E-Cigarette Toxicity Increased By Higher Voltage, Certain Flavors

According to a recent study on e-cigarettes, the potential toxicity involved in using them varies according to several factors. Two factors explicitly identified include device output voltage and the composition of certain flavored fillers.


Scientists working with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute linked increased toxicity with rising output voltage from an e-cigarette’s battery. Elevated toxicity was also noted with fillers that had strawberry flavoring when compared to flavors such as tobacco, coffee, menthol, and pina colada.

Maciej Goniewicz, who is an assistant professor of oncology in Roswell Park’s Department of Health Behavior, noted that most of the ingredients used for e-cigarette flavoring had been certified as safe when eaten. Their health effects when heated and inhaled have not been previously studied. Based on the results of the Roswell Park study, certain flavor ingredients may make e-cigarette use more dangerous. Users of these devices should exercise caution until further research more clearly defines the relationship between flavorings and toxicity.

The study compared the impact that six different e-cigarette devices had on bronchial epithelial cells. The flavors used in the devices’ fillers and the voltage output from their batteries was varied to produce data. Cell viability, metabolic activity, and inflammatory response were all studied in a combination of differed voltages and flavors.

When exposed to aerosols from electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), metabolic activity and cell viability were depressed when compared to measurements taken from control samples. The release of interleukin, IL-6, IL-10, CXCL10, CXCL2, and CXCL1 all increased. The study also established that these effects were far less extreme with e-cigarette use than with the use of conventional cigarettes.

According to Goniewicz, the study clearly establishes that different ingredients and different products result in significantly different levels of cellular toxicity. The researcher suggests that it would be prudent to regulate both flavoring ingredients and device power output in the future.

The press release issued by Roswell Park was explicit in calling for regulation to address these easily measured and standardized features of e-cigarette devices and their fillers. More regulation would translate into safer operation. Goniewicz also suggested that e-cigarette users may want to take the initiative in limiting the power settings and filler products that they use.

Prior research has established that e-cigarettes have helped up to 18,000 UK smokers give up traditional tobacco according to Tech Times. It appears that in the future, e-cigarettes which use low-toxicity fillers and operate at low voltages will be preferred as smoking cessation aids. Hopefully, their benefit in this role will outweigh concerns over their overall impact on user health as their preferability to traditional tobacco smoking becomes ever clearer.