New Studies Reveal Health Risks Of E-Cigarettes

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New Studies Reveal Health Risks Of E-CigarettesPhoto – pixabay

Cigarette smoking is a world-wide health problem and governments are endlessly trying to find ways to reduce the number of deaths related to smoking. According to 2014 data from the CDC, 12.6 percent of adults had tried smoking e-cigarettes in their lifetime. Over 20 percent of current smokers who tried to quit in the past year used e-cigarettes, with half of the total number of smokers having tried e-cigarettes. When the e-cigarette was introduced to the market back in 2004, it seemed that it was the answer to a lot of prayers. However, smoking e-cigarettes only provides a substitute to this dangerous habit – it doesn’t address the main problem, which is an underlying behavioral issue. Healthcare workers should not aim to solve the symptoms of a health problem, but the disease itself. In this case, smoking e-cigarettes does not get rid of the addiction to cigarettes, but simply provides an allegedly safer alternative to actual cigarettes.

An electronic cigarette is a battery-powered device which heats a liquid solution of nicotine and flavors, creating an aerosol that is inhaled to mimic the physical sensation of smoking. It is becoming increasingly popular with smokers worldwide as it claims to help quit smoking, relieve tobacco withdrawal symptoms and continue to have a smoking experience but with reduced health risks. [1]

When you smoke e-cigarettes, remember that you are willingly inhaling a foreign substance into your body – smoke. The smoke produced by these e-cigarettes has been marketed as “safe” but smoke, in any form, causes irritation to the sensitive tissues of the respiratory tract, which can cause an infection or functional and structural damage. Not only that, smoke from e-cigarettes is laden with numerous chemicals that are harmful to the body. While you are giving up nicotine when choosing e-cigarettes, you may also be introducing potentially carcinogenic substances into your body. [2]

So far studies have found out that: [2]

1. Aerosolised propylene glycol and glycerol found in the e-cigarette’s liquid solution produce mouth and throat irritation and dry cough.
2. Aerosol exposure may be associated with respiratory function impairment.
3. Serum cotinine levels (recent exposure to nicotine) are similar to those in traditional cigarette smokers.
4. The high nicotine concentrations of some products increase exposure risks for non-users, particularly children.

Using e-cigarettes requires heating the liquid solution and under such conditions, chemical reactions will result to formation of new compounds. The vaping liquid originally contains no potentially harmful substances; however, the components glycerin and propylene glycol will convert to formaldehyde and acetaldehyde when heated. [3] Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are carcinogens (substances that are capable of causing cancer). Another study carried out by the National Jewish Health confirms that e-cigarette vapor damages the cells from human airways which increases the risk of respiratory infections. [4]

A more harrowing article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015, wherein a correspondence from Jensen, et. al. revealed that e-cigarettes contained “hidden” formaldehyde content. [5]Formaldehyde is chemical that is popularly used in industrial processes that create building materials and household products. It is also a chemical that has earned the label of “human carcinogen”. Numerous studies considered by the International Agency for Research on Cancer also concluded that formaldehyde caused cancer in human test subjects, specifically cancer of the nasopharynx and leukemia. Most of the studies found that inhaling formaldehyde caused cancerous changes in the cells of the nasopharyngeal area. [6][7]

The conclusion on the use of e-cigarettes is simple: don’t use them. While they may reduce your nicotine exposure and lower your risk for cancers caused by smoking nicotine, you are increasing your risk for other types of cancer because of the dangerous chemicals present in e-cigarettes, formaldehyde being one of them. Don’t be fooled by marketing that tells you that e-cigarettes are safe – they are very far from it.


[1] Caponnetto, Pasquale, (2014) The emerging phenomenon of electronic cigarettes.

[2] Callahan-Lyon, Priscilla (2013) Electronic cigarettes: human health effects.

[3] Goniewicz, Maciej Lukasz, et. al. (2012) Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vaport from electronic cigarettes.


[5] Jensen, R., et. al. (2015). Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols.

[6] National Cancer Institute. Formaldehyde.

[7] International Agency for Research on Cancer. Formaldehyde.

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