An article on e-cigarette, published last weekend by the magazine "60 millions de consommateurs" is cited by all the medias since this morning, using its catchy title, promise of lots of sales and listenings!
However, when reading carefully, this article is based on a study of poor methodology. Why are the medias so hectic about it, without even taking the time to carrefully analyse what is written, and without referring to already published scientific studies of much better quality?
Nonetheless, "60 millions de consommateurs" is usually a very respectable magazine, doing very well in scrutinising in depth all consumer products. But this article, based on a protocol which I have read, is far from reflecting the usual rigor of this journal. In the article, a table summarizing the data indicates only the presence of assayed substances, mentionning in the text very significant quantities, but is failing to give a single number (since then, they have published some results on their website, see second table below). It is too easy to say something like this without an ounce of evidence. Other studies, like the one by Maciej Goniewicz et al, published in Tobacco Control this year (http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2013/03/05/tobaccocontrol-2012-050859.abstract), have effectively shown that some toxic or cancerigenous substances could be found, but generally either as traces, or in proportions considerably lower than in tobacco smoke (9 to 450 lower, see table below).
This article from "60 millions de consommateurs" is pretending to have found significant quantities of formaldehyde, acrolein and acetaldehyde, and traces of metals (nickel and chrome). But still not a single number or even digit. Moreover, the study protocol is not detailed enough to interprete these results. In Goniewicz et al study, the levels found were 9 to 450 lower than those found in cigarette smoke. But in both cases, the production of e-cigarette vapor, using a modified smoking machine, does not correspond exactly to what normal use is. In the present study, the authors mentioned 3 seconds puffs, every 30 seconds, but do not specify the volume of the puffs (according to the protocol, puff volume was 47.5 ml). In the study by Goniewicz et al, based on the observation of a few vapers, puffs were of 70 ml, lasting 1.8 seconds every 10 seconds. A rythme probably to fast, and a very large puff volume, more than in the present study anyway. It is then very surprising that "60 millions de consommateurs" could have found larger values of toxic substances than in Goniewicz' paper (according to the data in the tables, this obviously not the case!).
When it comes to the analysis of e-cigarettes, e-liquids and their labeling, once more, the methodology is very poor. This article has reviewed mostly products that are not sold in specialised shops (we have lots of them in France now), and that are not of good quality. The model used mostly by vapers is certainly the eGo type. It was not tested or even mentioned in this study. French e-liquids of good reputation were not tested too. Why these choices ? Concerning the nicotine content, it is known that the assays are difficult due to the dilution into propylene glycol and glycerine. Consequently, before any publication, the assays must be repeated on each sample, neither in this article, nor in the protocol are mentioned the number of measures realised on each sample, it is nonetheless a standard practise. Coming to the lack of childproof caps mentioned in the article, it is pure misinformation, most of the e-liquids sold in specialised shops or on the internet have such caps, if not all.
Nevertheless, yes, quality controls are needed, using consumer protection existing laws. This would eliminate poor quality products, and leave the good ones. But in any case, no one can say that e-cigarette is as dangerous as tobacco cigarette, as we heard today on some medias. This is misinformation at least!
To obtain a better control, we just need State's will and good consumer products surveillance. We don't need to involve health authorities. Medicalised e-cigarette would be a big mistake, it would leave it in its current form, with no hope for evolution. If a marketing autorisation like for a medicine became mandatory, the cost for innovation would be exorbitant. On the contrary, by controlling products, without making it a medicine, consumers' pressure would drive future products towards better quality. This is what we have witnessed during the last 2 years, and the fact that vapers discuss about it, and advise new comers on internet forums helped fantastically the products' innovation. In France, the AIDUCE association is a perfect example.