High flavoring content in some e-cigarettes may be cause for concern

April 15, 2015
A photo of 117mm e-cigarette. Image: Wikipedia.

The levels of chemicals used to flavour some brands of e-cigarette fluid exceed recommended exposure limits and could be respiratory irritants, in some cases, suggests research published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

The electronic cigarette market has developed rapidly in recent years, with in 2014 estimated to be in the region of US$7 billion, but the of vaping remain hotly contested.

Artificial and other flavourings in e-cigarettes are mostly the same as those used in food and confectionery manufacture, and are therefore often represented as safe by e-cigarette manufacturers.

But as the US Flavor Extracts Manufacturers Association (FEMA) has pointed out, this safety relates to exposure through eating, and not inhalation. And the ingredients listed on the product labels for e-cigarettes rarely include the chemicals used for flavouring.

The researchers therefore set out to find out the levels and type of chemicals used to flavour e-cigarette fluid in a sample of 30 products.

These included two single use disposable brands in five different flavours of tobacco, menthol, vanilla, cherry and coffee; the same flavours in refill bottles; and additional flavours of chocolate/cocoa, grape, apple, cotton candy and bubble gum in refill bottles.

The flavouring chemicals totalled more than 1% by volume in 13 of the 30 liquids analysed, levels greater than 2% by weight in seven liquids, and levels greater than 3% by weight in two products.

Seventeen of the products contained the same vanillin or ethyl vanillin flavourings, suggesting that a small number of chemicals are particularly popular with manufacturers and users.

And many of the 'tobacco' flavoured fluids contained chemicals used to flavour confectionery.

Six of the 24 compounds revealed in the analyses were aldehydes, compounds recognised to be primary respiratory irritants.

Using a consumption rate of around 5 ml/day, as commonly reported on online vaping forums, vapers would be exposed to twice the recommended occupational of benzaldehyde and vanillin with the products tested, say the researchers.

"And toxic degradation products may be produced by reaction of the flavour chemicals at the high temperatures present during vaping," they caution.

They admit that their sample represents a fraction of the e-cigarette products on the market.

But they say: "Nevertheless, the results obtained are likely to be similar to what a broad survey would have revealed, and in any case, suggest that very high levels of some flavour chemicals are undoubtedly present in a great number of the thousands of products currently available."

Regulations are needed, they argue. These should include compulsory ingredient listing, limiting the levels of certain flavourings, and limiting the total permissible levels of flavourings, particularly as there is some concern that flavoured products might make e-cigarettes more attractive to young people, they suggest.

Explore further: Things to know about potential e-cigarette health concerns

More information: Flavour chemicals in electronic cigarette fluids, Tobacco Control , DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014—052175

Related Stories

Things to know about potential e-cigarette health concerns

January 29, 2015
California's top health official Ron Chapman on Wednesday slammed electronic cigarettes as a growing health threat and announced plans for a public awareness campaign.

California declares electronic cigarettes a health threat

January 28, 2015
California health officials Wednesday declared electronic cigarettes a health threat that should be strictly regulated like tobacco products, joining other states and health advocates across the U.S. in seeking tighter controls ...

Surge in e-cigarette use triggers new health research and calls for regulation

February 18, 2015
Sales of e-cigarettes, which emerged on the U.S. market less than 10 years ago, are booming, reaching an estimated $2.2 billion in 2014. But very little is known about their potential health risks or benefits. Scientists, ...

E-cigarette advertising makes one crave ... tobacco?

March 12, 2015
Television advertisements for e-cigarettes may be enticing current and even former tobacco smokers to reach for another cigarette.

Smoking out the facts in the E-cigarette debate

September 30, 2014
Electronic cigarettes seem to have become as ubiquitous as the vapor they produce. Their popularity has been skyrocketing over the past two years, even in the midst of a fierce debate about their potential risks and benefits.

One in four high school seniors now try water pipes

March 26, 2015
Despite declines in the number of youths who smoke cigarettes, hookah or water pipe use continues to rise among Canadian youth, a new study from the University of Waterloo reports. Published Monday in Cancer Causes and Control, ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

sk8terboy1963
not rated yet Apr 16, 2015
More and more negative attention given to a method PROVEN by millions of ex-smokers that actually works. I quit a 35 year 2 pack a day habit by vaping. It saved my life. The real issue is money. The government, CDC, FDA, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma are going to lose billions in tax revenue, bribe money, and death profits because of vaping. If smoking was really such a concern for public health, then it would have been banned decades ago. Period. This is about money plain and simple. Why offer somebody a safer alternative or cure when you can suck money out of them for the rest of their lives by just treating the symptoms? hhmmmmmmmm.......

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.