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expert reaction to study observing the presence of Formaldehyde-containing compounds in e-cigarette aerosols

In a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, a group of researchers has analysed the levels of various chemicals in the vapour produced when smoking e-cigarettes, and gives estimates of levels of formaldehyde-releasing agents which are higher than other previous studies.


Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London, said:

“The study went searching for formaldehyde, one of carcinogens that are also present in cigarette smoke. It found it when e-liquid was heated to maximum and drawn via long puffs by a machine. In e-cigarette use by humans, overheating the liquid generates acrid tasting ‘dry puff’ which is unpleasant and avoided rather than slowly inhaled. When a chicken is burned, the resulting black crisp will contain carcinogens but that does not mean that chicken are carcinogenic. Without overheating the e-liquid, no formaldehyde was detected.

Vaping may not be as safe as breathing clear mountain air, but it is much safer than smoking. It would be a shame if this study persuaded smokers who cannot or do not want to stop smoking and contemplate vaping that they might as well stick to their deadly cigarettes.”


‘Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols’ by R. Paul. Jensen et al. published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday 21st January. 


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

Prof. Peter Hajek: “I have no links with any tobacco or e-cigarette manufacturers. My research into the safety and effects of e-cigarettes is funded by UKCTAS, MHRA and NIHR.”

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