Wednesday, October 20, 2010

At Home and Abroad, Facts About Electronic Cigarettes are Grossly Misrepresented by Health Experts

The facts about electronic cigarettes continue to be grossly distorted and misrepresented by health experts in order to scare people about the potential risks of vaping, a dishonest communication that is likely to cause harm by convincing many vapers to return to cigarette smoking or dissuading smokers who could likely quit by using electronic cigarettes and causing them to continue smoking instead.

At Home

In an interview on Atlanta's Fox5 News yesterday, Dr. Carla Berg from Emory's Rollins School of Public Health made two factual misstatements in what amounted to a distortion of the scientific evidence regarding the relative health risks of smoking compared to vaping.

First, Dr. Berg stated that electronic cigarettes contain a component in anti-freeze (referring to diethylene glycol), implying that all electronic cigarettes are contaminated with diethylene glycol.

This statement is untrue. Diethylene glycol has only been detected in one cartridge of one brand of electronic cigarettes. Multiple other brands of electronic cigarettes have undergone testing and have been found not to contain diethylene glycol.

On national television, one would hope that health experts would at very least provide accurate information. The claim that all electronic cigarettes are contaminated with diethylene glycol is simply untrue, and it reflects an apparent failure of the expert to review the multiple studies (at least 12 are easily available online) in which gas chromatographic mass spectrometric analysis of a variety of brands of electronic cigarettes have failed to detect diethylene glycol.

Second, Dr. Berg stated that one only sees flavors used in electronic cigarettes, but never in nicotine replacement products approved by the FDA.

This is also untrue. For example, Nicorette lozenges come in kid-friendly cherry and mint flavors. Nicorette gum comes in a Fruit Chill flavor. Habitrol comes in a mint flavor. Other nicotine replacement product flavors that are being marketed include White Ice Mint, fruit, Good Sense mint, Cool Mint, and Cinnamon Surge.

Health experts are entitled to make the argument that unlike NRT products, electronic cigarettes are being marketed to children; however, they need to base their arguments on evidence that is true, not made up.

When you start seeing people concoct false evidence to support their premises, that's when you should become suspicious that the arguments underlying their positions are incredibly weak.

In fact, in the interview, Dr. Berg refused to admit that electronic cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes. She appeared to be blinded by some sort of ideological dogma and to be grasping to support her position by making statements that are demonstrably false.


In an article in the Malay Mail, Malaysia's deputy health minister is quoted as stating that vaping is "just as bad" as smoking. According to the article, the health ministry does not believe that active smoking of Marlboro or other carcinogen-laden cigarettes is any worse than vaping -- a behavior that involves inhaling vapor from a product containing no tobacco whatsoever and which has been documented by the FDA itself to contain only trace levels of carcinogens.

In addition, the health ministry stated that electronic cigarettes are not used to help smokers quit. There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, and overwhelming anecdotal and survey evidence support just the opposite: that many vapers are successfully using electronic cigarettes to stay off the real ones.

The deputy health minister stated: "There is concern this nicotine delivery to the human lung might result in stronger toxicological, physiological and addictive effects, and this must be addressed in scientific studies."

Fine. But if that's the case, then why isn't the deputy health minister also calling for the removal of the nicotine inhaler from the market? After all, if it is unsafe to market a product which delivers nicotine to the lung, then shouldn't nicotine inhalers be removed from the market immediately, pending further studies to examine the toxicological, physiological, and addictive effects of the lung delivery of nicotine?

In both cases, these uninformed, misleading, and in some cases false statements are doing significant public health harm by convincing many ex-smokers to return to smoking because of undue fears about the hazards of the electronic cigarettes they have been using to successfully keep them off regular cigarettes.

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