Low-nicotine e-cigarettes raise toxin risks for ex-smokers, study says

By HealthDay News

FRIDAY, June 15, 2018 -- Ex-smokers who use low-nicotine liquid in electronic cigarettes breathe more deeply and more often when using the devices than those who use high-nicotine liquid, a small British study suggests.


That means that users of low-nicotine liquid are at increased risk of exposure to e-cigarette vapor toxins such as formaldehyde, according to the researchers at London South Bank University.

The findings from their Cancer Research UK-funded study of 20 e-cigarette users, or vapers, were published June 7 in the journal Addiction.

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"Some vapers might believe that starting out on a low-nicotine strength is a good thing, but they should be aware that reducing their nicotine concentration is likely to result in the use of more e-liquid. This obviously comes with a financial cost but also possibly with a health cost," study lead author Lynne Dawkins said in a Cancer Research UK news release.

Vaping more intensely and at higher power raises the temperature inside the device, which can cause the glycerine and glycol found in most e-liquids to break down, the researchers said.

"Although e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking, the vapor can still contain some potentially harmful chemicals that present a higher risk to health than nicotine, which is relatively safe," said Dawkins.


"Our research shows that more intense vaping behavior associated with using low-nicotine e-liquid has the potential to increase users' exposure to some of these chemicals. To draw any firm conclusions more research on a larger scale is needed," she said.

Alison Cox is director of prevention at Cancer Research UK. "Let's be clear. While there are potentially harmful chemicals present in the e-cigarette vapor, there are far more in tobacco smoke. The best thing smokers can do for their health is to stop smoking, and switching to e-cigarettes is one way to do this," she said in the news release.

"But this research suggests that a low-nicotine approach may not be the best for everyone or the safest path to a successful attempt to give up. First-time vapers should be prepared to experiment to find what suits them best and helps them to give up for good," Cox said.

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More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.

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