Remember that study from a couple of months ago that suggested ecigarettes could deliver more formaldehyde to your lungs than regular cigarettes? Well, it seems a new study has arrived to back up what many of us were already thinking: the study conditions never accurately represented true vaping habits, to begin with.
The January 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine tested results at both a low and high voltage, and formaldehyde was detected at the high voltage (5.0V) (but not the low one). Thus, the scientists concluded, "an ecigarette user vaping at a rate of 3 ml per day would inhale 14.4±3.3 mg of formaldehyde per day in formaldehyde-releasing agents."
Of course, no one actually vapes at such a high voltage, because the taste would be unbearable.
And now, there's a new study, published in the journal Addiction, that finds that these high levels of aldehydes can only be produced under extreme conditions, known as "dry puff" conditions.
"Our results verify previous observations that it is possible for e-cigarettes to generate high levels of aldehydes; however, this is observed only under dry puff conditions, which deliver a strong, unpleasant taste that vapers detect and avoid by reducing power levels and puff duration or by increasing inter-puff interval," said study leader and cardiologist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos. "Minimal amounts of aldehydes are released in normal vaping conditions, even if high power levels are used. In those normal-use conditions, aldehyde emissions are far lower than in tobacco cigarette smoke."
“Unfortunately, lack of understanding has resulted in gross misinterpretation of the data in previous studies," he added. “Any risk is minimal and not even comparable to smoking - I would say almost zero.”
Of course, the voices on the other side haven't totally been rebutted. David Peyton, who was the lead author on the original NEJM study, told Vocativ that a realistic puff probably lies somewhere in between a dry puff and the low-voltage variety that was tested.
“With intermediate voltages, we found that intermediate amounts [of aldehydes] formed," he said. "That’s going to be the subject of a future publication."
Additionally, Peyton thinks there are other harmful components in ecigarette vapour, such as hemiacetals. However, Farsalinos believes these are harmless.
Who's right? Time may tell, but in the meantime, some wise words from Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, U.K.:
"These findings emphasise the importance of making clear the conditions in which tests of this kind are undertaken and avoiding sweeping assertions that can mislead the public. Vapers are not exposed to dangerous levels of aldehydes. My reading of the evidence is that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than smoking. Smokers should be encouraged to switch to vaping."