Health & Studies

Fake Flavour Fears

The European Lung Foundation ignores science to promote fake fears over the flavours in vape liquids

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The European Lung Foundation (ELF) ignores science to promote fake fears over the flavours in vape liquids. It invents its own reality where “chemicals in e-cigarettes mix together to form new, unexpectedly toxic compounds”, following on from a recent history of attacking vaping as a harm reduction tool.

Speaking at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, Sven-Eric Jordt, an associate professor of anaesthesiology at Duke University School of Medicine, told online viewers that flavouring additives to eliquids somehow combine with “solvents” in atomisers to produce “new toxic chemicals” that irritate the airways. He claims these then trigger “reactions that can lead to breathing and heart and blood vessel problems”.

Not one hospital has reported an admission of a patient reporting breathing, heart or blood vessel problems relating to vaping in the past decade. Zero.

Jordt said: “Our co-author and analytical chemist Dr Hanno Erythropel and colleagues at Yale University found new chemicals in e-liquids and revealed that they are formed when components are mixed by manufacturers. We became concerned about the high levels of these new compounds that had not been studied in the past and decided to conduct toxicological tests.

The path the ELF has chosen to follow is odd as in the early days of vaping it was content to sit on the fence, frequently covering balanced studies [link]. As the years rolled by, it succumbed to pressure from delusional activists and the power of money, adopting a prohibitionist position.

Jordt added that from unrepresentative lab experiments, they looked at what happened when cells from the main airways from the trachea to the lungs were covered in flavouring chemicals:

  • Vanillin and ethyl-vanillin, responsible for vanilla and other sweet flavours
  • Benzaldehyde (berry or fruit flavour)
  • Cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon flavour)

He also hunted for “new chemicals”, formed after mixing the flavourings with propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG).

"The bronchi are exposed to e-cigarette vapour when the user inhales them into the lungs. We consistently observed that the new chemicals formed from the flavours and e-liquid solvents were more toxic than either of their parent compounds. The new chemicals derived from benzaldehyde and cinnamaldehyde were more toxic than the vanillin-derived compounds."

At no point did Jordt explain the difference between submerging cells in flavours in a petri dish and vapour in the lungs. Nor did he note that the volume of toxin is imperative in determining risk, the dose makes the poison. Finally, he ignored the comparative risks of continuing to smoke.

"Activation of sensory irritant receptors can increase the heart rate and, in predisposed people, can lead to an irregular heartbeat and higher blood pressure. It can also increase secretions in the nasal passages and throughout the lungs and airways, leading to coughing and breathing difficulties."

Shame he hasn’t read the work conducted by Polosa et al. demonstrating the clear benefits to asthmatics of switching from smoking to vaping.

The ELF reports, “the researchers were surprised by their findings”. Somehow this is difficult to believe, the only surprising thing is that they expect the findings to be taken seriously.

Prof Jacob George, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Dundee, said: “It is important to note that the concentrations of principle flavourants and nicotine in e-cigarettes is much lower in the EU than in the US. Data presented here is of in vitro cell work and not human clinical trials. Therefore, any extrapolation to whole system human physiology is tenuous at best. It is important to underline that no one should claim e-cigarettes are completely safe. In an ideal world we should not be inhaling anything other than oxygen into our lungs. However, as a comparative risk, they contain far fewer harmful chemicals than the 8000 chemicals in traditional tobacco cigarettes, the chemical interactions between which, we have not even been able to fully comprehend.”

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, Reader in Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College London, said: “No serious commentator maintains that vaping is completely safe, however it is much less dangerous than smoking because the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke are either absent or are present at much lower concentrations. A close eye does need to be kept on the constituents of e-cigarette vapour so that steps can be taken to reduce any risk from them as much as possible. Smokers who switch to vaping will derive a significant health benefit, with reduced exposure to cancer causing chemicals and improved blood vessel function. However, people vaping should try to quit in the long run as there is likely to be some risk, but not at the expense of going back to smoking.”


  • The European Lung Foundation – [link]

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Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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