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Science Alert: Experts Respond

Formaldehyde in e-cigarettes – expert responds

Posted in Science Alert: Experts Respond on January 22nd, 2015.

A new analysis of e-cigarettes has detected formaldehyde-containing compounds in the vapour the devices produce, raising questions about their potential health effects.



The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analysed the aerosol drawn from a typical e-cigarette at different temperatures and found that at the highest temperatures formaldehyde was detected at levels several times higher than those found in regular tobacco cigarettes.

Read more in coverage from NPR and New Zealand Herald.

Our colleagues at the UK SMC collected the following expert commentary. Feel free to use these quotes in your reporting. If you would like to contact a New Zealand expert, please contact the SMC (04 499 5476;

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, comments:

“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.”

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