E-cigarettes can produce harmful levels of formaldehyde that exceed those of regular cigarettes — but only under “extreme conditions”, a new report says.

The study, led by cardiologist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, took a closer look at how the popular tobacco replacement devices perform in ‘real world’ conditions. The findings, published in online journalAddiction, found that it was possible for a third-generation e-cigarette (a vaping device with variable power settings) to produce high levels of aldehydes — known to be carcinogenic to humans.

However, the study found that this would occur in a normal-use setting if a smoker deliberately and repeatedly “dry puffed” on an e-cig: a seemingly unpleasant experience that most would do their best to avoid.

Farsalinos explained: “Our results verify previous observations that it is possible for e-cigarettes to generate high levels of aldehydes; however, this is observed only under dry puff conditions, which deliver a strong unpleasant taste that vapers detect and avoid, by reducing power levels and puff duration or by increasing inter-puff interval.”

He went on to explain that although small amounts of aldehydes are released in normal conditions when e-cigarettes are smoked on a high power setting, the emissions are far lower than those in tobacco cigarette smoke. In fact, only by taking “dry puffs” on an e-cig — which one vaping blog says “taste awful, can make you cough, and can also have the terrible side effect of leaving e-liquid in your mouth” — would a vaper inhale more formaldehyde than a standard cigarette.

Moreover, the study challenges a report from January 2015 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM). Although the report found that e-cigarettes produced levels of formaldehyde that exceeded normal cigarettes several times over, it didn’t take into account actual vaping habits — but it was nonetheless reported widely in the media as a new health hazard for e-cig smokers.

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