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Theme 2: Project 7 – E-cigarette risk
E-cigarettes first appeared in the UK as an import from China in 2006. These were relatively low power and now called first generation devices. Since that time battery and other technological developments have led to the second and third generation devices that are more controllable, have higher power and longer battery life. Furthermore a large array of different products have appeared to generate nicotine-containing aerosol and cross over products have appeared that use tobacco either as a flavouring or by directly heating the tobacco to release the nicotine and flavours without causing combustion.
Those products that contain tobacco have to be notified to PHE as the UK competent authority under the tobacco directive and whereas e-cigarettes are notified to the MHRA. These products contain a bewildering array of chemicals as solvents, flavourings, sweeteners etc. in addition to nicotine. Some of these flavourings are used by the food industry and will have been tested for oral exposure but not for exposure by the inhalational route. In addition secondary materials from the e-cigarette need to be considered such as particles and other products formed by thermal degradation of constituents. Despite all of this e-cigarettes are considered to be a much safer alternative to smoking tobacco. However a risk potentially remains and this project will contribute to the further assessment of that risk using in vitro methods.