A new study published yesterday in the journal Addiction refutes an earlier New England Journal of Medicine article which claimed that because of their high levels of formaldehyde, e-cigarettes are actually more hazardous than tobacco cigarettes. That study concluded that vaping could be as much as 15 times more hazardous as smoking in terms of cancer risk:
"If we assume that inhaling formaldehyde-releasing agents carries the
same risk per unit of formaldehyde as the risk associated with inhaling
gaseous formaldehyde, then long-term vaping is associated with an
incremental lifetime cancer risk of 4.2×10−3. This risk is 5 times as high (as compared with the risk based on the calculation of Miyake and Shibamoto shown in Figure 1), or even 15 times as high (as compared with the risk based on the calculation of Counts et al. shown in Figure 1) as the risk associated with long-term smoking."
The new study, by Farsalinos et al., reports that third generation e-cigarettes can produce high levels of formaldehyde, but only under "dry puff" conditions. These are conditions where the e-liquid is overheated and produces a strong, unpleasant taste that no vaper could tolerate for more than one puff. This would be a signal to the vaper to reduce voltage levels. Dr. Farsalinos and colleagues found that under normal vaping conditions, even high power devices produced only minimal amounts of formaldehyde.
The study concludes that:
"Electronic cigarettes produce high levels of aldehyde only in dry puff
conditions, in which the liquid overheats, causing a strong unpleasant
taste that e-cigarette users detect and avoid. Under normal vaping
conditions aldehyde emissions are minimal, even in new-generation
The Rest of the Story
This story illustrates the damage that is being done by anti-smoking researchers and groups which are exaggerating the risks of electronic cigarette use. In this case, the researchers actually argued that vaping might be 15 times worse than smoking in terms of cancer risk! Yet it turns out that their conclusion was invalid and that while e-cigarettes can produce formaldehyde under normal conditions, the levels appear to be minimal and certainly do not produce a risk that compares to that of smoking.
The problem, however, is that this misinformation has already been widely disseminated through the media and by electronic cigarette opponents who picked up on the story. It is too late to take these claims back because the public has already been scared. Moreover, the anti-smoking groups which made these claims will never retract their statements and admit their mistake. They are interested in demonizing e-cigarettes, not finding and telling the truth.