No firm conclusions can be drawn on the safety of electronic cigarettes.
The findings in the 76 studies were often inconsistent and contradictory.
Serious methodological problems were identified and there is no long-term follow-up.
In 34% of the articles the authors had a conflict of interest.
Electronic cigarettes can hardly be considered harmless.
Published: 16 October 2014
Link to publication: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743514003739
To provide a systematic review of the existing literature on health consequences of vaporing of electronic cigarettes (ECs).
Search in: Pub Med, EMBASE and CINAHL. Inclusion criteria: Original publications describing a health-related topic, published before 14 August 2014. PRISMA recommendations were followed. We identified 1101 studies; 271 relevant after screening; 94 eligible.
We included 76 studies investigating content of fluid/vapor of ECs, reports on adverse events and human and animal experimental studies. Serious methodological problems were identified. In 34% of the articles the authors had a conflict of interest. Studies found fine/ultrafine particles, harmful metals, carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, volatile organic compounds, carcinogenic carbonyls (some in high but most in low/trace concentrations), cytotoxicity and changed gene expression. Of special concern are compounds not found in CCs, e.g. propylene glycol. Experimental studies found pulmonary obstruction after short-term exposure. Reports on short-term adverse events were often flawed by selection bias.
Due to many methodological problems, severe conflicts of interest, the relatively few and often small studies, the inconsistencies and contradictions in results, and the lack of long-term follow-up no firm conclusions can be drawn on the safety of ECs. However, they can hardly be considered harmless.