While less harmful than regular cigarettes, the electronic substitutes, the so-called e-cigarettes, contain toxic chemicals whose levels vary with temperature, type and age of the device.
According to a new study done at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, smoking e-cigarettes exposes the smoker’s lungs to a number of respiratory irritants and carcinogens, such as acrolein and formaldehyde.
Researchers also found the level of toxic chemicals emitted by an e-cigarette rises with the use of the device as well as with its internal temperature.
Variations in toxicity were also related to types of e-cigarettes, voltage of their batteries and whether they had one or two heating coils.
E-cigarettes were introduced in 2004, touted as an almost harmless replacement to regular tobacco. As such, they quickly gained wide popularity, especially among the younger generation.
Many long-time tobacco users claim e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking, but according to researchers users only switched to a less potent mixture of nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerine contained in the e-cigarette’s fluid.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
In August the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will start regulating the content of e-cigarettes, cigars, nicotine gels and other tobacco-based products sold in the United States.