Through the recent years, e-cigarettes have become a popular substitute to traditional cigarettes in our culture. Electronic cigarettes also known as e-cigarettes mimics the action of a regular cigarette, where the user inhales substances that are heated. What makes e-cigarettes different from the regular cigarettes is that, instead of burning tobacco which produces smoke, it contains the use of a liquid solution (containing nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerol, flavourings, and many others), a battery used to heat the coil, and a vaporizing chamber (which produces the vapour). One of the main reasons for its popularity is the different flavourings available to choose from like cherry, watermelon, apple, pineapple, mango, and the list goes on and on. Another key reason is that it is generally accepted to be less dangerous option.
As different reports show, the 4000 chemicals found in regular cigarettes are harmful to health and are cancer causing. According to reports and statistics, the average Canadian smoker smokes about 13.9 cigarettes a day (according to www.tobaccoreport.ca) and the average mortality rate due to cigarettes is about 37,000 people per year (http://www.cancer.ca). E-cigarettes do have some useful applications as some reports say; they may be useful in reducing smoking addiction by using less concentrated nicotine to quit smoking.
Do we really know much about e-cigarettes? Have we gained enough information that this is a safe product to use?
Through a recent research, from the new England journal of medicine titled “Hidden Formaldehyde in E-cigarette Aerosols”, it was demonstrated that aerosols produced by the e-cigarette produce a hidden harmful chemical. During their research, after heating the ingredients found in an e-cigarette solution, propylene glycol and glycerol in the presence of oxygen, generated a hemiacetal product called formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is considered a biocide (chemical found in preservatives, pesticides, insecticides, etc.) and is also considered as a cancer causing chemical or carcinogen. To take this into perspective, when an e-cigarette user uses it at a rate that uses 3 ml of liquid solution per day, the user would intake about 14 mg of formaldehyde. Further testing is required on these particular findings but it shows that there are potential negative impacts from using e-cigarettes on human health. This widely popular piece of technology, which may be a substitute to traditional cigarettes, needs to be thoroughly assessed and tested before it is made available for public usage.
Reference: Jensen, R. P., Luo, W., Pankow, J. F., Strongin, R. M., & Peyton, D. H. (2015). Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(4), 392–394. http://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMc1413069