Vaping low nicotine e-liquids may increase carbonyl exposure

Article 20 of the European Tobacco Products Directive (EU-TPD) limits the nicotine level in e-liquids to 20 mg/mL. After this regulation went into effect, many vapers were forced to switch to lower concentrations of nicotine which equates to more intensive puffing, and hence increased inhalation of harmful compounds. The study titled Compensatory Puffing With Lower Nicotine Concentration E-liquids Increases Carbonyl Exposure in E-cigarette Aerosols, published on Nicotine and Tobacco Research, Oxford Academic, looked into whether this more intensive puffing leads to inhaling higher levels of carbonyl compounds, namely formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, and acrolein.
Nicotine addicts who are looking to satisfy their addiction, will just increase the frequency with which they use their devices in order to match up the nicotine levels they are used to, leading to an increase in consumption of any other risky substances that the vapor may contain.
The above compounds were measured in liquids and aerosols from nicotine solutions of 24 and 6 mg/mL. Aerosols were produced by using a smoking machine which was configured to replicate the puffing patterns obtained from 12 seasoned e-cig users. Sadly, the Carbonyl levels in aerosols from the puffing regimen from the nicotine solution of 6 mg/mL were significantly higher (p < .05 ) than those in 24 mg/mL nicotine solution. “For the 6 and 24 mg/mL nicotine aerosols respectively, means ± SD for formaldehyde levels were 3.41 ± 0.94, and 1.49 ± 0.30 µg per hour (µg/h) of e-cigarette use. Means ± SD for acetaldehyde levels were 2.17 ± 0.36 and 1.04 ± 0.13 µg/h. Means ± SD for acetone levels were 0.73 ± 0.20 and 0.28 ± 0.14 µg/h. Acrolein was not detected.” read the study results.

Lowered nicotine does not equate to minimized harm

This study clearly indicates, that limiting the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes (and other tobacco products for that matter), does not equate to harm reduction. Nicotine addicts who are looking to satisfy their addiction, will just increase the frequency with which they use their devices in order to match up the nicotine levels they are used to, leading to an increase in consumption of any other risky substances that the vapor may contain.
“Higher levels of carbonyls associated with more intensive puffing suggest that vapers switching to lower nicotine concentrations (either due to the EU-TPD implementation or personal choice), may increase their exposure to these compounds. Based on real human puffing topography data, this study suggests that limiting nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL may not result in the desired harm minimization effect.”Study Abstract
“Higher levels of carbonyls associated with more intensive puffing suggest that vapers switching to lower nicotine concentrations (either due to the EU-TPD implementation or personal choice), may increase their exposure to these compounds. Based on real human puffing topography data, this study suggests that limiting nicotine concentrations to 20 mg/mL may not result in the desired harm minimization effect.” concluded the study.

When vaping patterns matter

Scientists such as Konstantinos FarsalinosRiccardo Polosa or Jacques Le Houezecoften explain in their public statements that it is preferable to increase or keep nicotine levels high and vape less, than to reduce nic level at any cost but increase the volume of vapor inhaled daily. Some economic data, however, clearly show that e-liquids in 6 mg / ml have gained the upper hand over liquids with more nicotine. This trend is accompanied by atomizers oriented towards vapor production, very low resistances and mods with increased powers, which consequently deliver more nicotine per puff. The popularization of direct lung inhalation (DLI) is also of concern to researchers, because if vaping offers a significant tobacco harm reduction, vapor is not completely free of polluants. Increasing the volume of vapor with very large puffs, exposes the user to more toxins, especially aldehydes. REACTIONS TO THE FDA’S TOBACCO PLAN ANNOUNCEMENT
  • Big Vaping companies are forcing vapers to increase power levels and juice consumption whether we want to or not. My first mod was an iStick mini [10 watt] and Aspire K-1 tank. The tank came with a 1.8 ohm atomizer with silica wicking that was rated to operate from 3.0 volts to 5.0 volts [5.0 watts to 13.9 watts] . The liquid I used back then was 12 mg /ml cigarette flavored. The setup worked great and I made a seamless transition from 46 years of smoking cigarettes to vaping. Things were going great until I had to replace the atomizer. Went down to the shop and bought some more Aspire 1.8 ohm coils and put one in. It produced almost no vapour in the 3.3 to 3.5 volt range I had been vaping at. When I looked at the new atomizer [with cotton wicking] it was marked 4.2 volt [9.8 watt] minimum so I increased the output to that value. The volume of vapour improved but the iStick’s 1050 mAh cell became exhausted in less than 90 minutes of vaping instead of the previous five or six hours. Today the only atomizer that Aspire makes for the K-1 tank that can operate at less than 8 watts is the 1.6 ohm and that one is becoming increasingly difficult to find. So are the small Aspire tanks and the iStick minis. It seems that all of the major vaping manufacturers have discontinued atomizers with coils that work well at five or six watts and the lightweight mods to power them. Big Vaping is leaving new vapers little choice but to vape 3 or 6 mg/ml juice at 15 watts or more with mods the size and weight of a brick. Big Vaping companies appear to be the primary cause of increased carbonyl exposure.