Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter stating that electronic cigarettes expose users to carcinogens when they are used at high voltages. This has set off a sort of firestorm, with many people wondering if it's safe to vape, but many of the same people who are worried don't fully understand what the study was all about.
So what does it all really mean? Let's take a look at some of the questions people have about this study.
First Off - What Does Voltage Mean?
In order to understand what the letter in the New England Journal of Medicine relates to, you need to understand what voltage is. An electronic cigarette has two main parts besides its mouthpiece:
The voltage is the measurement of how much electrical energy flows out of the battery to the atomizer when the electronic cigarette or mechanical mod is turned on.
Why Do People Vape at High Voltages?
All atomizers have a certain electrical resistance. This helps to regulate the atomizer's performance. Basically, the resistance limits the power of a vape pen by controlling how hot the coil can get. By increasing the voltage, e-cig users can overcome the resistance and increase the power of their vape pens. With high voltage vaping, the heating coil gets hotter, so vapor is more plentiful, thicker, more flavorful, and more potent.
What Was the Study about in the New England Journal of Medicine?
Now, onto the letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The letter shares the results of a study that was conducted at Portland State University. During the study, scientists tried to recreate what it was like to inhale vapor that had been produced at different voltages. First, they produced vapor at a specific voltage using an e-cigarette tank. Then, they drew the vapor into a syringe, similar to how air is drawn into the lungs. Then, they did a chemical analysis of the vapor to see what it contained.
What Did the Study Show?
The Portland State study found that at 5 volts, the vapor produced by the vape pen tank had traces of formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. At levels of 3.3 volts, there was no formaldehyde present in the sample. As a result, the scientists concluded that vaping at high voltages could potentially be dangerous, as it would expose body to carcinogens.
What is a Carcinogen?
A carcinogen is a substance that may increase the risk of cancer. Some carcinogens actually alter the DNA of cells, making them more likely to divide at an uncontrolled pace, giving rise to cancerous tumors. Others speed up cell division, or change cells in other ways that makes cancer more likely to occur. It's important to know that while carcinogens do make cancer more likely, they don't always cause cancer in every person. Two people can be exposed to the exact same carcinogen under identical conditions and be affected in different ways.
What Should We Make of All This?
The only thing that the Portland State study proves for sure is that more research is needed into the safety of vaping at high voltages. The test examined just one type of e juice, just one type of vape tank, and only one type of power source. It also did not use human participants. More of vape pens needed to be tested and human subjects will be needed to completely validate the conclusion of the scientists.
In other words, it's important to know this study occurred, but this isn't conclusive proof that high voltage vaping puts you more at risk for cancer than vaping at a lower voltage. Still, if you're concerned, you may want to stick to low voltage vaping to be on the safe side.