Formaldehyde, polonium, toxic metals… What are the dangers associated with vaping? Our expert answers

Formaldehyde, polonium, toxic metals… What are the dangers associated with vaping?  Our expert answers

To quit smoking, the alternative favored by smokers is often e-cigarettes. This electronic cigarette, which can be found in different models in specialized stores, allows you to inhale a liquid, transformed into vapor. But what do these e-liquids contain? Are they safe? The answers from Dr Philippe Arvers, addictologist in Grenoble.

For almost twenty years now, the electronic cigarette has established itself on the market as an alternative to cigarettes. But what exactly does it contain?

Propylene glycol and glycerol, mostly

Questioned on this subject, Dr Philippe Arvers, addictologist in Grenoble, explains that a vape, and more precisely the liquid it contains, only contains two compounds. “The two main substances in a vape are propylene glycol and glycerol, also called vegetable glycerin, with a little alcohol sometimes, to thin the liquid. These are known products, which are found in cosmetics, for example“.

With one difference…”In an electronic cigarette, these substances are heated, around 350°C, this produces the vapor which will be inhaled.” adds the specialist. A temperature lower than the combustion of a cigarette, but which raises questions about the fate of these products, once heated and placed in contact with the cells of our lungs, as recognized by Dr Arvers. “The rise in temperature of these substances is indeed a question as to their fate once they come into contact with the lung cells” he concedes.

More worrying substances, such as formaldehyde or radioactive polonium

In addition to these two main substances, the liquids used in e-cigarettes can also contain nicotine. “But this cannot exceed 19.99 mg/mL due to European regulations. If the product exceeds this figure, it changes category” adds the expert. And that’s it? Not really. In an electronic cigarette, other elements, such as formaldehyde, radioactive polonium, heavy, toxic metals… can be found inside. “Indeed, these are substances that can be detected” confirms the addictologist. “But this remains in trace form. I think that a person who breathes the air of a large polluted city is exposed to much the same thing.” he adds.

How to choose your e-cigarette and liquid to minimize risks?

So how do you choose your electronic cigarette, which will contain a liquid to inhale with the most transparent composition possible? “There have been two AFNOR standards in Europe for several years. explains the specialist. “Vape distributors, who are 80% independent of tobacco retailers, can give the composition of their products and be assigned this standard in return. A sort of guarantee on the composition and labeling of the product, for the consumer. And a way to reassure him, in the face of the various controversies to which electronic cigarettes are regularly the subject.

Finally, is vaping dangerous?

We are starting to have a little perspective on the question, a little over ten years now” estimates Dr Arvers. But rather than mentioning the dangers, the specialist mainly emphasizes the benefits to be gained, in the face of tobacco consumption which kills 75,000 people each year in Europe. “We really need to reassure smokers about vaping, because some still think that it is more harmful than cigarettes, which is false. the doctor insists again.

We also know from recent studies that the degree of dependence of vaping compared to cigarettes is much less significant. Eventually, it is even possible to wean yourself off. While vaping and continuing to smoke a few cigarettes a day does not reduce the risk of death from cancer or any cause. We really need to advocate “zero cigarettes” among tobacco smokers.” he concludes.