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(LEAD) S. Korea says electronic cigarettes contain 5 carcinogens

All Headlines 17:06 June 07, 2018

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SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's health authorities said Thursday that five "cancer-causing" substances were found in heat-not-burn electronic cigarettes sold in the local market, with the level of tar detected exceeding that of conventional cigarettes.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer under the World Health Organization classifies certain substances belonging to group 1 as being carcinogenic to humans. Substances are placed in this category when there is clear evidence of being harmful to people.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced the results of its investigation into three tobacco heating devices -- IQOS by Philip Morris Korea Inc., British American Tobacco's Glo and South Korean leading cigarette maker KT&G Corp.'s lil.

The five group 1 carcinogens -- benzopyrene, nitrosopyrrolidine, benzene, formaldehyde and nitrosamine ketone -- were detected in all the products, according to the detailed findings.

The amount, however, was between 0.3 percent and 28 percent of conventional products, the ministry said.

Acetaldehyde, a group 2 carcinogen, was also found in some of the three products, the ministry said.

"There is no reason to think that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes after comprehensively considering various research, such as that carried out by the WHO," a ministry official said.

Moreover, two of the three products contained more tar than conventional cigarettes, though the authorities did not identify the products.

"The amount of nicotine contained in e-cigarettes was about the same level compared with conventional tobaccos, indicating that e-cigarettes are not helpful to those wanting to quit smoking," the official said. Nicotine itself is a very addictive substance.

E-cigarette manufacturers have claimed that their devices produce lower levels of harmful chemicals compared with conventional cigarettes.

The three companies said Thursday that the latest finding is not a new development.

"It is not new that carcinogens exist in e-cigarettes, but the important fact is that the amount of carcinogens is dramatically lower," Philip Morris Korea said in a press release.

The company said that it is incorrect to simply compare the amount of tar between e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes since electronic cigarettes do not rely on the conventional process of combustion.

KT&G also said the same yardstick should not be applied for e-cigarettes when evaluating harmful substances.

This photo shows electronic cigarettes sold on the market being tested for harmful substances by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. (Yonhap)

khj@yna.co.kr
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