E-liquids – “What If” vs “What Is”

Vaper’s Vortex

August 7, 2015


“In any case, finding similar amounts of TSNAs in liquid and aerosol verifies that the levels of exposure through aerosol inhalation are by far lower compared to smoking.”


Many vapers are familiar with the work of Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos. For those that aren’t, you can learn more here .

Farsalinos has published more than 30 studies on health concerns pertaining to e-cigarettes. The most recent example is a study published on Jul 31st in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The full text of the study can be found here.

In this study, Farsalinos et al. examines the levels of tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA) found in the aerosol produced by e-liquids. TSNAs are known to be very strong carcinogens found at dangerously high levels in tobacco cigarette smoke.

TSNAs are naturally occurring in cured tobacco (they are not present in green tobacco leaves). Manufacturers of high quality, 99.9% pure nicotine, remove almost all TSNAs with a sophisticated (and expensive) filtering process. E-liquids manufactured with high quality nicotine still contain TSNAs. But at trace levels that are a fraction of those found in cigarettes.

Increases in levels of TSNAs as the result of tobacco combustion is not fully understood but significant increases are suspected. The question addressed by Farsalinos’ study is whether or not the much lower temperatures of e-cigarettes produce an increased level of TSNAs in the resulting aerosol. Are the levels over and above those found in the e-liquid itself?

Three commercially available e-liquids were tested. And for control purposes, the Farsalinos study created a fourth “spiked” e-liquid by adding known amounts of TSNAs.

Analysis of the aerosols produced by the off the shelf e-liquids resulted in levels of all four TSNAs below the limits of detection. In spite of the fact that detectable levels of TSNAs in all three of the commercial e-liquids tested were documented prior to heating.  

Heating of e-liquids at vaping temperatures not only failed to increase TSNAs, the resulting aerosol actually had TSNA levels below those of the unheated e-liquids. Levels so low they were undetectable.

By contrast, analysis of the aerosol produced by the “spiked” e-liquid produced high levels of all four TSNAs consistent with the known amounts that were added.

Farsalinos concludes:

“Therefore, the analysis of TSNAs levels in the liquid would be enough to estimate the exposure of consumers to these substances, without the need to perform more complex and expensive analyses in the aerosol.”

I blogged last week about the media frenzy that followed the publication of a University of Southern California study funded by the NIH and FDA’s CTP. Dozens of major and minor media outlets carried the story. And continue to do so. Many with dramatic headlines irrelevant to the actual findings of the study.

Studies like the one done by USC’s Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science are the perfect stomping ground for media hype. Definitive conclusions are virtually impossible. Which explains why the study itself uses terms such as “suggests”, “correlated” and “positively associated”. All of which allows the media to spin the study any way they want to. Anything suggesting a threat to youth, regardless of how baseless it may be, is money in the bank.

This Farsalinos study was conducted by two M.D.s, a PhD in organic chemistry, and a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. The study presents detailed information on the questions they were attempting to answer, the methods they employed, the exact results they obtained and the conclusions drawn from those results. Media coverage was predictably a fraction of that afforded the USC study. Objective science is difficult to spin without looking and sounding like a fool.

Comparison of the two studies offers insight into the philosophical differences underlying the e-cigarette debate. The public health sector, opponents of harm reduction and virtually all federally funded research continues to base their positions on the question of “What if?” The scientific community stubbornly continues to base their position on the question of “What is?”

Which question will save more lives?


We are sincerely interested in your thoughts and comments! Please join the conversation and invite others by sharing this post! Thank you for visiting our site and we hope that you will come back often!

Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at dave@diyels.com .

The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.

5 thoughts on “E-liquids – “What If” vs “What Is”

  1. Well Dave,

    Once again you have given me something to think about. One of the first things that came to mind was the part of this study that spoke about the “spiked Juice”. The fact that all four of the substance’s were found in this juice made me wonder if tobacco companies are spiking cigarettes in this manor. If they were then it seems to me they are deliberately making their product deadlier then it needs to be.

    I also noted that this study is going to add one more nail to the coffin of those who continue to be our enemies. For many years I have been a fan of USC football and it saddens me to see that they have chosen to be part of the opposition when it comes to vaping and it’s benefits.

    As my loyalty must go with vaping, as this is the choice I made to help me control a life long habit that was slowly killing me, I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer be a fan of even a small part of something that is an enemy to what has saved my life and added at least a few years to it. So I gladly bid adieu to my favorite football team and embrace instead my faith that this product is the answer to all those who want to save their life and stop smoking.

    Once again thank you for this well written opinion and I look forward to more of the same from your desk.

    Your friend,

    Jerry

  2. Good morning Mr. Jerry! I’m a little later contributing to our ongoing discussion – crazy day yesterday.

    I must admit I had not considered the possibility of BT adding TSNAs intentionally. BT has proven repeatedly they will not hesitate to do whatever they believe will protect or increase their profits. We know they add more than 700 chemicals to cigarette tobacco. The majority are added to increase the addictiveness of cigarettes. I have never read of any addiction properties being associated with TSNAs. But there is no doubt of their carcinogenic properties.

    My brother earned his Master’s from USC and like you continues to be a big fan of their football team. I can’t tell you how much I respect your commitment to the health benefits of smokers switching to vaping. And for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t hold it against you guys for remaining loyal to the Trojans!

    Universities are a lot of things and perform a vitally important function for society. But when it comes to tobacco related research, the competition for federal grants is intense to say the least. Not surprising since the dollars involved are enormous. The CDC alone controls $5 billion of grants every year. NIH many more billions.

    The result of the dollars involved and the competition for those dollars results in the ability of the government to very strongly bias the structure of the research they fund and the results that are reported – the so-called “Golden Rule” – he who has the gold, makes the rules.

    Certainly university sports have their own political realities but life and death is not on the line. So…GO TROJANS!!

    1. Go Trojans!! has been my cry for a long time but considering the importance of vaping as a life choice change and the fact that USC is one of our biggest enemy’s I can no longer support any part of their efforts. As you have already indicated the amount of money involved is huge and the influence from this University is also huge. They are our biggest enemy and as I support life rather than allowing tobacco to kill 400,000 people a year I must continue to refuse to support any and all who appose vaping. It saves lives.

  3. WOW !! Very helpful post and outstanding article to E-liquids. Cheers author your awesome tropic and outstanding Content. I have no wards to explain my feelings about your post.

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