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According to a Science Daily report, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) produce highly reactive molecules that are associated with cell damage and cancer. The molecules, known as free radicals, may pose a health risk to users, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine. Free radicals are the main source of oxidative stress from cigarette smoke and the leading cause of smoking-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

E-cigarettes are being marketed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014. More than 250 different brands of e-cigarettes are currently on the market.

Most e-cigarettes consist of three components, which include:

  • A cartridge that holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals
  • A vaporizer, or heating device
  • A power source, which is usually a battery

Instead of delivering nicotine by burning tobacco, e-cigarettes provide it to users in the form of water vapor. In many e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The resulting aerosol or vapor is then inhaled – this practice is called vaping.

Are E-cigarettes Safer than Traditional Cigarettes?

While the perception is that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, there is no evidence that completely backs up this theory and little is known about the health risks of these devices. Previous studies have found low levels of aldehydes (chemical compounds that can cause oxidative stress and cell damage) in e-cigarette aerosols, tiny liquid particles suspended in a puff of air.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and mortality, responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Although e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they still contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug. Recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances.


  1. Gravatar for Arnaud

    May I add little bit more information to the article:

    "A cartridge that holds a liquid solution containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals"

    => Actually, they contain 4 ingredients:

    - VG (Vegetable Glycol): Vegetable glycerin has a number of valuable applications that include cosmetic products, foods, and as a replacement for alcohol in herbal and botanical tinctures.

    - PG (Propylene Glycol): Propylene glycol is used in a large variety of every day convenience and care products, such as in cosmetics and toiletries, food, animal feed, and pharmaceuticals, as well as in a number of industrial applications.

    - nicotine: addictive, but not dangerous or toxic at the levels in which it is present in electronic cigarettes.

    - flavors: flavors used in electronic cigarettes are all Food Grade, so we're basically always ingesting them.

    Now that we discussed the details in the composition of liquids, let's get back to the article and the main thing making it mis-leading for the general public: there is NO comparison with traditional cigarettes.

    Yes, there can be in some devices and eliquids certain emissions containing bad molecules, but these need to be compared to traditional tobacco which then proves that they are present in much less concentrations that cigarettes.

    Also, keep in mind that proven studies done by ASH in the UK and OFDT in France, prove that electronic cigarettes are not at all a gateway towards traditional tobacco but are actually quite the opposite.

    Finally, I'm a bit exasperated by the fact that your are a legal publication, please research facts, isn't that what lawyers are supposed to do ?

    Anyways, I hope that I've shed some light on the subject. Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.

    PS: Public Health England (a government agency) has also declared that ecigs are 95% safer that cigarettes. I can submit all of the information provided in this comment is anyone is interested.

    1. Gravatar for Jessica Hoerman
      Jessica Hoerman

      Dear contact from fivape – I did a little research on you to try to figure out who I am speaking to, but, alas, your website has no actual names attached to it so I hope you will accept my calling you “contact” as your website directs me to.

      I also attempted to read your website for actual peer reviewed papers that describe the chemicals you use in your vaping liquids but could not find any (although I am not fluent in French) so I apologize for this long reply as I had no real guidance to go on.

      I am not sure of your organization’s mission, but, based on the members of your group, it appears you are all owners of e-cig stores or manufacturers of e-liquids to be used for vaping. If this is the case, then I am at complete loss for why you think the public cares if your e-liquids are “food grade” – are you selling them to be ingested?

      Before I jump to conclusions, maybe its best that you clear the air – what “food grade” flavors are you asking people to light on fire and ingest into their lungs?

      Diacetyl and Diacetyl-substitutes are chemicals that are designated as generally recognized as safe “GRAS” food substance by the FDA because they are added to flavorings and ingested in very limited amounts. The FDA does not designate these chemicals as safe for lighting on fire and smoking – and you know that, which is why you make mention that these chemicals are “food grade,” which seems to have no relevancy to your member companies.

      In the US, the flavoring industry self-regulates itself through an organization called FEMA – the flavor and extract manufacturers association of the United States. FEMA is a self-interested organization whose members and decision makers profit from the use of flavoring and even FEMA recognizes the need for protection of individuals exposed to the chemicals their members sell.

      FEMA notes that workers need protection when these “natural and artificial” flavorings are heated in their workplace. The nature of your product is to heat these same flavors found in your E-juice. Have you done studies as to the safety of these chemicals when heated or are you relying on a “food grade” regulatory status, which designates these chemicals as safe to eat at certain levels? FEMA has not done these inhalation studies, which is why they note the following about these “natural and artificial” food grade products:

      “The use of flavoring substances and other food ingredients consistent with GMP evaluations, by FDA or by FEMA, do not require an assessment of potential inhalation toxicity because the “regulated” route of exposure for GRAS substances is ingestions as constituents of food (Hallagan and Hall, 2009). Hence, there generally have been few inhalation toxicity studies conducted on GRAS substances, including flavoring substances.”

      Who regulates you fivape? Are you asking the public to trust the word of someone who has financial incentive to post on blogs like the one I wrote?

      Yes, I am a lawyer, and this is a legal publication. I am bound to certain legal ethics that I abide by. What are you bound to? There is absolutely no government office regulating you so that you may sell anything you want, to anyone you want, and tell the general public that you use “food grade” flavors as a distraction from the fact that you are not asking the public to eat the vapor juice, but, in fact light it on fire and breathe it in.

      We are lawyers that represent individuals who have lost their lung capacity to a disease called bronchiolitis obliterans as a result of breathing in the vapors of chemicals such as Diacetyl and Diacetyl-substitutes unknowingly. We post blogs like this because it is heartbreaking to represent people that had no idea they were at risk by companies that are more concerned with profit than safety.

      Before you tell me you don’t use Diacetyl, I would suggest that you spend the time to read about the other 150 chemicals that FEMA explains as “Diacetyl substitutes” – you can start here -

      PS – After scanning the 90 page Public Health England document referred to in your comment, I find it hard to believe that no mention of the presence of diacetyl in flavours is made. Recent studies, including this Harvard study published this week ( note that the majority of tested e-liquids have found to contain at least diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin. I would like to ask the researchers of that study whether their conclusions change taking into account the risks of inhaling diacetyl.

  2. Gravatar for Joe Kramer

    Amaud, I am surprised that your entire response centers on what can only be called a personal opinion that eliquids are just the "lesser of two evils." An analogy: jumping off of a 500ft. tall building into grass is a "lesser evil" than jumping off of a 1,000ft. tall building onto concrete, but both can kill you. If you want facts to support the article's position, here are a few more in addition to what Jessica provided in her response:

    The FDA has recognized that Diacetyl is GRAS for "ingestion." (

    The Centers for Disease Control have unequivocally recognized diacetyl and acetyl propionyl as unsafe for inhalation, which is quite different than ingesting or eating it. Inhalation, I think we can all agree, is precisely what occurs when vaping eliquid. (

    On Tuesday 12/7/15, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published a paper that found an alarmingly high incidence of the previously mentioned harmful chemicals in eliquid. In fact, the study concluded: "Due to the associations between diacetyl, bronchiolitis obliterans and other severe respiratory diseases observed in workers, urgent action is recommended to further evaluate this potentially widespread exposure via flavored e-cigarettes." (

    I hope this response has helped you understand that instead of attempting to mislead the public, Jessica is simply trying to inform the public and protect everyone from a very real and life-threatening danger.

  3. Gravatar for Fergus Mason

    "Who funds and works for Public Health England?"

    "Public Health England has been criticized by many health experts for its weak evidence in this review of Electronic Cigarettes"

    No, it hasn't. It's been criticised by Martin McKee and Simon Capewell. That's not "many" and the "experts" is very much a matter of opinion. I should note that Capewell and McKee's views have been publicly disowned by the entire medical and public health establishments of the UK.

    "There are serious questions about the agenda of this agency as many say it is funded and run by individuals having ties to big tobacco."

    It would be ironic if you ended up getting sued for libel by the British government. A UK libel court would eat you alive for that statement. I'd suggest you withdraw it rapidly.

    1. Gravatar for Jessica Hoerman
      Jessica Hoerman

      Others have criticized it and after a scan of this 90 page document, I did withdraw my statement as it is not relevant. This document produced by PHE does not address the presence of harmful chemicals such as diacetyl and for that reason I find it misleading to say it is on point with any of my statements. This document compares nicotine levels and addiction. I would ask the PHE researchers to consider recent studies that note the presences of diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin in the e-liquids. Have they tested the health considerations of inhaling these chemicals? I find no mention of this in the article referenced by fivevape.

  4. Gravatar for Fergus Mason

    “Who funds and works for Public Health England?”

    It's funded by the British government, because it's part of the Department of Health.

  5. Gravatar for Fergus Mason

    "you are not asking the public to eat the vapor juice, but, in fact light it on fire and breathe it in."

    If you think e-cigarettes "light the juice on fire" then frankly you're far too ignorant of the subject to be commenting on it, let alone writing alarmist blogs. It's called vapour for a reason. Not smoke: VAPOUR.

    1. Gravatar for Jessica Hoerman
      Jessica Hoerman

      Vapour is inhaled. Doesn't change my criticism that relying on a regulatory status of "food grade" is completely irrelevant unless your industry is trying to sell the liquid for ingestion.

  6. Gravatar for Tom Pruen

    Might I suggest that a _little_ basic research might be called for before making statements like this:

    " Who funds and works for Public Health England? Public Health England was created in 2013 – so don’t make it sound like the organization you rely on has a long history of protecting the public. Public Health England has been criticized by many health experts for its weak evidence in this review of Electronic Cigarettes that you reference in your “PS”. But, worst than that – tell me who is on this organization? There are serious questions about the agenda of this agency as many say it is funded and run by individuals having ties to big tobacco." PHE is an executive agency of the UK Government, and is funded by the Department of Health. A mere ten seconds on Google lead me to this short but interesting blurb:

    "Who we are

    We employ 5,000 staff (full-time equivalent), mostly scientists, researchers and public health professionals. We have 15 local centres and 4 regions (north of England, south of England, Midlands and east of England, and London). We work closely with public health professionals in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and internationally.

    Public Health England was established on 1 April 2013 to bring together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations into a single public health service."

  7. Gravatar for David Dorn

    All I shall say is read these, then check UK libel laws... (Note date)

  8. Gravatar for Douglas Hicks

    "I would ask the PHE researchers to consider recent studies that note the presences of diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin in the e-liquids"

    These are not new issues, they have been considered for years. I'm sure they have taken these concerns onboard, as they are distinguished scientists. Why not ask them?

  9. Gravatar for Arnaud

    FIVAPE is the french vaping industry trade federation.

    Diacetyl is an aromatic molecule commonly found in the food industry. The aromatic notes of diacetyl are buttery and/or caramelized. This is why it is very often used in baking, all dough products, coffee flavors, chocolate, vanilla and caramel.

    This molecule has been singled out because it presents a risk if inhaled and can cause chronic bronchitis otherwise known as popcorn lung. As there is no risk in case of ingestion, its use is not limited in the food industry.

    The French electronic cigarette product standards (XP D90-300-02) prohibit diacetyl from being used as an ingredient in flavoring mixtures, but set a maximum limit of 22ppm (or 22ug / ml) as diacetyl is naturally found in certain fruit extracts, plants & nuts. It is found for example in coffee beans and chocolate beans.

    Professor Konstantinos Farsalinos, a greek cardiologist, was the first to make a global analysis on eliquids targeting diacetyl. His work concluded that traces of diacetyl may appear if the are less than 22ppm and not represent a hazard to health. Some recent studies pointing the finger at e-liquids containing diacetyl have reported more than 500 ppm of diacetyl, hence the need for these product standards and their implementation.

    Furthermore, let’s also keep in mind that electronic cigarettes are an alternative to traditional cigarettes, so any data on electronic cigarettes must be compared to their traditional counterparts. In this case, a single cigarette contains between 80 and 120ppm of dactyl. Please compare apples to apples.

    PS: I'm sorry for not having gone into too much detail about my explanations but I believe that this isn't the place to do it as I would be able to write books on this.

    PS 2:

    PS 3: I'm a standards person so what I say can be backed upon request.

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