E-cigarettes can produce harmful levels of formaldehyde that exceed those of regular cigarettes — but only under “extreme conditions”, a new report says.
The study, led by cardiologist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, took a closer look at how the popular tobacco replacement devices perform in ‘real world’ conditions. The findings, published in online journal Addiction, found that it was possible for a third-generation e-cigarette (a vaping device with variable power settings) to produce high levels of aldehydes — known to be carcinogenic to humans.
However, the study found that this would occur in a normal-use setting if a smoker deliberately and repeatedly “dry puffed” on an e-cig: a seemingly unpleasant experience that most would do their best to avoid.
Farsalinos explained: “Our results verify previous observations that it is possible for e-cigarettes to generate high levels of aldehydes; however, this is observed only under dry puff conditions, which deliver a strong unpleasant taste that vapers detect and avoid, by reducing power levels and puff duration or by increasing inter-puff interval.”
Moreover, the study challenges a report from January 2015 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM). Although the report found that e-cigarettes produced levels of formaldehyde that exceeded normal cigarettes several times over, it didn’t take into account actual vaping habits — but it was nonetheless reported widely in the media as a new health hazard for e-cig smokers.
Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, commented on the latest findings: “These findings emphasise the importance of making clear the conditions in which tests of this kind are undertaken and avoiding sweeping assertions that can mislead the public.”
He continued: “Vapers are not exposed to dangerous levels of aldehydes. My reading of the evidence is that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than smoking. Smokers should be encouraged to switch to vaping.”