E-cigarettes contain 10 times the level of cancer-causing agents as regular tobacco, Japanese scientists said Thursday, the latest blow to an invention once heralded as less harmful than smoking.
The electronic devices — increasingly popular around the world, particularly among young people — function by heating flavoured liquid, which often contains nicotine, into a vapour that is inhaled, much like traditional cigarettes but without the smoke.
Researchers commissioned by Japan’s Health Ministry found carcinogens such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in vapour produced by several types of e-cigarette liquid, a health ministry official told AFP.
Formaldehyde — a substance found in building materials and embalming fluids — was present at much higher levels than carcinogens found in the smoke from regular cigarettes, the official said.
“In one brand of e-cigarette the team found more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette,” said researcher Naoki Kunugita, adding that the amount of formaldehyde detected varied through the course of analysis.
“Especially when the… wire (which vaporises the liquid) gets overheated, higher amounts of those harmful substances seemed to be produced.”
– ‘Serious threat’ –
In August, the World Health Organisation called on governments to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, warning they pose a “serious threat” to unborn babies and young people.
The UN health body also said they should be banned from indoor public spaces.
US health authorities said earlier this year that the number of young people there who have tried e-cigarettes tripled from 2016 to 2017.
More than a quarter of a million young people who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes last year. – US Disease Control and Prevention.