TOKYO // E-cigarettes contain up to 10 times the level of cancer-causing agents in regular tobacco, Japanese scientists said on Thursday, the latest blow to an invention once heralded as less harmful than smoking.
The electronic devices –– increasingly popular around the world, particularly among young people –– function by heating flavoured liquid into a vapour that is inhaled.
It is much like traditional cigarettes but without the smoke, but it often contains nicotine.
Researchers commissioned by Japan’s Health Ministry found carcinogens such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in vapour produced by several types of e-cigarette liquid, a health ministry official said.
Formaldehyde -- a substance found in building materials and embalming fluids -- was present at much higher levels than carcinogens found in the smoke from regular cigarettes, the official said.
“In one brand of e-cigarette the team found more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette,” said researcher Naoki Kunugita, adding that the amount of formaldehyde detected varied through the course of analysis.
But opponents say the devices have only been around for a few years, and the long-term health impact is still unclear.
In August, the World Health Organisation called on governments to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, warning they pose a “serious threat” to unborn babies and young people.
Despite scant research on their effects, the WHO said there was enough evidence “to caution children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age” about e-cigarette use, due to the “potential for foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure [having] long-term consequences for brain development”.
* Agence France-Presse