It has been reported that a recent study conducted in Japan found electronic cigarettes to be 10 times more cancerous than traditional cigarettes. Predictably, this sort of extreme claim received a lot of attention, causing some to question the safety of this type of product. However, is there any truth behind this study, and what conclusions should have been drawn from its results?
How E-Cigarettes Work
E-cigarettes work by heating up flavoured water containing nicotine. The heating results in vapour that is then inhaled, giving users a dose of nicotine without smoking tobacco.
While these devices have been around for some time, it has become very popular in recent years, particularly amongst young people under 25. The number of users in this age group tripled within two years from 2011 to 2013. Many who have never smoked tobacco tried e-cigarettes, as they believed these devices are a safer alternative.
The Presence Of Formaldehyde
The claim that e-cigarettes are more cancerous came about because the Japanese study, which was commissioned by Japan’s Health Ministry, found carcinogens such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde present in the vapour produced by some brands of e-cigarettes.
Formaldehyde is a substance found in building materials and embalming fluid. It is said to be harmful and causes cancer.
However, in reality, formaldehyde is present everywhere in the environment – in every house, city, town and village. You will find it in both urban and rural areas.
Conclusions From One Brand
Of particular concern is that it seems conclusions from the latest study about all e-cigarettes had been drawn because one brand of e-cigarettes tested contained 10 times the carcinogens found in formaldehyde. While there is no doubt that further investigations are warranted for this brand in question, it is simply misleading to conclude that all e-cigarettes are more cancerous due to the finding from this one case. In fact, many brands were tested without the same result.
It isn’t clear what went wrong in the case of the brand that scored terribly under the test. Did the device malfunction? Was the test in a controlled environment? Were the power levels used appropriate? None of these questions have been answered.
Previous Study Showed E-Cigarettes A Safer Alternative
In creating frenzy around this latest study, many neglected to mention that a previous study on the same topic found e-cigarettes contained levels of formaldehyde that were six times lower than traditional cigarettes. This finding, along with the fact that e-cigarettes contained less toxic chemicals and gases compared with traditional tobacco, was what made e-cigarettes a safer alternative. It has been said that the cocktail of toxic substances in traditional tobacco caused cancer, heart disease and strokes. In many developed countries, tobacco smoking remains the leading cause of death.
E-Cigarette Supporters Fight Back
Ex-smokers who turned to e-cigarettes for their dose of nicotine often report improved health. Many cite an improved general sense of wellbeing and better breathing as reasons why they continue to use these products.
Although there is definitely a need to do more research on ‘vaping’, there is simply not enough evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are more cancerous than traditional tobacco.