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expert reaction to two conference abstracts on chemicals present in e-cigarettes and how they combine

Conference abstracts, presented at the meeting of the European Respiratory Society, discuss chemicals present in e-cigarettes and how they combine.


Prof Jacob George, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Dundee, said:

“It is important to note that the concentrations of principle flavourants and nicotine in e-cigarettes is much lower in the EU than in the US. Data presented here is of in vitro cell work and not human clinical trials. Therefore any extrapolation to whole system human physiology is tenuous at best. It is important to underline that no one should claim e-cigarettes are completely safe. In an ideal world we should not be inhaling anything other than oxygen into our lungs. However as a comparative risk, they contain far fewer harmful chemicals than the 8000 chemicals in traditional tobacco cigarettes, the chemical interactions between which, we have not even been able to fully comprehend.”


Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, Reader in Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College London, said:

“No serious commentator maintains that vaping is completely safe, however it is much less dangerous than smoking because the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke are either absent or are present at much lower concentrations. A close eye does need to be kept on the constituents of e-cigarette vapour so that steps can be taken to reduce any risk from them as much as possible. Smokers who switch to vaping will derive a significant health benefit, with reduced exposure to cancer causing chemicals and improved blood vessel function. However, people vaping should try to quit in the long run as there is likely to be some risk, but not at the expense of going back to smoking.

“As there’s no information presented in these studies about relative concentrations compared to those seen in cigarette smoke, it is not clear what if any significance the findings have.” 



The abstract ‘Flavor-solvent reaction products in electronic cigarette liquids activate respiratory irritant receptors and elicit cytotoxic metabolic responses in airway epithelial cell’ by Sven-Eric Jordt et al. and ‘Differences in flavorant levels and synthetic coolant use between USA, EU and Canadian Juul products’ by Hanno Erythropel et al were presented at the meeting of the European Respiratory Society.


Declared interests

Prof Jacob George: No interests to declare

Dr Nick Hopkinson: Dr Hopkinson is the Medical Director of the British Lung Foundation And Chair of Action on Smoking and Health


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