May 06, 2014

    E-cigs can still pack toxic punch

    ELECTRONIC cigarettes appear to be safer than ordinary cigarettes for one simple - and obvious - reason: People don't light up and smoke them.

    With e-cigarettes, there is no burning tobacco to produce myriad new chemicals, including some 60 carcinogens.

    But new research suggests that, even without a match, some popular e-cigarettes get so hot that they, too, can produce a handful of the carcinogens at similar levels as those found in cigarettes.

    A study to be published this month in the journal Nicotine And Tobacco Research found that the high-power e-cigarettes known as tank systems produce formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, along with the nicotine-laced vapour that users inhale.

    The toxin is formed when liquid nicotine and other e-cigarette ingredients are subjected to high temperatures, according to the study. A second study being prepared for submission to the journal points to similar findings.

    The long-term effects of inhaling nicotine vapour are unclear, but there is no evidence to date that it causes cancer or heart disease, as cigarette smoking does.

    Indeed, many researchers agree that e-cigarettes will be much safer than conventional cigarettes, an idea that e-cigarette companies have made much of in their advertising.

    The website for Janty, a company that makes popular tank systems, says the benefits of e-cigarettes include having "no toxins associated with tobacco smoking".

    Nonetheless, the research suggests how potential health risks are emerging as the multi-billion-dollar e-cigarette business rapidly evolves, and how regulators are already struggling to keep pace.