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E-Cigarettes: Myth vs Reality, a comprehensive list

Date: 2014-05-27

E-cigarettes have been a subject of much controversy of late.  First, they were a great way to quit smoking, then they were going to kill you with poisonous, antifreeze chemicals, then they were a harm reduction technology, then they targeted your children via some evil plot to addict your 4-year-old to nicotine, then they… well, you get the picture.  This topic, more than almost any other topic to grace the front-page headlines over the past 20-or-more years, is fraught with misinformation, disinformation, and dirty politics.  The anti-smoking community has taken on a life of its own over the past half-century and is now almost unrecognisable from the well-intentioned, fact-based institution it once was.  Nowadays, it seems more concerned with self-preservation in the business sense of the phrase than with actually fighting the health hazards associated with the tobacco industry.  So, in an effort to separate fact from fiction, here is a list of ALL of those so-called “facts” you’ve seen published all over the Internet and print-media:

-E-cigarettes contain the same toxic chemicals found in antifreeze:  Actually, the toxic chemical to which they are referring is ethylene glycol.  Polyethylene glycol used to be utilized in the manufacturing of some of the nicotine liquid found in E-cigarettes.  The word ‘polyethylene’ might sound similar to the word ‘ethylene,’ but polyethylene glycol is actually not dangerous to humans in the least.  Propylene glycol, which is now used in place of polyethylene glycol, works better and is actually much less dangerous than the already non-dangerous polyethylene glycol.  In fact, it’s been lauded by the FDA and many other organizations as one of the safest chemicals on the market.

-E-cigarettes still deliver nicotine, an addictive and dangerous carcinogen:  This could hardly be further from the Truth.  Nicotine is not now, nor has it ever been a carcinogen.  It’s association with tobacco and the many carcinogens contained therein has given rise to the myth that nicotine causes cancer, but nicotine, by itself, actuallypromotes health.  It has been shown to assist in synapse operations in the brain, thereby increasing our memory potential and other thought processes.  It has also never been proven that nicotine, by itself, is the highly addictive substance we have always assumed it is.

-E-cigarette vapor exposes other people to dangerous chemicals through second-hand inhalation:  Again, there are no “dangerous chemicals” in E-cig vapor.  All (I repeat ALL) studies of E-cigarette vapor, fumes, etc. have shown that the amounts of chemicals present in exhaled and sidestream vapors themselves are so low, they are hardly even measurable.  Additionally, vaporized glycerine/glycol is slightly heavier than tobacco smoke, and therefore does not remain airborne nearly as long as does the product of tobacco combustion.  The vapor also dissipates much faster than smoke.  So, with all of these facts, the threat of any E-cigarette vapor affecting anything around anyone who is actively vaping, even in an enclosed, crowded place, is nil.

-There haven’t been any serious studies about E-cigarettes yet:  E-cigarettes have been studied for over ten years now, and extensively over the last five years or so.  These studies have been done by reputable scientific organizations and have been done according to the strict standards of modern scientific experimentation guidelines.  There have actually been so many studies done on E-cigarettes, that it would be impossible to list them all here.  Suffice it to say, there have been more than a sufficient number of scientific studies perpetrated on E-cigarettes to avoid any accusations like this one.  The problem isn’t that there haven’t been enough studies, the problem is that none of these studies have succeeded in showing anything negative about E-cigarettes.  Those who throw around this statement are the same who have an interest in derailing the E-cig industry in favor of other, vested interests.  Their best attempts involve statistical manipulation like stating that “Dangerous Chemical X is present in E-cigarettes, and has been known to kill people.”  When in reality, that “dangerous chemical” is present at 5% of a concentration that would begin to present a health risk.

-E-cigarettes keep people addicted to cigarettes:  Well, the actualaddictive qualities of nicotine are unknown… so this statement is founded on an unknown premise.  However, the premise is immaterial to this topic, because E-cigarettes actually do the exact opposite of “keeping people addicted to cigarettes.”  The long and cylindrical shape of an E-cigarette device, and the fact that there is nicotine involved, are the only things that this technology has in common with tobacco cigarettes.  There are literally hundreds of thousands (if not more) testimonials from people who have successfully used E-cigs as smoking cessation devices.  This statement in just as ridiculous as saying that nicotine lozenges keep people addicted to cigarettes.  Obviously there will be those who try E-cigs and return to traditional smoking.  Just as there are those who chew nicotine gum and return to smoking.  We don’t blame the gum, we blame the person’s lack of adequate resolve.

-The fact that this industry is not regulated means that we have no idea what is being put into our E-cigarettes:  Actually, the E-cigarette industry has been doing just fine regulating itself.  It has successfully governed itself with its own series of regulations implemented by universally accepted standards organizations.  AEMSA (the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association) and CASAA (the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association) have both done an excellent job of governing the industry without unnecessary government intervention.  Also, I have yet to come across an E-juice manufacturer that does not fully disclose all ingredients used in their production process… so obviously, we do know exactly what’s being put into our E-cigarettes.

-Regulation of the E-cigarette industry is necessary to prevent children from buying nicotine products:  I challenge anyone to find an E-cigarette store (or any business that offers E-cigs for sale in any way) that actually allows children under the age of 18 (or 21 in some states) to purchase E-cigarette liquids or devices.  Or, I could just save you the trouble of searching and using up about ten thousand gallons of gasoline by telling you that your search will be fruitless.  If teenagers are buying E-cigarettes, they are buying them the same way they’ve bought tobacco products for decades; fake ID, older siblings/parents, friends with store employees, paying someone to buy the cigarettes for them, or (in my case) tricking the proprietor of a cigar shop into thinking you’re a tried and true cigar connoisseur so they never think to ask you for an ID.  My point is that no measure, short of imprisoning all teenagers in death… er, I mean work camps…, will prevent them from finding ways of breaking the rules.  And since all E-cig retailers are already preventing kids from buying their products, regulation becomes at worst a redundancy and at best a moot point.

-The exotic flavor offerings of E-cigarette liquids are designed to target children and get them to start smoking:  There are so many things wrong with this statement, it’s hard to know where to begin.  First, the prospect of E-cigarettes being designed to somehow sucker kids into smoking is about as asinine as suggesting that flavored fruit chewing gums are designed to trick kids into drinking alcoholic cocktails.  Second, from a business aspect, would it make more sense to target a segment of society that is prohibited from using your product?  Or would it be smarter to target individuals who have developed a need for an effective smoking cessation avenue over long years of tobacco smoking?  Lastly, a person’s tastes increase in scope as they age.  They do not narrow as this statement would suggest.  Kids and teenagers generally have a small number of foods and flavors that they adhere to like super glue.  It isn’t until we age that we begin to broaden our culinary horizons.  With this in mind, it doesn’t make any sense to suggest that the availability of manyflavors is designed to target children, when in reality it is designed to appeal to the wide palatal range of adults, whose tastes are as vast as the ocean.  As an addendum to this topic, I’d like to suggest (in the spirit of fairness) that if E-cigarette flavors are banned “for the sake of the children” we should obviously also ban all flavored liquors, vodkas, rums, hard lemonades, malt beverages, cocktail recipes, etc.

-Dripping style atomizers cause E-cigarette vapor to turn into formaldehyde:  There is actually no evidence of this ever having happened.  References to this supposed “research” are circular, and only refer to other news articles which refer to other news articles and so on, but never back to an originating study or peer-reviewed journal of any sort.  Chemically speaking, for glycerine and glycol to somehow magically change into formaldehyde would be just as likely as a block of cheddar cheese suddenly turning into a Ferrari via the wave of a magic wand and the utterance of the correct Voodoo spell.  And even if there are cases where one, individual E-cigarette or one, individual bottle of E-juice somehow produced traces of formaldehyde there are two things that must be kept in mind:  1. There have been cases when toxic chemicals have been found in supermarket beef or chicken.  These are mistakes and might possibly be grounds for a recall, but not a banning of all cows and chickens.  2. These “traces” of formaldehyde (assuming for the sake of argument that they exist) must still be compared with the known toxic levels of formaldehyde exposure for humans.  We’re actually exposed to formaldehyde all the time, but in such small quantities that our bodies very naturally metabolise said amounts and remain unharmed.

-E-cigarettes are a “gateway” to traditional, tobacco cigarette smoking:  Here is another statement that is actually the exact opposite of the truth.  E-cigarettes are no more a gateway to tobacco use than Naloxone is to heroine.  E-cigarettes are a “gateway” tohealthy living without tobacco dependency, not a “gateway” to the exact addiction that people are attempting to escape with the help of E-cigarette technology.  The term “gateway” gets thrown around a lot these days without any real attention being paid to what it actually means.  The term is actually just a metaphor used for dramatic effect, and has no set-in-stone definition for scientific purposes.  I could just as easily say that Ford Mustangs are a “gateway” to motor vehicle collisions, or that living in the South is a “gateway” to racism.  These are meaningless statements using a word that is meant to draw shaky, unfounded conclusions based upon fallacious arguments.

-E-cigarettes have been known to explode while being used:  My apologies to whomever blew their face off with an E-cigarette, but one solitary incident does not an argument make.  E-cigarettes have batteries.  Batteries, no matter what type, under the right (and extremely rare) circumstances can explode or melt down.  Cell phones have the same kind of lithium batteries as you’ll find in E-cigarettes, and we hold cell phones up to our heads and faces probably much more frequently than we take a drag off of our E-cigarette.  The majority of these supposed explosion “cases” into which I’ve looked actually involved carelessness on the part of the user, not equipment that was so horrifically defective, that it suddenly just exploded for no reason.  Many people charge their E-cigs on the kitchen counter, where water has a habit of accumulating thanks to the close vicinity of the kitchen sink.  Others leave their E-cigs in a 180 degree car, sitting in direct sunlight for hours and hours during the summer months.  An accident is an accident, and they are occasionally tragic… but they are not necessarily cause for legislation unless the number of occurrences warrants concern.  Cars, airplanes, cell phones, toasters, lawn mowers, computers, windows… all of these things are involved in accidents from time to time.  Do we ban them all, or do we accept the imperfect nature of life and try to avoid danger as much as possible without locking ourselves in padded rooms so we can protect ourselves from absolutely every single potential threat in the world?

-E-cigarettes are even more expensive than regular, tobacco cigs:  I’m actually not even going to dignify this one with comment.  Sorry, but if you buy into this particular statement, no amount of logical reasoning is going to affect you at all.

Unfortunately, no amount of reasoning and/or logical, scientific proof will deter the anti-vaping elements of society from their crusade against E-cigarettes.  The reasons for this are disturbing, and I’ll only briefly touch on them here.  (These subjects are covered more completely (and sourced/cited) in others of my blog posts.)  Many anti-vaping organizations are heavily vested in pharmaceutical ventures which stand to continue raking in profits from products like Nicorette, Chantix, Wellbutrin, etc, if the more effective E-cigarette industry is buried under bans and unreasonable regulations.  Others are hell-bent on bringing absolutely everything under strict government regulatory control because of extremist political ideologies.  Still others are so opposed to tobacco products, that their hatred blinds them to evident truths simply because of the fact that vaping “kinda looks like” smoking.  Government agencies have only become interested in the regulation of E-cigarettes since the industry became a multi-billion dollar pile of potential tax revenue.  And lastly, there are those who are simply opposed to E-cigarettes because of the material they’ve read/heard from all of the previously mentioned groups.  Not everyone will agree with all of the reasons I’ve just listed, and that’s OK.  I only mention them in passing and am not currently interested in offering proof on their behalf (that’s for other articles).  The purpose of this blog post is to debunk myths about E-cigarettes themselves, not to throw blame at the potential sources of those myths.

If you have an interest in E-cigarettes, either on your behalf or on behalf of a loved one, please take the time to consider that all of the frightening headlines floating around the Internet and news media concerning E-cigs might be just that… frightening words aimed at striking fear into the hearts of the unsuspecting.  I implore everyone to do research, and to be sceptical of news stories in general until you take the time to look into the subject yourself in order to make an informed decision, not one based on panic and dramatic presentation.  Renowned philosopher, Rene Descartes, practised what he referred to as “methodic doubt,” which essentially meant that he would systematically doubt everything until he could prove to himself what was Truth and what was falsehood.  This goes for everything you might come across, not just E-cigarettes.  We unfortunately live in a world where we need to be sceptical of everything around us, because there are too many conflicting interests and ulterior motives.  However, we fortunately have in this same world a means to access almost all human knowledge throughout history with the touch of a few buttons and a thirst for learning.  Take advantage of our gifts and blessings, before those gifts and blessings get regulated and banned as well!

 Sources (Complete List):

-http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/91/1/52.abstract

-http://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig11/fetters1.1.1.html

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20378585/

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22503574

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23033998

-http://sfata.org/resources/effects-of-nicotine/

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19241061?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=9

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1579636

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC526783/

-http://canadavapes.com/health/vegetable-glycerin-safety.html

-http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/08958379209145307?journalCode=iht&

-http://www.inchem.org/documents/sids/sids/56815.pdf

-http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2009-title21-vol3/xml/CFR-2009-title21-vol3-sec184-1666.xml

-http://www.dow.com/productsafety/finder/prog.htm

-http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/814701-overview

-http://casaa.org/uploads/Are_Electronic_Cigarettes_Safe.pdf

-http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/health-safety-e-smoking/1734-germ-killing-vapor.html

-http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/3/3/175.abstract

-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2714207

-http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2013/10/is-nicotine-really-as-dangerous-as-cyanide.html

-http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/idlh/54115.html

-http://casaa.org/uploads/Literature_Review_for_Glycerol_and_Glycols.pdf

-http://casaa.org/uploads/DublinEcigBenchtopHandout.pdf

-http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/08958378.2012.758197

-http://nypost.com/2013/10/23/the-lunatic-war-on-e-cigarettes/

-http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131212141948.htm

-http://ntr.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/12/10/ntr.ntt203.abstract

-http://en.esmokinginstitute.com/node/31

-http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=14&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CLkBEBYwDQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpublichealth.drexel.edu%2F~%2Fmedia%2Ffiles%2Fpublichealth%2Fms08.pdf&ei=BhJbU-meOpSksQTh8YDoBA&usg=AFQjCNFzS783QIKaOtOiF9p63cnJfFxlQA&sig2=a29qI8yaGt_9y0FgiIdLcw

-http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121007134831.htm

-http://www.livescience.com/17816-nicotine-combat-memory-loss.html

-http://flipper.diff.org/app/items/5340