than vaping unflavored liquids. Menthol vapers had less lung function compared to non-menthol smokers.

Using the robot, the research team showed that commercially available e-cigarette liquids containing menthol generate a greater number of toxic microparticles compared to menthol-free juice. An accompanying analysis of patient records from a cohort study (a research study that compares a particular outcome in groups of individuals who are alike in many ways but differ by a certain characteristic) of e-cigarette smokers revealed that menthol vapers took shallower breaths and had less lung function compared to nonmenthol smokers. This was true regardless of their age, gender, race, pack-years of smoking and the use of nicotine or cannabis-containing vaping products.

To discourage teens and young adults from vaping and curb preventable deaths, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing to put pressure on cigarette manufacturers to eliminate menthol in combustible tobacco products, such as regular cigarettes and cigars.

Despite the effort, the market for vaping products worldwide continues to grow. What makes the situation even more worrisome is that mint and menthol flavors remain popular among the 2.5 million young people who reported smoking e-cigarettes in 2022.

“The main message we want to get out there is for people, especially young adults, who haven’t smoked before,” author Kambez H. Benam, D. Phil., associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a press release. “Switching to e-cigarettes may be a better, safer alternative for someone who is trying to quit smoking regular tobacco products. But it’s important to have full knowledge of e-cigarettes’ risks and benefits before trying them.”

If you’re struggling with quitting e-cigarettes (or any cigarettes) nicotine replacement therapy — which includes nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, sprays and inhalers — can help. These products provide nicotine at a consistent dose. This means you’ll be able to avoid the nicotine rush provided while vaping, yet you’ll still get relief from withdrawal symptoms.

The study is published in the journal, Respiratory Research.