College students not fazed by e-cigarette study

Janelle Taylor, Staff Writer

College students are speaking out about the New England Journal of Medicine’s reported finding of formaldehyde in the vapor of electronic cigarettes [e-cigarettes].

In “vaped” e-cigarettes, more than 2% of the total solvent molecules are reported to have converted to formaldehyde-releasing agents, reaching concentrations higher than those of nicotine.  This happens when propylene glycol and glycerol is heated in the presence of oxygen to temperatures reached by commercially available e-cigarettes operating at high [5.0] voltage, according to the journal.

Despite these findings, not all are quick to think all e-cigarettes are bad.

“The evidence out there today suggests that they are a safer alternative to cigarettes,” senior environmental and biological science major Canaan Sutton said.  “All studies conclude that they are biologically inert, and nicotine has negative health effects not directly linked to cancer.”

Vanessa Lyons and Sarah Cantu, both senior Physics majors, prefer regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes.  Lyons said she tried to smoke the e-cigarette, but that the regular cigarette was more comfortable during breaks.

Cantu added to that, saying she had heard a little about the report but does not know enough details to comment, but that she prefers traditional cigarettes, as well.

The biological and environmental sciences department head did not respond to questions about the use of formaldehyde in his department, but Sutton spoke of his encounter with it during class.

“My interaction with formaldehyde is mostly limited to sealed containers with preserved specimens, with no direct contact,” Sutton said.  “I would follow standard laboratory safety protocol.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] states formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature; it has a pungent, distinct odor and may cause a burning sensation to the eyes, nose, and lungs at high concentrations.  Formaldehyde is found in everyday products like fertilizers, cosmetics, carpets, cleaning agents and preserved foods.  The substance is produced by both human activity and natural sources.

“E-cigarette sales have risen steadily, and the tobacco companies have taken notice,” manager of Chaney’s Tobacco Station Rebecca Sego said.   “The study has not decreased sales and there aren’t any special regulations yet, but we always only sell to 18 and over adults. Most of our electronic cigarettes sales are from nonsmokers.

According to Sutton, he has “quite a few friends who smoke e-cigarettes and have decreased there nicotine intake overtime.”

The scientist that conducted the study does state that more research needs to be done into the effects e-cigarettes. The complete effects cannot be fully known until the proper time for exposure to humans is successfully tested, typically over a period of 10 to 20 years.