Research Shows E-Cigarettes Emit Few Toxins

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The usefulness of e-cigarettes has been questioned often by officials for public health and anti-smoking groups, especially in regard to the vapors they produce.

Tobacco Control published a 2013 study of 12 e-cigarette brands that indicated the levels of toxins in e-cig vapor were less than that found in standard cigarettes and were equal to the amounts found in pharamceutical nicotine. This finding was supported by another study of British and American e-cig brands, published by Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, which found the level of toxic substances was the same as those typically found in the air.

The study used the brands Blu e-Cigs and SKYCIGS, which is used frequently in the United Kingdom and Australia. The vapor output of these products was compared to air samples and the smoke of two standard cigarette brands, Lambert & Butler and Marlboro Golds. The analysis showed that smoke output from the standard cigarettes was 1,500 times more toxic in comparison to the aerosol of e-cigs and plain room air.

Specifically, e-cig aerosols contain about 85 percent propylene glycol or glycerin, about 10 percent water, three percent flavor and about two percent nicotine. Several toxins were screened during the study, including carbon monoxide, phenolics, volatiles, carbonyls, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polyaromatic amines and nitrosamines. The amount of all of these in about 100 puffs of a Blu Classic Tobacco Disposable was only 0.17 of a milligram. This is comparable to 100 puffs of plain air. In comparison, a single Marlboro Gold cigarette contained 30.6 milligrams, which is 180 times the amount found in the Blu e-cig. When measured per puff, the Marlboro Gold produced 2,000 times the toxins of Blu.

These results DO NOT mean e-cigs are safer because the effects of inhaling propylene glycol and glycerin over the long term are not clear. It is speculated that those effects will not compare to those caused by standard cigarettes.

It would seem that the studies disprove the dangers of e-cig vapor, but California legislator Mark Leno is not convinced. He claims that just as many people will die from e-cig use as from regular smoking. The director of California's Department of Public Health, Ron Chapman, agrees. Chapman declared e-cigs a health problem for the community because the vapor they produce contains chemicals that travel through the entire body and are a threat to cells and organs. He also says the aerosol produced by e-cigs contains 10 chemicals that are known by the state to cause birth defects or cancer.

While the studies did show that e-cig vapor is no more harmful than breathing the air, the long-term effects of e-cig usage are currently unknown.

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  • Ali Esmaili
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