Scientist Slams Claim That E-Cigarettes Are One Million Times Worse Than Hong Kong Air

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Leading e-cigarette expert dismissed a study from Hong Kong’s Baptist University that claims e-cigarettes are a million times more harmful than the city’s air.

The study, first reported in the South China Morning Post, is raising eyebrows among e-cigarette researchers. “I am almost certain they made a mistake,” Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a cardiologist working as a researcher at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation via email.

The paper examined 13 types of e-cigarettes on the market, but there is no detailed description of the study’s methodology. Researchers found levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a group of chemicals released from burning substances such as gasoline or tobacco, at levels of 2.9 to 504.5 nanograms per milliliter. The first problem with the findings is there is no combustion at all in e-cigarettes.

Beyond this initial red flag, Farsalinos used his blog to point to other flaws in the study. “I made a quick search online to find the levels of PAHs in outdoor air in Hong Kong. I found a paper from 1998, finding levels of PAHs up to 48 ng/m3 (cubic meter = 1,000,000 (million) mL) in Hong Kong. So, the levels in outdoor air are 48 ng per 1,000,000 mL.”

Farsalinos added, “thus, the levels in the outdoor air in Hong Kong would result in total daily exposure of 960 ng. The levels of exposure from e-cigarette liquids (as tested by the Hong Kong university and assuming they are correct) are 9-1500 ng. This is from 90 percent less up to 50 percent more than exposure to outdoor air (or, to express it differently, 100 times less to ½ time more). So, the statement ‘1,000,000 times higher levels is a completely false.”

There are also incorrect comparisons made in the study between inhaling cigarette smoke and vaping e-liquid, according to Farsalinos. “How can you compare mLs of inhaled tobacco cigarette smoke with mL of e-liquid? It is simply a joke. The truth is that 1 tobacco cigarette contains by far more PAHs than what they reported they found in 1 mL of liquid (which is 1/3rd the daily consumption).”

Trying to explain how the researchers could come to such questionable conclusions Farsalinos wrote, “There are only two possibilities: either the scientists have no idea about what they are talking about, or they are deliberately misinforming the public and the regulators.”

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