Study: E-Cig Vapor 'Less Injurious' Than Cigarette Smoke

Independent research continues to support electronic cigarettes as safe alternative

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y.-- A newly released independent study of the chemical constituents of electronic cigarette vapor shows that e-cigarettes drastically reduce a user's exposure to various chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes. Titled "Levels of Selected Carcinogens  and Toxicants in Vapour From Electronic Cigarettes" and published by Tobacco Control, the study concluded that e-cigarettes could be a promising harm-reduction tool.

"The results of this study support the proposition that the vapor from e-cigarettes is less injurious than the smoke from cigarettes," wrote the report's lead author, Maciej L. Goniewicz of the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute. 'Thus one would expect that if a person switched from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes the exposure to toxic chemicals and related adverse health effects would be reduced."

Goniewicz and his fellow scientists analyzed levels of selected carbonyl compounds, volatile organic compounds, tobacco-specific nitrosamines and metals found in the vapor of 12 different e-cigarette brands, comparing the results to the levels found in both tobacco cigarettes and in a medicinal nicotine inhaler.

The report found that "levels of selected toxic compounds found in the smoke from a conventional cigarette were 9-450-fold higher than levels in the vapor of an e-cigarette. … Exposure to acrolein, an oxidant and respiratory irritant thought to be a major contributor to cardiovascular disease from smoking, is 15 times lower on average in e-cigarette vapor compared with cigarette smoke. The amounts of toxic metals and aldehydes in e-cigarettes are trace amounts and are comparable with amounts contained in an examined therapeutic product."

There was still some risk associated with compounds found in e-cigarette vapor, particularly an exposure to carcinogenic formaldehyde. The study found similar amounts of formaldehyde in tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes and medicinal inhalers--although the amount of formaldehyde found in the 12 different brands of e-cigarettes ranged from 3.2 micrograms per 150 puffs (comparable to the levels from the nicotine inhaler) to 56.1 micrograms per 150 puffs.

In his "Tobacco Analyses" blog, Michael Siegel theorized that the formaldehyde could be the result of the heating of propylene glycol or the oxidation or hydrolysis of glycerin and advocated further research.

Even with the formaldehyde findings, the study--which was not funded by e-cigarette companies, but by the Ministry of Science & Higher Education of Poland and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)--provides strong evidence in support of e-cigarettes.

"Our findings are consistent with the idea that substituting tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes may substantially reduce exposure to selected tobacco-specific toxicants," the report said. "E-cigarettes as a harm-reduction strategy among smokers unwilling to quit, warrants further study."