Smoke without fire

Electronic cigarettes, e-cigs, have been seen as a healthier alternative for those who need a nicotine fix than inhaling the fumes from burning tobacco. Now, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine have thrown cold water on the idea that "vaping" really is a safe alternative to smoking, having demonstrated the presence of highly reactive free radicals in e-cig vapour. Free radicals are considered a culprit in smoking-related cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. "This is the first step," John Richie says. "The identification of these radicals in the aerosols means that we can't just say e-cigarettes are safe because they don't contain tobacco. They are potentially harmful. Now we have to find out what the harmful effects are."