On the heels of the FDA's new crackdown on e-cigarettes comes more bad news for aficionados of nicotine vapor: Though many assume e-cigs to be infinitely safer than their regular counterparts, the New York Times cites a pair of new studies that find that some e-cigs burn so hot that they can also produce carcinogens, among them formaldehyde. The first study, in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is out this month and points the finger at tank systems, which can have significantly higher voltages that produce higher temps and a more nicotine-rich vapor—along with the carcinogens. People "want more nicotine, but the problem is they’re also getting more toxicants," says one professor of oncology.
The second study largely confirms the findings of the first, the Times notes. While there's still much that's unknown about the nascent and heretofore unregulated industry, research still seems to indicate that fewer toxins are found in e-cigs over conventional smokes—to a point. One study found a marked jump in carcinogens when the e-cig voltage went from 3.2 volts to 4.8 volts, and e-cig aficionados who "tinker" with their systems for a richer vapor can be even worse. "If I was in a torture chamber and you said I had to puff on something, I’d choose an e-cigarette over a regular cigarette," says one study author. "But if you said I could choose an e-cigarette or clean air, I’d definitely choose clean air." (Read more e-cigarettes stories.)