E cigarette vapor contains only a fraction of the toxins found in cigarette smoke, as well as a significantly lower concentration of nicotine, according to a new study.
Dr. Murray Laugesen’s research, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, confirms that electronic cigarettes are hundreds of times less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes. His study involved testing 14 e cigarette brands for nicotine and known toxins. The results were then compared with the findings of a similar study dating from 2008, as well as the nicotine and toxins in the smoke of a Marlboro cigarette. The tested products were purchased online in 2013, owing to their illegality in New Zealand.
Lab tests showed that the electronic cigarettes bought in 2013 emitted around 200 times less toxic aldehydes (acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and acrolein) than a Marlboro cigarette, and a whopping 73% less aldehydes than the e cigarette from 2008. Dangerous substances frequently associated with electronic cigarettes by opponents of vaping, like diethylene and monoethylene glycol, were not detected in vapor.
It’s not all good news, though. The electronic cigarettes labelled as “high-strength” (16-18+ mg nicotine) actually contained anywhere between 5-46 mg nicotine. “We found differences between labelled and actual nicotine content,” Dr. Laugesen wrote in his paper. “These highlight a lack of quality control that should be attended to through monitoring as part of a regulatory regimen.”
However, even under these conditions, the nicotine delivered in each puff was still way below what you get from a tobacco cigarette. The highest nicotine concentration per puff registered in Laugesen’s study was 93 mcg, whereas the Marlboro cigarette used for control delivered 147 mcg with each breath. Results also showed that the newer e-cigs delivered higher amounts of nicotine than the ones from 2008.
The difference in nicotine labeled on the packaging and the actual content is no doubt cause for concern and acts as evidence that quality control should be the main priority right now. “If government does decide to regulate e-cigarettes, that’s something they should consider,” Dr Murray Laugesen said. “In the meantime we have 5000 people dying every year from smoking conventional cigarettes. Nicotine e-cigarettes do not cause cancer, do not kill people. They’ve been on sale since 2007 in the west and there are no reports of cancer or suchlike from them.”
Dr. Laugesen’s research shows not only that e-cigarettes are hundreds of times less toxic than tobacco, but also that these revolutionary devices are evolving into less harmful and more effective alternatives to smoking.
“The most robust evidence on whether e-cigarettes can help people to stop smoking used older-generation e-cigarettes, but found that they were at least as good as nicotine patches in helping smokers to quit, and that e-cigarettes with nicotine were more effective than e-cigarettes without it,” researcher Oliver Knight-West of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland, said after reading Laugesen’s findings. Today’s products are far superior, and scientific studies like this are the best proof we could hope for.
“We of course cannot be certain that e-cigarettes are completely safe and that long-term vaping is risk-free, but we can be confident that if any negative health effects are detected, they will be very small compared to the proven dangers of tobacco smoking,” Knight-West added.
Nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes are currently classified as medicine in New Zealand, meaning they cannot be sold legally within the country, bu only ordered online from overseas, for personal use. Oliver Knight-West thinks it’s time that changed. “With the right framework, e-cigarettes with nicotine could be just the breakthrough to help hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders become smoke-free and live healthier, longer lives,” he said.