Electronic cigarettes have come under yet more scrutiny in France with the association “60 million Consumers” raising health fears about the devices, in a new report.
Earlier this year France’s Minister for Health Marisol Touraine struck a blow against the booming industry by banning electronic cigarettes in public places as well as restricting their use to over 18s.
The report by “60 million Consumers”, released on Monday, is also unlikely to go down well with manufacturers of the e-cigarettes after concluding that “they are not as safe” as they are made out to be and are “potentially carcinogenic”.
“Electronic cigarettes are far from the harmless gadgets that they presented as,” wrote Thomas Laurenceau editor of the “National Consumer Insitute” magazine.
“This is not a reason to ban them, but to place them under better control,” he added.
The association made its conclusions after testing 12 different models of e-cigarettes both disposable and rechargeable.
The device, which was first invented in China back in 2003 gives the user a similar sensation to smoking a cigarette. The battery powered, pen-sized products contain liquid nicotine that is turned into a vapor which is then inhaled.
Their obvious health benefit as opposed to smoking is that they don’t contain tobacco and other carcinogens found in cigarettes.
However perhaps most worrying for France’s one million users of the devices was the new report’s claims that, thanks to a new method of testing, they had found “carcinogenic molecules in a significant amount” in the vapor produced in the products.
“In three cases out of 10, for products with or without nicotine, the content of formaldehyde was as much as the levels found in some conventional cigarettes,” the report said.
Scientists also found traces of acrolein, a toxic molecule emitted in quantities “that exceeded the amount found in the smoke of some cigarettes.”
Traces of Acetaldehyde, another potentially toxic chemical, were also found, albeit at lower levels than conventional cigarettes and “potentially toxic” trace metals were also discovered in some of the models.
But Darren Moon, who runs e-cigarette store Vap Shop in Paris told The Local on Monday that e-cigarettes will always be safer than normal cigarettes, no matter what is in the vapour.
“The fact is, there have been no studies carried out into the long term affects of smoking e-cigarettes. We have no figures or feedback to go on,” he said.
“E-cigarettes are only supposed to be used in the short term by people who want to stop smoking. Many of the chemicals used in the liquid are organic and no matter what is in the product they will never be as bad as normal cigarettes.
“Once people have used e-cigarettes to successfully give up smoking, then we recommend they give up using the electronic devices,” Moon said.
The report also criticized the lack of a safety cap on some refills, given that nicotine is particularly toxic for children and potentially lethal if it is ingested in high doses.
Laurenceau said he had also alerted authorities to certain cases of incorrect labeling on the content of electronic cigarettes including the reference to the nicotine dose.
60 million Consumers has called on the government to act “in order to take into account the risks” associated with e-cigarettes.
The association is not the first organization in France to raise concerns over potential health hazards of smoking e-cigarettes with health experts previously expressing concerns about the compound propylene glycol, which is used in the liquid.
As far back as May 2011 the French health agency AFSSAPS advised against using the devices, saying they still contained nicotine, which even at a low concentration could lead to ‘damaging side effects’.
Tobacco kills around 73, 000 people in France each year. On Friday a report concluded that not enough was being done to tackle the rates of cancers caused by smoking, which were some of the highest in Europe.