After years of ignoring other research including that gathered by the California Department of Public Health which was never officially released, a CDC vaping study conducted directly by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed the truth about the chemical content of vapor. Almost since the beginning, opponents of electronic cigarettes backed by Big Tobacco seemed to be poised to crush the vaping industry. With headlines demonizing and fouling the reputation of ecigarettes, unfounded rumors and skewed studies seemed to flood in around vaping constantly, souring potential users desperate for a way to break free from the hold of tobacco. As a result, many users who could potentially benefit from living smoke free lives were frightened and terrorized away from the possibility of even trying vaping for fear of inhaling dangerous levels of formaldehyde.
In a controversial paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015, a team of Physicians from Portland State University claimed to have conducted a closed study of what they referred to as “e-cigarette aerosols” in which the burning of eliquid in consumer products was creating a formaldehyde gas. That said, even at the time, vaping authorities like Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos were criticizing the paper for being skewed and forcing the ecigs used to function at much higher wattages than normal causing the liquid to essentially combust rather than vaporize, which as the vaping community understands it, is the opposite of what the practice is meant to achieve.
Fewer Variables from Many Variations — CDC Vaping Study
One reason why the 2015 study was biased, was due to the controls and conditions under which the study was conducted. In detail, they didn’t study the normal habits or rituals of actual vapers, only the results produced by pushing the devices they chose for the study in a closed environment until they produced a tangible outcome they were satisfied with under what the researchers viewed as reasonable levels. Reflexively, the strength of the CDC vaping study, was creating controls and conducting tests in a different environment which would be expected to have high levels of second hand vapor, a vape shop.
The study was conducted after a responsible vape shop owner decided to address concerns about the health and well-being of their employees including if they were potentially being exposed to harmful chemicals. Though the results conclusively did detect measurements of formaldehyde in the atmosphere of the shop, they were low enough to be considered safe according to OSHA, which means that the amount was below the 0.75 parts per million parts of normal air. In addition, the conditions in which the NEJM study conducted their assessment were at a power rate of 3.3v and 5v respectively with the former being considered low voltage and producing zero formation of formaldehyde releasing agents.
While the latter 5-volt control did produce some result of formaldehyde formation in the NEJM study, there was no mention of repetitive vaping or the duration between the ten puffs measured. To explain, the CDC vaping study assessed the air in a closed vape shop environment with normal habits of consistent usage throughout an eight-hour workday. For those who have experienced chain vaping, or repetitive usage in a short period of time, you may notice that there is an increase in heat when you do not allow your equipment to cool down. Although the purpose of vaporizing liquid nicotine is to prevent combustion, when you continuously heat a metal element like an atomizer coil, the hotter it becomes the closer it is to reaching points of burning.
Even though most users vape at a predetermined or variable wattage rather than voltage, some advanced mods and power supplies may have multiple voltage options or variable voltage abilities. As a result, they are capable of taking vape juice and atomizer coil temperatures to higher than normal heat ranges which may bring it closer to combustion and the rate at which formaldehyde gas could be produced. Again, there are no medical conclusions about whether vaping is a healthier or less harmful option compared to smoking tobacco which is responsible for producing over 7000 carcinogens including but not limited to formaldehyde and tar which is a byproduct of burning tobacco and other materials considered responsible for many smoking related cancers.
How the CDC Vaping Study Diverges
One of the most important factors that the CDC vaping study took into account was the normal routine and settings of vapers with experience calculating their desired wattage, voltage, temperature and methodology for using electronic cigarettes and vape mods. Removing the variable of pushing rudimentary store-bought devices to levels well beyond their normal operating range does not recreate conditions that actual users experience regularly and served more as a tool of fear-mongering than passing accurate information to the public. In fact, the notion that no other published study has been able to recreate the New England Journal of Medicine study findings and the next results published were from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention which came up with far less intense findings serves as further evidence that the original paper has little credence in relation to the effects on normal vaping.
Bear in mind, there was a moment in time not that long ago where doctors were depicted by Tobacco company advertising actually endorsing smoking cigarettes. There is a long rich history of consumer products being misrepresented or even temporarily seen as beneficial like the sudden rise in popularity of eating daily allotments of chocolate, drinking more coffee or taking aspirin regularly as preventative medicine against a range of ailments or conditions (some of which have since been retracted or amended based on further study). Essentially, academic studies are conducted, the results are published and the news media picks up the coverage to interest the general public. However, without multiple studies there is often quite a bit of conjecture and assumption taking place with regards to the application and effects of consumer products.
As evidenced, it wasn’t until 1964 that the Surgeon General of the United States recognized smoking as a cause of lung cancer, let alone the other harm it poses to its users. If you keep in mind that the cultivation of tobacco was one of America’s earliest domestic commodities, that’s over two hundred years of continuous usage before being fully understood as harmful. By comparison, this CDC vaping study comes just over twenty years after the first ecigarettes were imported to the United States in 2006.
While the opponents of vaping were quick to criticize vaping’s contribution to society, they did so largely without the necessary evidence or study dismissing it categorically as just another tobacco product. Of course, the general public will have to wait patiently for further study of the effects and possible byproducts associated with vaping eliquid, but it’s clear that the interest and enthusiasm for the practice has inspired scientists and academia to dedicate further study of the mysteries surrounding the practice as it gains in popularity and the consumer vaping market burgeons. Meanwhile, this CDC study on vaping can serve as a cautionary tale on both the detriment that rumor and limited study can wreak on something valuable as well as a pioneering venture into discovering the optimum wattage for vaping moving forward.