E-cigs pose much higher cancer risk than thought: Japanese study


E-cigarettes contain up to 10 times the level of cancer-causing agents as regular tobacco, Japanese scientists said Thursday, the latest blow to an invention once heralded as less harmful than smoking.

The electronic devices — increasingly popular around the world, particularly among young people — function by heating flavored liquid, which often contains nicotine, into a vapor that is inhaled, much like traditional cigarettes but without the smoke.

Researchers commissioned by the health ministry found carcinogens such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in vapor produced by several types of e-cigarette liquid, a ministry official said.

Formaldehyde — a substance found in building materials and embalming fluids — was present at much higher levels than carcinogens found in the smoke from regular cigarettes, the official said.

“In one brand of e-cigarette the team found more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette,” said researcher Naoki Kunugita, adding that the amount of formaldehyde detected varied through the course of analysis.

“Especially when the . . . wire (that vaporizes the liquid) gets overheated, higher amounts of those harmful substances seemed to be produced.”

Kunugita and his team at the National Institute of Public Health, who submitted their report to the ministry on Thursday, analyzed several cartridges of e-cigarette fluid using a machine that “inhaled” 10 sets of 15 puffs.

One brand, which was not revealed, showed a more than 10-fold level of formaldehyde on 9 out of every 10 sets.

Another brand showed similar levels on several sets, but was not consistently that high.

Kunugita said the research showed e-cigarettes are not the harmless products many people assume them to be.

“We need to be aware that some makers are selling such products for dual use (with tobacco) or as a gateway for young people” to start a smoking habit, he warned.

In common with many jurisdictions, Japan does not regulate non-nicotine e-cigarettes, but nicotine e-cigarettes, or so-called electronic nicotine delivery systems, are subjected to pharmaceutical laws.

  • disgusted

    Where is the evidence published?

  • Al_Martinez

    All studies point to e-cigs, while not being safe, are safer than regular cigs (Japan Tobacco’s money maker). Best not to indulge in either habit.

  • Steve Jackman

    This is interesting, given that Japanese law MANDATES the Japanese government to own at least one-third of the outstanding shares in Japan Tobacco. Japan Tobacco has always been and continues to be a big money maker for the government.

    Until last year, the Finance Ministry owned over half the outstanding shares of Japan Tobacco, at which time it reduced its holdings somewhat to fund redevelopment in areas affected by the tsunami. I wouldn’t put too much credence into this study, since many of the studies done by Japanese researchers seem to have questionable connections and hidden agendas.

  • SD Don

    The fact they use the word cartridge leads me to believe they are speaking about disposables and then they don’t name the ones were tested and where was that e-liquid made, CHINA? How long ago were these devices bought, hardware has come so far in such a short time. What is the exact material of the atomizer? What was the grade of the ingredients of the e-liquid that was in these devices? No doubt there is an agenda by the Japanese government here on slowing down the the VAPING REVOLUTION in there country. In my opinion this was a hatchet job. Very POOR Journalism at best. Vaping is about risk reduction from conventional cigarettes. When governments get there share of revenue through taxation, this will all go away.

  • Jonathan Gallagher

    Thats why it says some brands. Not all of them. Though it can be for misuse of the device too.