New Study Shows Low Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds from E-Cigarettes Compared to Tobacco Cigarettes
Anti-tobacco groups and various other organizations that would have us think electronic cigarettes are just as bad, if not worse than analogs, often claim these new devices haven’t yet been properly studied to prove they don’t have any long-term harmful effects. But there is research being conducted on e-cigarettes, and early results clearly show they are much safer to use than tobacco cigarettes. A new study has recently appeared at the Wiley Online Library, before being printed as part of the Indoor Air journal. German researchers have compared volatile organic compound levels of electronic cigarettes to those of tobacco cigarettes to see if there is indeed any difference between the two.
During the study, test subjects either used an e-cigarette or smoked an analog in an 8 m³ emission test chamber, and the inhaled mixture was also analyzed in small chambers. The concentrations of a number of volatile organic compounds were measured using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The finding of this interesting study aren’t available at the Wiley Library, unless a $35 tax is paid, but according to Dr. Michael Siegel’s blog, Tobacco Analysis, based on the chamber emissions test, 20 volatile organic compounds were identified in tobacco smoke, only 6 of which were also detected in e-cigarette vapor. From the start, you can see there is a big difference between the two, but the concentrations of chemicals further proves e-cigarette vapor is much less harmful.
The concentrations of the six compounds found in electronic cigarette vapor ranged from 2.5% (for acetaldehyde) to 39.1% (for acetone) of the levels detected in tobacco smoke. Scientists also analyzed exhaled air from vapers and the only compounds found were low traces of nicotine and flavorings, moderate levels of glycerin and high levels of propylene glycol, the main ingredient of e-cigarette liquid. Although the study concludes there is such a thing as “passive vaping”, the substances found in the exhaled vapor pose no real threat to people’s health.
The only compound of significant concern found in electronic cigarette vapor was formaldehyde, but its levels were five to ten times lower than in tobacco smoke. Dr. Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, at the Boston University of Public Health, believes one hypothesis is that formaldehyde may result from the heating of propylene glycol, so the use of vegetable glycerin as the main ingredient for e-liquid may very well prevent the production of most volatile organic compounds identified in the study.
The bottom line of this new study of electronic cigarette vapor is that using e-cigs can be perceived as effective smoking cessation devices that greatly reduce health risks for smokers and protect non-smokers from second hand tobacco smoke. The fact that e-cigarettes reduce exposure to a wide range of volatile organic compounds makes it very likely that vaping can reduce the risk of lung diseases as well. Like other previous e-cigarette studies, this research proves they contain carcinogens only at trace levels, reducing the carcinogenic risks associated with cigarette smoking.
Although the findings of this new study can be considered evidence that electronic cigarettes are much safer than analogs, and that smokers switching to e-cigs can drastically improve their health, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for anti-smoking and health organizations to take any of this into consideration. Like Dr. Siegel observes, “their opposition is based on ideological and economic grounds rather than scientific ones.” Still this news should reassure ex-smokers who used “illegitimate” e-cigarettes to quit smoking that they made the right decision and improved their quality of life.