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.

"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.

More information

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

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