Taste and effect affect relative risks

E-cigarettes produce far fewer hazardous substances than cigarettes. But those that are produced are influenced by factors such as power, flavourings and the design of the burner.
This is according to a US study.

[updated March 2023]

The vapour from an e-cigarette contains between 125 and 10,000 times lower concentrations of carcinogenic aldehydes than the smoke from a cigarette. This is according to researchers from Rutgers University in the United States, in a study on the different health risks of electronic cigarettes. At the same time, the concentration of potentially harmful substances is highly dependent on how the vaporiser handles e-juice and heat. 

E-cigarettes in real life conditions

The research builds on previous studies, supplemented by 23 test participants who were allowed to use two different e-cigarettes, with different flavours and effects, but with the same coil (0.8 ohm bottom-fed vaporiser between 6 and 30 watts).

"The tests were conducted in the same way as e-cigarettes are used in everyday life, with different puffing patterns and time intervals. Several previous studies have not taken sufficient account of real-world conditions, and this is important for understanding the real risks," the researchers write.

Avoid burning the wicks

Previous tests have shown the coil's ability to transport e-liquid, plays a major role in the formation of aldehydes. An older type of coil, small top-fed vaporisers where the wick material absorbs e-juice from below, does not transport the e-juice fast enough, the researchers say. When the liquid is vaporised quickly, at higher powers, the risk of the material drying and glowing increases. A so-called "dry hit" occurs. Something that most road users note by a strong burning taste and pain in the throat. In such cases the amount of aldehydes increases significantly.
But this does not reflect "normal" conditions, the researchers say, as users do not usually use a coil that tastes burnt.

Modern coils are safer

In their tests, they instead used more modern burners, where the wetting takes place from the bottom of the coil. These proved to handle the heat much better. No matter what temperature the researchers exposed the coils to, they consistently produced far fewer aldehydes than can be measured in cigarette smoke.

"At the same time, the results show that the concentration of aldehydes increases with the effect, although they remain far below the concentration in cigarette smoke," the researchers write.

Different flavours affect the risks

The researchers also compared different flavours in the e-juice. All the flavours tested came from the essence company The Perfumer's Apprentice (TPA). It turned out that flavours such as strawberry (strawberry) and dragon fruit (dragonfruit) tended to form more formaldehyde than creamy flavours (such as bavarian cream and sweet cream). Menthol was in the centre along with gum and cinnamon. 

No risk of popcorn lung

The researchers also measured the amount of diacetyl (a butter flavour) in the various flavours, in particular bavarian cream and sweet cream. Diacetyl has been at the centre of the debate on e-cigarettes. The substance has properties that can cause so-called "popcorn lung".. However, the disease, which is similar to COPD, has never been found in either road users or smokers. This is despite the fact that cigarette smoke contains a very high concentration of diacetyl.

"Although several e-juice manufacturers have replaced diacetyl with other butter flavours, these can also form diacetyl when heated," the researchers write.

But even here they only found smaller concentrations, far below the levels associated with absolute health risks.

PG more sensitive than VG

Finally, the researchers measured the difference between propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine, which makes up 99 per cent of the e-juice. Glycerine begins to degrade and form aldehydes at 200 degrees centigrade. Propylene glycol, on the other hand, starts to react at 127 degrees, which affects the risk of higher concentrations of aldehydes earlier.

"E-juices with high PG content can produce up to 200 times more aldehydes than juices with higher VG content. This was constant regardless of effect," the researchers write.

Want to regulate power and content

According to the researchers, legislators should look more at studies where e-cigarettes are studied. under real conditions. They argue that regulation should focus more on controlling the efficacy of certain devices, but also control the PG content of certain e-juices. At the same time, they recognise the importance of e-cigarettes for the health of smokers. They have shown a clear harm reduction effect.

"At the same time, road users should be aware that the harm reduction effect varies depending on how they use the products, the type of coil they use and what is in the e-juice. Some substances may have effects even at low levels," the researchers write.

"Ignorance among legislators"

Niklas Linder, an e-juice developer who runs the company Swedish Mixology in Motala, Sweden, says the study is important for understanding the relative risks of e-cigarettes.

'It is positive news that all types of modern e-cigarettes are significantly healthier than traditional tobacco smoking. That said, there are different levels of risk even within the e-cigarette range. But the research shows that the absolute best thing for nicotine addicts who use e-cigarettes is to have a modern e-cigarette with a focus on more nicotine in the liquid and less power in the device," says Mr Perez. Niklas Linder.

It is a message that he hopes will influence politicians legislating on e-cigarettes in the future.

"We unfortunately see a lot of ignorance from legislators; today, the state penalises nicotine, which is probably the most studied and proven least dangerous component of the equation. We also have severe restrictions on the nicotine content, 20mg/ml. This makes products that can provide users with enough nicotine at lower effects less attractive. In order for the user to get a reasonable dose of nicotine, we instead use more powerful devices, which deliver much more vapour, thus increasing the risks to health," he says. Niklas Linder.


The Impact of Device Settings, Use Patterns, and Flavorings on Carbonyl Emissions from Electronic Cigarettes

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3 Comments on “Smak och effekt påverkar relativa risker

  1. Hello! I have read some articles about flavours and their impact on the health of the body. I got a bit worried when I found articles in English that show that Menthol and Mint are the most dangerous flavours for various reasons. These are my go-to flavours that I use daily. When I then search for more information about different flavours and their alleged dangers to the respiratory system in particular, I am struck by the fact that it is probably possible to find information that each separate flavour is dangerous in one way or another. Only in your article above is strawberry flavour highlighted. In addition to articles on Menthol and mint, I have also noticed that vanilla and Cinnamon are highlighted as particularly dangerous.

    I have not been source-critical in this, but have only taken note of information that seems to be abundant and can conclude that there does not seem to be a major connection between flavour and damage to the body in the short term. What is your view? Can it be good to try to switch to a different flavour? I mainly use the combination of Vaporesso Xros mini and 12 mg nicotine.

    Thank you in advance

    mvh Koffan

    1. Hi Koffan. Thanks for the comment!
      The article highlights what the researchers address in their study, i.e. what was relevant to the analysis. They mainly look at aldehydes, i.e. substances that are formed when heated. Cinnamon is included in the analysis, but forms fewer aldehydes compared to, for example, strawberry flavours. Or rather, the chemicals that make up strawberry flavours (they don't go deeper, unfortunately). Menthol or kooling affects the airways in the same way as a throat lozenge. It tears, but is not particularly harmful really, the cells that are affected are temporarily revitalised (the one that gives the tear) and then heal together. Smaller tests have been done to compare how cells are affected by vapour with menthol and smoke with menthol. The steamed cells recovered fairly quickly. The smoked cells could not be measured because they died. Menthol is also not mutagenic, i.e. the substance itself does not cause cancer.

      So if you like menthol - and it's an important part of the experience that keeps you smoke-free - stick with it. If it's not important - cut down on it 😉.

      Having said that. It's not actually the flavourings that you should be looking at blindly, it's easily simplified and basically not very fruitful (pun intended). 99% of the juice consists of other substances: glycerine and propylene glycol. And these substances also form aldehydes. However, the simple truth is that the concentration of these aldehydes (which are linked to cancer) is so low that they pose no greater health risk than, say, city air or other background noise.

      But if you are concerned about the health risks of vejping, you should reduce the amount of aldehydes in the first place - and you do this by lowering the power of vejpen (less heating, fewer aldehydes). Maybe compensate with a higher nicotine content, as these two factors together affect the experience.
      And further: aldehydes are formed in large quantities when you touch a burnt coil, or when the e-liquid and wick material are overheated (above 300 degrees without sufficient airflow to cool down the process). There are also certain flavourings that cause the coil to burn faster. Sweeteners are the main culprit, as well as a few other substances (e.g. cinnamon, various tobacco flavours, chocolate, etc). The consistency of the juice in relation to the wick's ability to conduct the juice to the coil also has an impact here. The researchers note that pg forms aldehydes earlier than vg in general. But it means very little if the wick makes the juice so sluggish that it cannot get to the coil and thus causes overheating (dry wick = combustion) - THEN we are talking about aldehydes compared to smoking (as well as a huge cough and a very, VERY unpleasant taste). So don't be afraid to use PG. The result is a better functioning vejp that is very safe in this context.

      If you want a more scientific review, I recommend the UK Public Health Agency's report (compiled annually by University College London) and the Committee on toxicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment's discussion paper on menthol. They have similar analyses for cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon) and vanilla.

      Nicotine vaping in England: an
      evidence update including health
      risks and perceptions, 2022


  2. Many thanks for the very detailed and informative comment and feedback. I am beginning to think it is fruitless 😉 to search further in the Google jungle of (its) information.

    I am grateful that you and your website limit the range of information to what is essential and which means that I feel more confident with my vaping. And that I become more curious to test myself to a combination that feels good both now and in the long run.

    mvh Koffan/Kristoffer

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