Are e-cigarettes safe?
There is conflicting evidence when it comes to the safety of e-cigarettes and, indeed, heated tobacco products. One 2015 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested exposure to formaldehyde from e-cigarettes could be five to 15 times higher than from smoking cigarettes.
A separate study by Harvard concluded that e-cigarettes posed a potentially deadly threat, after researchers discovered that 75 per cent of flavoured e-cigarettes contained diacetyl, which has been linked to severe respiratory disease.
Despite this, the NHS recommends e-cigarettes as a method for people trying to quit smoking on its Smokefree advice website. In 2015, use of e-cigarettes was thought to have helped 18,000 people quit smoking in England.
A Public Health England review of e-cigarettes acknowledges that while vaping might not be 100 per cent safe, most of the chemicals responsible for causing smoking-related diseases are absent and the chemicals that are present pose limited danger.
Expert opinion is that using e-cigarettes is around 95 per cent safer than smoking.
With heated tobacco, however, an independent study found ‘heat not burn’ smokeless tobacco products marketed as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes might not be as harm-free as made out.
A study, shared in the BMJ, analysed a product by Philip Morris called the iQOS and aired concerns over the release of a toxic chemical called fomaldehyde cyanohydrin.
The authors concluded: “This study has shown that the iQOS system may not be as harm free as claimed, and also emphasises the urgent need for further safety testing as the popularity and user base of this product is growing rapidly.”