60 Millions de consommateurs: inventing new laws in mathematics, having no idea about e-cigarettes

By Dr Farsalinos

            At first I thought the title is too aggressive and I may regret it. However, I decided to keep it because there is no other way to present the reality of the 60 Millions de consommateurs presentation and interpretation of the results.

            Today the magazine released a follow-up article which provided more details about the methodology and the results. They partly confirmed the information previously presented in a French website, however they forgot to mention that between puffs they were continuously aspirating air from the environment. Therefore, their results represent what is present in 15 puffs plus in the airof the room, as I have previously explained. Their experiments measured 750ml of puff volume plus 6250ml of air volume, and they should have reported this!

            Even if we choose ignore the mistakes in methodology, there are further important issues that need to be emphasized. These are: a distortion of mathematics, an absolute ignorance on statistics, and a complete inefficiency in presenting and interpreting the results.

In their new article they have finally decided to present the results of their “study” in details. They acknowledge that their findings are similar to the findings of Goniewicz and coworkers, as I have already mentioned in my previous comment. However, Goniewicz mentioned in the peer-reviewed publication: “…levels of selected toxic compounds found in the smoke from a conventional cigarette were 9–450-fold higher than levels in the vapour of an e–cigarette.” Interestingly, the 60 Millions de consommateurs support that the levels are higher in electronic compared to tobacco cigarettes. How is it possible that 2 studies have found identical results but make opposite conclusions?

Yes, it is possible. If you ignore basic mathematics and statistical principles, you can say whatever you want. The French magazine reports the following.

For electronic cigarette:

The amount of formaldehyde was between 0.20 and 5.61 micrograms;

The amount of acrolein was between 0.07 and 4.19 micrograms;

The amount of acetaldehyde was between 0.11 and 1.36 microgram.

For tobacco cigarette:

The amount of formaldehyde was between 1.60 and 52 micrograms;

The amount of acrolein was between 2.40 and 62 micrograms;

The amount of acetaldehyde was between 52 and 140 microgram.

Is there any rational person out there who, based on these findings, understands that e-cigarette emits more toxic chemicals compared to tobacco?

The French magazine supports that their results indicate that e-cigarettes were more toxic. After thinking about it for few minutes I realized that the only way to support that is to compare the highest value in e-cigarette with the lowest value in tobacco cigarettes. This is not science; this is pure illiteracy in terms of understanding simple mathematical and statistical rules. This is an insult to common sense. No need for further comment.

Interestingly, they try to provide explanations for their findings. “Acrolein is produced at 180oC”, they say. Yes, when you heat vegetable oils, not a mixture of glycerol, propylene glycol and flavorings. Moreover, they support that they have measured temperatures of almost (but still, less than) 180 degrees in an ego-C atomiser. With or without liquid? And, where is this information presented? I am currently aware of only one presentation, by Dr Murray Laugesen, stating that vaporization occurred at 54oC. Moreover, they are trying to convince us that they have tested for the presence of dry-puff, by evaluating the density of the vapor and making sure that the wick was always wet. This is another example of their complete (and dangerous) ignorance about e-cigarettes. The dry puff phenomenon does not occur only when the atomizer is empty of liquid. It occurs when, during activation of the device, the evaporation rate is higher compared to the supply rate of liquid to the resistance. The atomizer may be completely filled with liquid, but still dry puff may occur. There is no evidence that the dry puff phenomenon occurs only when vapor density is decreased. I am confident that it occurs much earlier than that, and there is no method in detecting it besides asking an experienced vaper to test the device. I suggest them to read this study and educate themselves on the issue of dry puff.

Acrolein is indeed produced by e-cigarette use, at levels lower than tobacco cigarettes by orders of magnitude (and this is obvious even from the results of the French magazine). The reason for acrolein production is not the high temperature of e-cigarette activation in general, but the presence of hot spots in the surface where liquid evaporates. This may occur from uneven distribution of liquid or uneven re-supply of liquid during e-cigarette activation. These hot spots are probably so small that no sensor may be able to detect the temperature elevations. Moreover, they are completely unpredictable in their occurrence; that is why the amount produced may differ even between consecutive puffs (using the same device and liquid). Still, the levels produced are absolutely minimal compared to tobacco cigarettes.

There is no reason to further explain why the claims of the French magazine should be characterized as invalid, unscientific, irrational and ridiculous. I am really sorry for using such words, but the French magazine and the people who wrote the articles should be ashamed for what they are doing. It is a complete disgrace, a distortion of truth and science, a publicity game that is showing absolute disrespect for the consumers. Disrespect for the e-cigarette users who are intimidated and may relapse to smoking and disrespect for the smokers who are terrorized and averted from trying e-cigarettes (and they continue to smoke).

I have never been so aggressive in any of my comments. I always support the truth. I always say that e-cigarettes are not absolutely harmless. It is true that we do not (and cannot) know the long-term effects, although we have huge amount of data which allow us to make a safe prediction that such effects will be minimal. I accept the findings of peer-reviewed publications which have shown that some chemicals may be produced at very low levels. However, I believe it is my ethical duty to properly inform the public about this sensitive issue. And it is a duty to severely criticize and discredit “studies” that are used in an unethical game of publicity and produce nothing more than misinformation and intimidation. People who are playing with the health and lives of smokers deserve to be publicly condemned for their actions.


Dr Farsalinos is a researcher at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens-Greece and at Medical Imaging Research Center, University Hospital Gathuisberg in Leuven-Belgium. He is actively involved in research on e-cigarettes’ safety and risk profile.

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