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The study titled Compensatory Puffing With Lower Nicotine Concentration E-liquids Increases Carbonyl Exposure in E-cigarette Aerosols, published on Nicotine and Tobacco Research, Oxford Academic, looked into whether this more intensive puffing leads to inhaling higher levels of carbonyl compounds, namely formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, and acrolein.

Nicotine addicts who are looking to satisfy their addiction, will just increase the frequency with which they use their devices in order to match up the nicotine levels they are used to, leading to an increase in consumption of any other risky substances that the vapor may contain.
The above compounds were measured in liquids and aerosols from nicotine solutions of 24 and 6 mg/mL. Aerosols were produced by using a smoking machine which was configured to replicate the puffing patterns obtained from 12 seasoned e-cig users.

Sadly, the Carbonyl levels in aerosols from the puffing regimen from the nicotine solution of 6 mg/mL were significantly higher (p < .05 ) than those in 24 mg/mL nicotine solution. “For the 6 and 24 mg/mL nicotine aerosols respectively, means ± SD for formaldehyde levels were 3.41 ± 0.94, and 1.49 ± 0.30 µg per hour (µg/h) of e-cigarette use. Means ± SD for acetaldehyde levels were 2.17 ± 0.36 and 1.04 ± 0.13 µg/h. Means ± SD for acetone levels were 0.73 ± 0.20 and 0.28 ± 0.14 µg/h. Acrolein was not detected.” read the study results.

Lowered nicotine does not equate to minimized harm

This study clearly indicates, that limiting the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes (and other tobacco products for that matter), does not equate to harm reduction. Nicotine addicts who are looking to satisfy their addiction, will just increase the frequency with which they use their devices in order to match up the nicotine levels they are used to, leading to an increase in consumption of any other risky substances that the vapor may contain.

“Higher levels of carbonyls associated with more intensive puffing suggest that vapers switching to lower nicotine concentrations (either due to the EU-TPD implementation or personal choice), may increase their exposure to these compounds. Based on real human puffing topography data, this study suggests that limiting nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL may not result in the desired harm minimization effect.” Study Abstract

“Higher levels of carbonyls associated with more intensive puffing suggest that vapers switching to lower nicotine concentrations (either due to the EU-TPD implementation or personal choice), may increase their exposure to these compounds. Based on real human puffing topography data, this study suggests that limiting nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL may not result in the desired harm minimization effect.” concluded the study.

When vaping patterns matter

Scientists such as Konstantinos Farsalinos, Riccardo Polosa or Jacques Le Houezec often explain in their public statements that it is preferable to increase or keep nicotine levels high and vape less, than to reduce nic level at any cost but increase the volume of vapor inhaled daily.

Some economic data, however, clearly show that e-liquids in 6 mg / ml have gained the upper hand over liquids with more nicotine. This trend is accompanied by atomizers oriented towards vapor production, very low resistances and mods with increased powers, which consequently deliver more nicotine per puff.

The popularization of direct lung inhalation (DLI) is also of concern to researchers, because if vaping offers a significant tobacco harm reduction, vapor is not completely free of polluants. Increasing the volume of vapor with very large puffs, exposes the user to more toxins, especially aldehydes.

Reactions to the FDA’s tobacco plan announcement

  • Rojeans

    I’ve been saying this ever since ‘cloud chasing’ started to become popular. As a vendor myself, I’ve also been preaching it.

  • Murray_B

    Big Vaping companies are forcing vapers to increase power levels and juice consumption whether we want to or not.

    My first mod was an iStick mini [10 watt] and Aspire K-1 tank. The tank came with a 1.8 ohm atomizer with silica wicking that was rated to operate from 3.0 volts to 5.0 volts [5.0 watts to 13.9 watts] . The liquid I used back then was 12 mg /ml cigarette flavored. The setup worked great and I made a seamless transition from 46 years of smoking cigarettes to vaping. Things were going great until I had to replace the atomizer.

    Went down to the shop and bought some more Aspire 1.8 ohm coils and put one in. It produced almost no vapour in the 3.3 to 3.5 volt range I had been vaping at. When I looked at the new atomizer [with cotton wicking] it was marked 4.2 volt [9.8 watt] minimum so I increased the output to that value. The volume of vapour improved but the iStick’s 1050 mAh cell became exhausted in less than 90 minutes of vaping instead of the previous five or six hours. Today the only atomizer that Aspire makes for the K-1 tank that can operate at less than 8 watts is the 1.6 ohm and that one is becoming increasingly difficult to find. So are the small Aspire tanks and the iStick minis.

    It seems that all of the major vaping manufacturers have discontinued atomizers with coils that work well at five or six watts and the lightweight mods to power them. Big Vaping is leaving new vapers little choice but to vape 3 or 6 mg/ml juice at 15 watts or more with mods the size and weight of a brick. Big Vaping companies appear to be the primary cause of increased carbonyl exposure.

    • Alex Stacey

      far more accurate assessment than the one By Simon Rosselat, who thinks three or more years of cloud chasing, was ‘forced’ upon us by the much later implementation of the TPD.

    • Robert Harvey

      sorry but this is rubbish, nobody is forcing you to use anything, there are still devices available that work quite nicely at 10 watts and less if you choose to use them and you can still easily buy liquid with 18mg-0mg nicotine if you want it as well as coils that work nicely on low settings.
      I have been vaping for 3.5 years and personally although I mostly use a Subox mini that I use sub ohm and set mostly at 10-15 watts and very rarely exceed that with 18mg e-juice but also often use a Vamo V5 3-6 volts with 1.8 ohm coils, sometimes I even use a bog standard CE4 Clearomizer with it, I do what “I choose” and nobody is forcing me to use anything.
      I just bought an Aspire K3 that works great with 1.8ohm coils to use with my Vamo V5.
      what you choose to do is entirely up to you nobody is “forcing” you to do anything, what you do is your choice and yours alone and all the gear you need is available out there if you choose to use it.

      • Murray_B

        Thanks Robert but you have proven my point. I have always liked to vape at between 5 and 8 watts and that is becoming impossible unless I can find some old stock somewhere. My first mod worked great at 3.3 volts across a 1.8 ohm coil [about 6 watts] until they discontinued the low-power 1.8 ohm coil . Then Eleaf quit making the iStick minis and Aspire discontinued the K-1 tanks. Today a new vaper has no choice but to start at 10 watts or more and pay more money per puff than what I am used to. By next year Big vaping will probably increase the new “low-power” to 25 watts and operating costs will rise again.
        By the way my main mod which I use for 10 to 16 hours per day has a Cubis tank with 1.0 ohm coil running at 5 watts. I am still on the same coil I put in last December. How long do your coils last?

        • Robert Harvey

          well I find I am using less e-juice now then when I started vaping as I started off using 10ml daily and now only use 5ml but at £1 for 10ml for a good quality UK made e-juice it would still cost a lot less then smoking even if I was using 20ml a day. at the end of the day though vaping is about reducing the cost on your health and you cant really put a price on that as far as I am concerned.
          most of my coils I replace every month or two depending on usage but as I mostly use my rebuildable decks it only costs about 3p a coil whether I make my own or even use a premade coil but even the disposable coil heads at about £1 or £2 each its still not a fortune.

          I don’t believe it would be wise to use a coil any longer then that as the metal can degrade from the juice.
          I cant really see why anyone could quibble over the cost of vaping I have saved £1000’s since I switched 3.5 years ago.

          • Murray_B

            Robert, it is not useful to try and compare the real hazards of vaping with the largely imaginary hazards of smoking.

            I still remember what was written in the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1964 report on “Smoking and Health”. On page 86, “Men smoking less than five cigars per day have death rates about the same as non-smokers.” and, “For current pipe smokers (Table 5), men smoking less than 10 pipefuls per day have death rates very close to those of non-smokers. […] The over-all mortality ratio of 1.05 does not differ statistically from unity.”

            The main reason I switched to vaping was for ETR (Excessive Tax Reduction) so a rise in the cost-per-puff of vaping matters a great deal to me. My pension does not increase to compensate for growing government greed. It is not just about the money since toxic gas emissions from vaping also increase dramatically when power levels rise above about 8 watts. Since I do not have my own personal aldehyde meter and no shops seem to have them either I like to keep my power levels low. [There are several safe vaping power charts that indicate 8 watts is the highest safe power for small 14 mm tanks.] Those charts which have been available for years agree with what Dr. Farsalinos and the others are saying about vaping low-nicotine e-liquids.

            To me it seems that Power Vaping Lunatics are emitting toxic gasses like little volcanos.

            With regards to my long lived coil the wicking becomes black after a week or two of use so I clean it in an ultrasonic bath with water. That cleans the black off and after a couple of days of drying the coil is put back to work. It has been going like that for more than eight months now and that is the longest use I have had from any of my coils.

          • Robert Harvey

            the health hazards of smoking were not imaginary to me, the regular coughing fits that used to go on for an hour or two were not imaginary, the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath was not imaginary, the fact that a strong breeze of wind in my face would make it impossible to breath out was not imaginary.

            I knew full well that smoking was having a major impact on my health and I also know how much my health has improved since I started vaping.

            now it might seem to you that people blowing massive clouds are emitting toxic gasses but looks are deceiving and science has proved that multiple users blowing these massive clouds are blowing out zero toxins and when you compare that to one person smoking a cigarette who is blowing out 4,000 toxins you can start to realise that although not 100% safe vaping is much safer all round then smoking.

            sub ohm vaping is a funny thing, for example at the moment I am vaping at 15 watts and that might seem high to you but you have to realise that 15 watts on a 0.5 ohm coil is only running at 2.7 volts which is in fact less power then the 3.3 volts you used to use on your 1.8 ohm coils.
            sometimes however I use 1.8 ohm coils on my older mod that doesn’t work with sub ohm coils and run it quite happily at 3.3 volts.
            it is true that there are some mods that can reach silly power levels but I still like to keep my power level quite low, I find I don’t need to use the higher power range some people use to enjoy vaping but each to their own.
            vaping is a very diverse experience for each person and there is plenty of mods and tanks available from the good old ego battery with the disposable CE4 tanks up to sub ohm mods and tanks that you can run safely at 40 watts its up to you to find the thing you enjoy and do that.

          • Murray_B

            When I started smoking back in ’69 two out of three adults smoked some form of tobacco. Just over two years ago when I switched to vaping the smoking rate had fallen to something like two people in thirty. That is about an 85% decline in the smoking rate over fifty years. There was no corresponding decline in any “smoking related disease” so that proves we have been lied to BIG TIME!

            Heat energy is usually measured in joules [watts times seconds] and power is measured in watts [voltage times current]. Voltage is not a measure of power but with steady-state D.C. circuits if the voltage is known along with the current or load resistance the power can be found using a simple calculation.

            My favorite field mod is an iStick mini [10 W] with Aspire K-2 tank and 1.6 ohm coil. There are three settings I use with that coil; 3.3 V (6.8w), 3.4 V (7.2w), and 3.5 V (7.7 watts). With the same mod and the old low-power 1.8 ohm coils (which are no longer available) the power at the lowest 3.3 volt setting was about 6.0 watts and I would use it up to 3.6 V (7.2 watts). The 6.0 watt power level was satisfying and extended run time to sevenish hours on a charge instead of my current sixish. Both types of atomizer consume about 1 ml of juice per charge at the lowest 3.3 V setting. It is unfortunate that the old 1.8 ohm coils that worked so well at voltages down to 3.0 volts have been replaced with ones that need a minimum of 4.2 volts (9.8 watts) to operate. At the lowest recommended voltage the new coils exceed the maximum safe vaping power, as given in the safe vaping power charts, by about 20%.

            Sadly, new vapers today have little choice but to vape at over 10 watts and use 2 ml. or more, of liquid per day with any brand name gear. The shops don’t even provide access to readily available aldehye meters so users can measure how toxic their vapour is. It is as if Big Vaping is trying to get itself banned on purpose. Too bad the bans will impact vapers more than the Big Vaping companies that have caused most of the problems.

  • Laslo Fienstein

    Whenever any “scientific evidence” uses the phrase “may increase” it makes me ask – well if you’ve done the research, how come you can’t produce a definitive answer? And I therefore do not consider this to be helpful – it further muddies the water in a pool of generalisations and myths related to the vaping world/industry – I don’t need any more thank you – I’ve been vaping for just over 3 years and am now finding I can do physical activities that I thought were consigned to my past – I’m 59 and vape 3mg nicotine and have done for most of the 3 years. The vaping industry is not perfect – are any, but they are trying to learn about something that is still in it’s infancy – they produce what we ask them for – if it doesn’t suit our tastes, then no matter how it’s packaged, it is resigned to remain on the shelves. The biggest problem I’ve found new vapers have is uncertainty about how long a devices power will last? So having more power available means they can take that out of the equation. We know it’s not a “healthy” alternative to smoking, but it’s certainly a “healthier” option and should be encouraged.

    • Daniel Henschel

      In science, nothing is ever definitive. Everything is expressed in terms of probabilities, not certainties.

      • Robert Harvey

        not so, its a fact that if you put your hand in a fire you will burn it and that has been proved beyond doubt with science, if you were locked in a room where the oxygen was removed for 10 minutes you would die this has also been proved with science.
        there are many absolute certainties in science if you care to look for them.
        science has also proved that 50% of smokers will die an early death due to cigarette smoking, sadly the negative science surrounding e-cigarettes is all filled with either badly performed science that will never occur in the real world or speculation and assumption, science has yet to prove any definite link to anything that is anywhere close to cigarette smoking when e-cigarettes are used by humans.

      • Laslo Fienstein

        I accept that however if the results are expressed in percentages, we the great unwashed can make an informed decision whether or not to alter or amend our decisions based on the risk percentage provided. In the e-cigarette vs smoking debate I would suggest that very few smokers bother to read the latest research results however amongst the Vaping community each newly posted research findings are examined to see if they provide results that will help to inform those that have yet to switch to Vaping of the associated risks and the benefits compared to smoking cigarettes.

  • Alex Stacey

    firstly, it’s a cop out to suggest vapers were forced into anything, however …

    this write-up appears to expose how many e-liquid companies devoid of higher nic options, are putting profit before harm reduction.

  • Clint Henry Espiritu

    What do I do? I could even hardly inhale 6 mg of nicotine. So you are telling me that I have to use 20 mg? That is shitty.. I curse the people who popularized cloud chasing and sub ohm vaping. hardly any atomizers now offer 1.2 ohm atomizer coils so I have to sub ohm which increases liquid consumption and bleed money. Rip trippers should go to hell