E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

Study on Benzaldehyde in Flavored E-Cigarettes Gets Blown Out of Proportion by the Media

A new study published in the Thorax medical journal analyzed 145 different electronic cigarettes and reported the levels of a chemical known as benzaldehyde. The organic compound found in many flavorings was detected in 108 of the samples studied, with significantly higher levels found in cherry flavored products. Since benzaldehyde has been shown to irritate the airways in animal and workplace exposure studies, a number of prominent media outlets took this opportunity to warn their readers about the dangers of vaping.

NEwhere-Elite-starter-kitThe research team led by Dr. Maciej Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute measured the benzaldehyde concentration in 30 puffs from 145 separate e-cigarette liquids, 40 of which were berry/tropical fruit, 37 were tobacco, 12 were alcohol, 11 were chocolate/sweet, 11 were coffee/tea, 10 were mint/menthol, 10 were cherry, and 11 were other flavors. Although 108 of these e-liquids contained benzaldehyde, levels were particularly high in cherry-flavored ones, surpassing the levels detected in regular cigarettes.

“Users of cherry flavoured products may inhale significantly higher doses of benzaldehyde compared with users of other flavoured products,” the study conclusion states. “Although e-cigarettes may be a promising harm reduction tool for smokers, the findings indicate that using these products could result in repeated inhalation of benzaldehyde, with long term users risking regular exposure to the substance,”

While it’s true that the idea of inhaling a chemical known to cause airway irritation is unnerving, you have to keep things in perspective, and report facts objectively, something that the media simply refuses to do on the topic of electronic cigarettes. Despite Dr. Goniewicz’s efforts to prevent the study findings getting misinterpreted, as it often happens with research on e-cigs, news sites had a field day twisting the results to fit their agenda.

Here are some of the most irritating (pun intended) headlines I’ve come across regarding this study: Cherry Flavored E-Cigarettes Most Harmful: Study Finds They Irritate Airways More Than Other Flavors, Traditional Cigarettes (The Inquisitr), Cherry Flavored E-Cigarettes Most Dangerous to Users: Study (Tech Times), Vapers, Beware: Cherry-Flavored E-Cigarettes Can Be Toxic (Newsweek).

Let’s face it, reading article titles like these on ‘respectable’ news sites make you want to throw your e-cigarette in the garbage and, if you can’t resist the craving for nicotine, just go back to smoking. After all, the articles clearly say that some flavored e-cigarettes contain more of this scary-sounding benzaldehyde stuff than tobacco cigarettes. And that’s probably what many uninformed vapers will end up doing, unfortunately.

It goes without saying that that would be a huge mistake. As Dr. Goniewicz himself said, “let’s not lose sight that vaping presents substantially less risk than combustion cigarettes, which expose smokers to over 7,000 chemicals including more than 60 known or suspected carcinogens”. And in case you’re wondering, no I’m not trying to shift the attention from the issue of benzaldehyde. As I mentioned, researchers took great care in reporting their findings precisely to prevent them being used in anti-vaping propaganda.

In both the abstract and the body of the study they note: “Levels in cherry-flavoured products were >1000 times lower than doses inhaled in the workplace,” and “The estimated median daily inhaled dose of benzaldehyde from cherry-flavoured e-cigarettes was 70.3 μg, which would be >1000 times lower than the [permissible exposure limit] dose for benzaldehyde concentrations in the workplace.”

The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association notes that it would take three years of vaping to reach the maximum levels of benzaldehyde that a worker is allowed to be exposed to during an eight-hour shift. Regarding the effect the chemical could have on vapers, Dr. Goniewicz says “If [e-cigarette users] notice irritation, maybe a cough or sore throat, when they use e-cigarettes, they might want to consider switching to a different flavoring. And it’s also important to keep these findings in perspective. The potential harm, if any, from inhaling flavored e-cigarettes would probably not even approach the dangerous, deadly effects of tobacco. It will be important to follow this work up with studies that assess the long-term effects and chronic toxicity of e-cigarette flavorings in humans.”

So the lead researcher himself says that the harmful effects of vaping, IF ANY, are not even close to those of smoking and that the chronic toxicity of e-cig flavorings in humans needs to be confirmed through further study, and yet the media was quick to point out the dangers vapers are exposing themselves to. Biased much?

Let’s be clear, benzaldehyde is a popular flavoring used in many of the foods you probably consume every day. Its presence – in high concentrations in e-liquids – like that of diacetyl or acetyl propionyl, should definitely be of concern to both manufacturers and consumers, but we should always keep things in perspective. Also, no one with enough common sense would ever claimed electronic cigarettes are completely harmless, and if you’re looking for an alternative to smoking that’s as safe as breathing fresh air, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if, like me, you’re a believer in the concept of harm reduction, you probably realize that vaping is infinitely safer than smoking.

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