The general public has a conflicted relationship with vaping, mainly due to enormous amounts of disinformation being spread online and in mainstream media. Allegations that e-cig vapor is laced with formaldehyde or that vaping leads to bladder cancer can sometimes lead many smokers to mistakenly believe that electronic cigarettes are just as dangerous to one’s health as smoking.
Nearly every time that a bogus news story goes viral across social media, one man almost always comes to the rescue in an attempt to save the often-vilified reputation of vaping. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Kallithea, Greece, is not the typical e-cig advocate. Farsalinos is a world-renowned scientist and a medical specialist in the field of cardiology. He, therefore, has a very special interest in tobacco harm reduction, especially regarding millions of smoking addicted patients.
Related Article: New Farsalinos vape study debunks old NEJM ‘formaldehyde myth’
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 480,000 smoking-related deaths occur in the United States every year. Another 41,000 deaths occur annually from exposure to second-hand smoke. The data is even more dire in Farsalinos’ native country of Greece where smoking among children ages 10-14 is very commonplace. According to statistics published by The Tobacco Atlas, about 52 percent of Greek adult men are daily smokers while an estimated 25 percent of the nation’s mortality rate is directly attributed to smoking.
Overview of the Farsalinos vaping study
After hearing thousands of people over the years expressing assumptions that vaping is just as bad – or worse – than smoking, Dr. Farsalinos and his research team decided to take action. Their latest research is based on the comparable measurements of carbonyl emissions derived from three specific products.
- The iQOS Heat-not-Burn device manufactured by Big Tobacco’s Phillip Morris International
- The Nautilus Mini electronic cigarette by Aspire
- The Marlboro Red combustible tobacco cigarette, again by Phillip Morris
Power settings of the electronic devices ranged from 10-14 watts, and the scientists tested both traditional and menthol flavored tobacco and e-liquid. Related aerosols were collected using “impingers containing 2,4‐dinitrophenylhydrazine.” Even the puffing protocols were standardized per something called the Health Canada Intense process, which is defined in the below excerpt.
The findings of the study entitled Carbonyl emissions from a novel heated tobacco product (iQOS): comparison with an e‐cigarette and a tobacco cigarette are readily available via the Wiley Online Library. According to the published report, the Farsalinos team discovered that the highest levels of associated carbonyl emissions occurred from the smoke of the Marlboro Red cigarettes. Comparable levels from the smoke of the iQOS system were approximately 91.6 percent less than the Marlboros, and the emissions from the vaping device were nearly undetectable.
“At the Health Canada Intense regimen, heated tobacco products emitted 5.0–6.4 μg/stick formaldehyde, 144.1–176.7 μg/stick acetaldehyde, 10.4–10.8 μg/stick acrolein, 11.0–12.8 μg/stick propionaldehyde and 1.9–2.0 μg/stick crotonaldehyde. Compared with the tobacco cigarette, levels were on average 91.6% lower for formaldehyde, 84.9% lower for acetaldehyde, 90.6% lower for acrolein, 89.0% lower for propionaldehyde and 95.3% lower for crotonaldehyde. The e‐cigarette emitted 0.5–1.0 μg/12 puffs formaldehyde, 0.8–1.5 μg/12 puffs acetaldehyde and 0.3–0.4 μg/12 puffs acrolein, but no propionaldehyde and crotonaldehyde. At more intense puffing regimens, formaldehyde was increased in heated tobacco products, but levels were three–fourfold lower compared with the tobacco cigarette. Based on the findings from Health Canada Intense puffing regimen, use of 20 heated tobacco sticks would result in approximately 85% to 95% reduced carbonyl exposure compared with smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes; the respective reduction in exposure from use of 5 g e‐cigarette liquid would be 97% to > 99%.”
The vaping industry and its community of advocates often tend to view HnB and iQOS systems as long-lost relatives. In reality, these alternative products are entirely different from vaping devices altogether. While the different devices may resemble one another in style and design, the similarities essentially end there.
IQOS and HnB technologies still rely on tobacco leaves to function properly whereas the e-liquids used in vaping are 100 percent tobacco-free. It’s the tar of tobacco that kills, not the nicotine.
IQOS and HnB technologies are also largely manufactured by Big Tobacco, which simply provides these massive conglomerates with another way to keep smokers addicted to life-threatening tobacco and potentially ruin their health. Meanwhile, if the research from Dr. Farsalinos is to be believed, iQOS and HnB systems also emit higher levels of carbonyl compared to electronic vaping devices which only further increases the health risks of smoking related death and illness.
To be clear, smoking is not vaping, but neither are iQOS and HnB systems. Smokers looking to quit need to be told the cold, hard facts. Of all the smoking cessation products currently available on the market, tobacco-free vaping is by far the least harmful to one’s health. Period.