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Study Raises New Concern About E-Cigarettes

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine raises new question about the safety of E-cigarettes.

For people who smoke high-voltage electronic cigarettes, the formaldehyde-induced cancer risk can be 5 to 15 times higher than for long-term tobacco smokers. That’s according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Indiana politicians are pushing for tougher regulations for e-cigarettes at the state level, and the Indiana Attorney General unveiled a proposal earlier this year that would include electronic cigarettes in Indiana’s statewide smoking ban.

Formaldehyde is widely used in building materials and as preservative for biology samples in lab experiments.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen that can cause leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Researchers found that when the “tank system” e-cigarette they used in the experiment was on the “high voltage” setting, an average of 0.38 milligrams of formaldehyde per 10 puffs of vapor was measured.

It means a consumer who smokes high-voltage e-cigarettes at a rate of 3 milliliters per day would inhale about 14.4 milligrams of formaldehyde – almost five times more than they would per pack of 20 cigarettes.

American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley says the experiment is completely misguiding because the researchers created a setting in the lab that the majority of e-cigarette consumers are unlikely to use.

He says consumers would experience a very harsh taste taking 4 second puffs on a high voltage setting.

“If I put a piece of steak on a grill, and I left it there for 12 hours, the resulting meat will be packed full of carcinogens,” Conley says. “But, it would be completely dishonest to go to the news media and to try and make it out that meat is full of dangerous carcinogens because no one would eat that piece of meat because it would be nothing more than charcoal.”

But Indiana Prevention Resources Center Research Associate Jim Wolf says that doesn’t give legitimacy to e-cigarettes.

“For those who are purchasing these vape machines with a high voltage option, it can’t be considered to be safer than cigarettes. There are dangers associated with it,” Wolf says.

Bryan Corbin, Public Information Officer for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says the study echoes other warnings about the devices. He says the research underscores that it's important for the state to enact regulatory measures as soon as possible.

"State attorneys general from numerous states have urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, but in the absence of federal action, it is imperative that the Indiana Legislature pass a bill this session to enact common-sense state rules before the next generation gets hooked," Corbin says.

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