A handful of scientific studies have been bouncing around the internet as of late which seem to show that e-cigarettes can contain or produce formaldehyde, which seems to have put the world in a bit of a frenzy about the topic.
But, as you might suspect, it’s not as simple as that.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde, put simply, is deadly. It’s a known carcinogen, which means that it is directly involved in causing cancer, and is highly toxic. Ironically, it’s also used as a preservative for tissue in biology. This is the reason Damien Hirst put a shark in it during the 90's – it’s deadly but it’s also a tissue preservative.
Don’t throw away your e-cigarettes just yet, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
The original study in this controversy was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and found that consumer-level e-cigarettes are capable of producing dangerous levels of formaldehyde when set to higher voltages.
But, as other studies and scientists have pointed out, this only happens after repeated dry puffs, which taste and feel awful and most vapers avoid like the plague. Dry puffs occur when the coil in an e-cigarette becomes overheated, and has been compared to a burnt hair flavour by some.
What’s more, e-cigarettes can vary hugely from device to device, so what might be true for one e-cigarette wouldn’t necessarily apply to all of them.
So It’s Not True?
Sort of. Normal vaping does produce formaldehyde, but research seems to indicate that these levels are much lower than even those produced by cigarettes so they are comparatively safer.
The main arguments against the initial study have been that it doesn’t take into account real-world vaping habits – because of the unpleasant taste and texture of a dry puff it’s unlikely that most users will habitually vape this way to the point when it becomes dangerous.
This is a difficult question to answer; it’s all relative. Most e-cigarette users use e-liquid or refills which contain nicotine, which is a harmful and highly addictive substance. So the real danger presented by e-cigarettes vary between users and their preferences.
But compared to conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are thought to be much safer – a Public Health England report published last year said that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than regular cigarettes.
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