ORLANDO – E-cigarettes are likely safer than traditional cigarettes but it depends on the user, the voltage used, and the kind of liquid, according to a panel of experts at the joint congress of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the World Asthma Organization.
Thomas Casale, MD, professor of medicine at the University of South Florida, Tampa, said studies have found that in some ways, e-cigarettes seem safer. For example, the levels of carcinogens such as formaldehyde and heavy metals are found at levels that are 9-450 times higher in combustible cigarette smoke than e-cigarette vapor, he said. And toxic compounds have been found to be significantly lower in the urine of e-cigarette users compared to traditional cigarette smokers.
But it’s not so simple. While e-cigarettes typically cause lower exposure to formaldehyde, when heated at a higher voltage, exposure to formaldehyde hemiacetal, a formaldehyde precursor, is about seven times higher for someone smoking 3 mL of e-cigarette fluid a day – similar to a pack a day – than the formaldehyde exposure of someone smoking the same quantity of combustible cigarettes.
Dr. Casale added that experienced e-cigarette users typically take longer puffs than traditional smokers and that the unregulated e-cigarette industry is rife with mislabeling on things such as how much nicotine is in a given fluid.