Ramping up e-cigarette voltage produces more formaldehyde: study

ID-100265931Smoking e-cigarettes at a higher voltage can can people to have more exposure to formaldehyde, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from Portland State University took flavored nicotine liquid made by Halo Cigs and tested it in a personal vaporizer from Innokin. The vaporizer allows consumers to adjust the voltage from 3.3V to 5.0V. The higher the voltage the greater the nicotine kick, but also the greater the amount of formaldehyde. Inhaled as a gas, formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. Researchers concluded that the life-time risk of developing formaldehyde-related cancer was roughly 1 in 200 for high-voltage e-cigarettes versus 1 in 1,000 for cigarettes – at least five times higher. They found no increased risk for people smoking at a low voltage. What are you thoughts on smoking cigarettes vs. e-cigarettes? How often do you counsel patients about e-cigarettes?

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One response

  1. I had always assumed e-cigarettes to be no worse than smoking tobacco, but I guess it isn’t so black and white. Because e-cigarettes are not regulated as medical devices, assuming the labeled voltage is accurate for all manufacturers would be ill-advised. This makes things tougher, because asking patients to choose their cancer risk between nasopharyngeal and lung isn’t likely to garner much respect as a clinician. I suppose the prudent action would be to encourage cessation of both products in a reasonable time frame. E-cigarettes may have major health hazards, but if they can be used as a stepping stone to quitting, the short term use is probably still worthwhile.

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