It seems like every day there’s some new study that comes out in the news to scare people about vaping.
A recent Harvard study estimated 65%1 of Americans think that vaping is bad for you.
I’m sure, if you’re like us- you’re getting a little tired of hearing the anti-vape propaganda not only on the news but from your co-workers, friends and family who watch the news.
We wanted to take the opportunity to write about some of the things that are being said.
Let’s take a step back and talk about smoking first. Smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.2 If you used to smoke, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s pretty much impossible to quit smoking. If you try to quit cold-turkey or use an NRT therapy like the patch, your chances of success are about 5%.3 Studies show that vaping can increase your chance of success to 50%.
So why is the news so full of anti-vape propaganda?
Why are the public health agencies and big health non-profits aggressively fighting something that could potentially save so many lives? Since smoking is still the #1 preventable cause of death in the United States4 (with obesity a close second), and one billion people now smoking worldwide5, why aren’t our governments investing heavily in a non-biased study and jumping on board?
Most of the anti-vape materials being published by government and public health include the fine print that the claims they are making are not conclusive. However what is very clear from almost every study is that vaping is (by far) better for you than smoking.
So, shouldn’t our government and public heath organizations be cautiously embracing anything that’s cutting down on smoking related illness and death? Is it possible that their concerns are not based on science or the good of public health, but other motivations (like tax dollars?)
Let’s look at some of the common claims you may have seen in the news as well as the facts. There isn’t a lot of balanced reporting out there, so our goal with this post is to show both sides of the argument. (You know where we stand, obviously.)
1) Claim: The impact of vaping on the body over many years or decades is completely unknown.
There is no way you can argue against this one, as vaping is still pretty new.
However, there are reports (like the one commissioned by Public Health England) that suggest that vaping is up to 95% less harmful to health than tobacco cigarettes6. So for sure, a lot more studies need to be done, but almost all health experts agree that vaping is unquestionably better alternative than smoking.
We all agree that more studies are needed, but the real question is- why isn’t the government ramping up efforts to fund unbiased studies?
2) Claim: Nicotine causes cancer
Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer. The tar that’s produced when tobacco and its preservatives are burnt cause cancer.
A smoking cigarette contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including more than 69 chemicals that are known to cause cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. Some of these chemicals are cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, tar, and poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide.7
Vaping does not burn tobacco (or anything for that matter.) There is no tar and none of these carcinogens.
Nicotine on it’s own is no more dangerous than caffeine. And guess what, nicotine has lots of positive effects. Now that nicotine is being looked at separately from tobacco, some are even calling it a wonder drug.8 It can be used to relieve and prevent a variety of neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s and schizophrenia. It might even improve attention and focus enough to qualify as a cognitive enhancer.8
One last thing to mention- is that most vapers choose to reduce their nicotine level over time as part of the process of quitting smoking. Pack a day smokers may start off vaping with 18mg and slowly work down to 6, 3 or even 0mg of nicotine. That’s right- you can vape without nicotine.
Whether you vape with nicotine, or without- the fact stands that nicotine is not carcinogenic and has not been linked to cancer.
3) Claim: there is no way to know what’s in e-juice
Unlike cigarettes, e-juice contains only a few ingredients: propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerine (VG), nicotine, flavouring, and sweetener. None of these pose any risk to your health.
One of the media’s favourite scare tactics is to talk about the dangers of e-juice that contains diacetyl. Diacetyl is used in food to give butter, margarine, shortening, oil sprays, flavorings and other food products a buttery taste- and it is sometimes used as a flavouring in butter flavoured e-juice.
The media loves to talk about how e-juice containing diacetyl “may” cause harm to the respiratory system over time, and a condition called “popcorn lung” (bronchiolitis obliterans.) What these reports failed to mention is that regular cigarettes also contain diacetyl, and smoking a cigarette will produce a 750% higher exposure level than vaping.9 It gets even better because according to Critical Reviews in Toxicology “smoking has not been shown to be a risk factor for bronchiolitis.”9 So, if the cigarette smokers are going to be fine with a 750% higher exposure level, we think it’s safe to say that the risk to vaping may be more than a bit sensationalized.
Now, let’s talk about the ingredients in cigarettes. Oh wait, we can’t because no one has any idea what’s in them! Many government sites (including the FDA) claim that there are over 7000 chemicals in cigarettes. But they’re only able to publish an “established” list of 93!
I think we’ll stick to vaping.
4) Claim: E-Juice contains antifreeze
Yes, the food additive Propylene glycol (PG) is sometimes used as an ingredient for antifreeze. Before you work yourself into a media-induced frenzy, do yourself a quick favour and read up on the facts.
PG is an FDA approved food additive that is used to make antifreeze safer in case of accidental ingestion, more environmentally friendly and it produces superior performance over what was previously used – ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is very poisonous- it’s slightly sweet taste was poisoning thousands of children and pets. As a solution, non-toxic PG based anti-freeze solutions were produced.10
PG is recognized as safe for human consumption by the FDA, and can be found in a variety of products on the market such as margarine, ice-cream, toothpaste, wine, dog food, mouthwash, cough syrup, and it’s also used in inhalers.
A very small percentage of people may have sensitivity to PG.11 For those vapers, 100% VG e-juice may be a better option.
(If you think you might be sensitive to PG, do us a favour and steer clear of ice-cream and wine as well… more for the rest of us!)
5) Claim: Vaping is a gateway to smoking cigarettes
The number of smokers is going down. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC found that smoking by adults declined to an all time low of 15% in the first quarter of 2015 (that’s a decrease from 16% in 2014 and 19% in 2010).12
Most vapers are almost exclusively adults who used to smoke.13
The number of American teens that smoke has continued to decline14, reaching the lowest rate on record last year. These trends are not consistent with warnings that the rising popularity of e-cigarettes are going to encourage consumption of cigarettes.
A more important question for those who worry about teenagers vaping is what would have happened if vaping didn’t exist. Would those teenagers have ended up as smokers?
6) Claim: flavoured e-juice is a way to market vaping to children
The assumption that adults would never enjoy flavours is just idiotic. Whoever makes these claims should maybe also look into banning flavoured alcohol.
Maybe we should also ban delicious food, so kids don’t get obese.
While many smokers start out looking for something that tastes like their favourite cigarettes, over the long term, most of us end up switching to flavour once our taste buds come back. Tasty flavours keep vapers from smoking. Isn’t that the whole point of vaping?
Many surveys show that a lot of vapers don’t feel they would have been as successful with vaping if there hadn’t been flavour options.15
7) Claim: Vaping is “renormalizing” smoking and making it more acceptable
Cigarette sales are down and quit attempts are up. Looks to us like people are moving away from tobacco, not to it.
A few key things to keep in mind:
The number of vapers who never smoked is almost non-existent. One study estimated the number of non-smokers who are now vapers to be 0.2%.16 Not even 1 percent.
The majority of vapers do not use cig-a-likes. If you’re going to argue that vaping normalizes smoking, that argument has to be based on the assumption that people will confuse the two. The majority of vapers use a device that looks nothing like a cigarette. And vaping definitely does not smell anything like smoking.
Let’s bring up that Harvard study again- 65%1 of Americans think that vaping is bad for you. (If you vape, I’m sure you’ve experienced the negative looks and fake coughs, even though e-cig vapour contains less volatile organic compounds (VOC) than normal indoor air17, dissipates almost instantly, and smells a million times better. From personal experience, the majority of non-smokers are very judgemental about vaping and do not understand the facts at all.
Finally, the fact that vaping was invented and is popular is completely dependent on the fact that smoking is seen as negative in society. The whole purpose of vaping is to help people quit smoking, so how can vaping possibly normalize it?
We believe that the only affect that seeing people vaping is having, is to make vaping seem more normal. Considering the health benefits of quitting smoking- we think this is a good thing.
8) Vape mods are dangerous weapons that could explode unexpectedly any time
The media loves these stories.
It’s currently estimated that there are 60 million vapers around the world. Between 2009 and 2014 there were 25 reported cases of vape battery explosions18. You probably heard about each and every one of those cases on the news, because they make a really juicy story.
Out of these 25 incidents, 20 cases occurred while the batteries were charging. This means that the chance of your vape exploding while you’re using it is roughly 0.0000001%.
If you’re a smoker, your chance of dying from a smoke related disease is 66%19. We think we’ll take the exploding mod odds, thank you very much.
Let’s be clear- a mod is an electronic piece of equipment with a powerful battery. Similar to driving a high performance vehicle, if you aren’t taking the time to educate yourself on proper operation and safety precautions, you’re putting yourself at risk.
In a nutshell, take care of your battery. Don’t overcharge it, don’t let it touch metal objects, and know your max discharge rate. Please do us a favour and just steer clear of mech mods. Check your coils with an ohm reader if you’re sub-ohming and make sure your air holes aren’t blocked. If you vape and you don’t know what some or any of this means, please, please educate yourself. And if you’re going to let your teenaged kid vape, educate yourself and then educate him or her. Would you let them drive your sports car without driver’s education or a license?
And if you own a vape shop, please educate your new customers and don’t sell them devices you know they don’t understand how to use. We can all play a part in reducing this already non-existent risk.
The unanswered question
Why do all these government and health agencies want to make vaping look bad? Are the leaders of these health bodies really this ignorant? Or is it possible that they more concerned more with the collection of cigarette taxes than with saving smokers?
Let’s look at countries like Brazil, Uruguay and Singapore where vaping has been banned without any conclusive scientific evidence to back up the negative claims. It’s interesting to note that collectively, just these three countries alone make around 4 billion per year on tobacco cigarette taxations. In the UK around 14 billion is made through tobacco taxations. Without all the addicted tobacco smokers, governments would lose out on a key revenue stream.
We’re going to guess that this loss of revenue also scares proclaimed public-health organizations that don’t want their share of tax dollar funding to go down. The American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Americans or non-smokers Rights (ironically), are some of the most active anti-vaping advocates. We can only guess that at the end of the day they feel that it’s more important to make money from consumers and businesses, not to eliminate smoking. Vaping helps people to quit smoking. Shouldn’t these “health” organizations be cautiously backing up something that supports their own mandate? Something just isn’t adding up.
Lastly, let’s not forget the $96 billion in bonds that tobacco companies made to U.S. states in a legal settlement in 1998. Under the agreement made between the biggest U.S. tobacco companies and 46 U.S. states, the tobacco companies make annual payments to the states using a formula tied to U.S. tobacco shipments. This accord ended years of litigation from the states, which were looking to recoup healthcare costs related to treating illnesses caused by smoking.
The states with the highest populations, such as California and New York, are owed the most. As tobacco shipments decline, so do the payments they receive. It’s currently predicted that 65-80% of the tobacco companies are headed towards default. Is it a coincidence that the greatest opposition to vaping is coming from California and New York? It really does seem odd, doesn’t it?
Vaping appears to be the most successful smoking cessation product ever invented. We can’t think of any possible reason why government and public health groups are trying to skew public perception other than the financial benefits they reap from keeping the population addicted to smoking.
Yes, more study is needed to determine the long term effects of vaping on our health, but our hope is that if we put what’s important- helping over one billion smokers worldwide to quit- above the needs of governments and government funded organizations to make money- then perhaps we can get the funding that’s needed for conclusive studies.
Let’s continue to save lives with vaping.
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1. Harvard – Americans’ Perspective on E-Cigarettes ↩
2. American Cancer Society – Tobacco Related Cancers Fact Sheet ↩
3. Medical News Today – E-cigarettes helped up to 22,000… ↩
4. CDC – Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking ↩
5. WHO – Tobacco Fact Sheet #339 ↩
6. Public Health England – E-Cigarette Study ↩
7. American Lung Association – What’s in a Cigarette ↩
8. Discover Magazine – Nicotine, the Wonder Drug? ↩
9. The Daily Caller – Diacetyl Levels 750 Times Less… ↩
10. Scientific American – Safer Antifreeze Made from Food Additive… ↩
11. E-cigarette Politics – PG Sensitivity ↩
12. CDC – Trends in Current Cigarette Smoking ↩
13. NPR – Most E-Cigarette Users Are… ↩
14. CDC – Youth and Tobacco Use ↩
15. MDPI – Impact of Flavour Varability on E-Cigs… ↩
16. MedicalXpress – Research show most children do not… ↩
17. NCBI – A rapid method for the chromatographic… ↩
18. Seattle Times – E-cigs are exploding in vapers’ mouths… ↩
19. Washington Post – The terrifying rat at which smokers die… ↩