E-cigarettes may not contain tobacco, but according to Dr. Esteve Fernández of the University of Barcelona, Spain, their emissions do contain nicotine, benzene and other carcinogenic compounds.
Dr. Fernández is the head of a project called TrackSHS, aimed at finding out the effects of inhaling emissions from e-cigarettes second-hand.
“Electronic cigarettes don’t produce combustion of tobacco – in fact they don’t even contain tobacco,” Dr. Fernández explained. “But because most users use charges containing nicotine they do produce tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.”
Dr. Fernández added, “We know that the aerosols from e-cigarettes contain nicotine that can be assimilated by bystanders exposed passively to the aerosol and also benzene and other compounds present in the aerosol.”
In previous studies, Dr. Fernández says that researchers have erroneously tried to study e-cigarettes as traditional cigarettes. The emissions from vaping contain entirely different compounds and are absorbed differently, he says.
The American Cancer Society warns that benzene is a known carcinogen and suggests to avoid exposure in every way possible. The most common form of exposure is through inhalation, but the chemical can also be absorbed through the skin.
Occupational benzene exposure is a considerable danger, as the chemical has been used in the past as a solvent and degreaser. Because it is used in a wide variety of industries and products, many people are unaware of the danger. Benzene can cause life-threatening diseases such as Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic anemia.
Dr. Constantine Vardavas of the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP) is leading a project aimed at obtaining more evidence on the risk of e-cigarettes as well. The program is called the EUREST-PLUS project.
According to Dr. Vardavas, there is not enough information on the impact of e-cigarettes to a person’s health. “It’s an area in which there is insufficient evidence and that is why we want to investigate how they modify smoking, whether the e-cigarette legislation to protect consumers and rules to protect non-users such as child-proof caps, actually have an impact on a population basis.”