Reports on social media are filled with opinions, often unsupported by science, on the subject of vaping. Controversy abounds and everyone seems to have an opinion, but there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about e-cigarettes that need to be cleared up. Rather than looking to the latest Facebook post on the subject, a better source of information can be found in academic papers, peer-reviewed research and government reports. There is a new scientific consensus mounting around the contention that, while e-cigarettes may not be completely benign, they are far less harmful than combustible cigarettes, have fewer toxins and can be useful as a tool for smoking cessation. Let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions about e-cigarettes:
Myth #1: E-cigarettes give you popcorn lung. A serious respiratory disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, sometimes known as “popcorn lung,” is so-named because in 2002 workers in a popcorn factory contracted the illness because they inhaled diacetyl, a flavoring agent used in microwave popcorn. Diacetyl is banned from e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the U.K., and even in the U.S., e-cigarette makers and vendors are increasingly offering diacetyl-free options. A recent Harvard study was taken widely out of context and misrepresented on social media, causing some level of hysteria. The study looked at diacetyl levels in e-cigarettes, but never implied that e-cigarettes cause this disease. In fact, the study showed that when diacetyl is present in e-cigarettes, it is at a substantially lower level than what is found in a conventional cigarette. For those interested in diacetyl-free vape liquids, Vapor Authority offers a good selection of liquids from reputable vendors, which have been lab-tested and many of which do not contain this chemical.
Myth #2: Second-hand vapor is harmful. Second-hand smoke from cigarettes has long been recognized as a health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and 70 of which are carcinogenic. Second-hand smoke can be especially harmful to children, and CDC estimates that second-hand smoke caused more than 7,300 deaths from lung cancer every year from 2005 to 2009. A study cited by the National Institutes of Health showed that e-cigarettes do generate second-hand exposure to nicotine, but do not generate any second-hand exposure to the toxicants found in combustible tobacco.
Myth #3: E-cigarettes are just as dangerous as combustibles because they contain nicotine. It’s true, e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, and sometimes in equivalent quantities as to what is found in a combustible cigarette. But contrary to some persistent myths, nicotine does not cause cancer. The tar, and the many chemicals that result from burning plant matter, cause cancer. Vaping is safer because there is no burning involved. The Royal College of Physicians has noted that the harm caused by smoking does not come from nicotine – but rather from other components of tobacco smoke, stating that “…the health and life expectancy of today’s smokers could be radically improved by encouraging as many as possible to switch to a smoke-free source of nicotine.”
Myth #4: Vaping is not effective in helping people quit smoking. The American Council on Science and Health notes that, “Unlike nicotine gums and patches, vaping, colloquially called e-cigarettes, mimics many of the mechanisms of cigarette smoking, making them less psychologically stressful while easing people off of the nicotine that kept them smoking.”
Myth #5: Vaping targets underage users. A common claim is that flavored vape liquids target underage smokers. There is no evidence to support the contention that flavors attract underage users. Recent FDA guidance indicate that the use of flavors in e-cigarettes are seen as an attractive alternative to adults who are trying to reduce their consumption of combustible cigarettes. In fact, that same recent guidance has implemented stricter age verification measures for retailers, which will require flavored liquids to be sold in a separate, age-restricted area of the store – a measure that many reputable vape vendors have already implemented.
Myth #6: Vape liquids contain anti-freeze. This well-known and easily debunked myth is no less than fear-mongering and simply makes no sense. Many vendors have taken the extra step of implementing their own in-house labs to ensure the quality of their ingredients, and there would be no logical reason for anyone to put anti-freeze in vape liquid, or in anything else other than your automobile’s radiator. Vape juices do contain propylene glycol, a chemical which is approved by the FDA for human consumption. Just to make this perfectly clear, propylene glycol is NOT anti-freeze. It is an ingredient that is included in anti-freeze to make it safer. It is also commonly used as a food additive to help foods maintain their flavor for longer periods of time. You’ll find it in dry soup mixes, salad dressing and in most fast foods.
These myths continue to be perpetuated by interest groups who are ill-informed and who ignore the real science behind vaping, which clearly shows unbiased reports that it is safer than combustibles, and that those who switch from combustible cigarettes to vaping will avoid many of the health risks common to smoking.