Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another Anti-Smoking Advocate Lies About Electronic Cigarettes

It seems that not a day goes by on which another anti-smoking advocate who opposes electronic cigarettes tells a public lie about these products in order to discourage their use.

Today's story comes from the tobacco dependence treatment specialist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, who was quoted as telling the public that electronic cigarettes contain an ingredient in anti-freeze. She claimed that propylene glycol, a central component of most electronic cigarette liquids, is found in antifreeze.

According to the article from the Philadelphia CBS affiliate: "There’s no standard formula for an e-cigarette.   But one of the things found in them is propylene glycol.  It’s a substance not to be trifled with, according to Tracy Kane, tobacco dependence treatment specialist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. “It’s something you would find in antifreeze, and it is what’s in e-cigarettes,” she explains.  “That’s why I encourage people to use the FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies instead of the e-cigarettes — because we know what’s in the FDA-approved ones.”"

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that unlike the main ingredients in anti-freeze - ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol - the chemical found in electronic cigarettes, propylene glycol, is generally regarded as safe. As we all know, anti-freeze is toxic and the reason for this is that both ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol are highly toxic.

In contrast to ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol, propylene glycol is not toxic. In fact, it is a common ingredient of household medical products such as cough medicines and it was once used commonly in asthma inhalers.

The truth is that the main ingredients in most anti-freeze are ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol. This is why anti-freeze is toxic. For example, the ingredients in Prestone anti-freeze are:
1. Ethylene glycol; and
2. Diethylene glycol

Ethylene glycol is the main ingredient used in most major brands of anti-freeze.

This tobacco dependence specialist needs a refresher course in chemistry.

The chemical structure of ethylene glycol is: OH-CH2-CH2-OH.
Ethylene is basically two ethylene glcyol molecules bonded together:

Propylene glycol is difficult to draw in one dimension, but it contains an asymmetric carbon atom, and thus is totally different from the toxic glycols found in anti-freeze. Its structure is:
OH-CH2-C-OH-CH2 (the last carbon atom is bound to both the OH and the CH2).

The tobacco dependence specialist also asserted that we don't know what is in electronic cigarettes.This is also untrue. The ingredients in these products are well known and almost all major brands contain nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerin, and sometimes, flavorings. That's pretty much it. No more research needs to be done to find out what is in the juice. In fact, most electronic cigarette companies disclose the ingredients on their web sites.

The unfortunate part of this story is not simply that an anti-smoking advocate is disseminating false information. The most unfortunate aspect of the story is that because of this misinformation, many ex-smokers who have quit successfully using e-cigarettes may well switch back to cigarettes out of fear that they are inhaling toxic anti-freeze.

Does not this advice, which is based on false information, amount to public health malpractice?

It is sad to see the complete degeneration of the science base in tobacco control. Almost every day, another anti-smoking group or practitioner makes a completely false statement about electronic cigarettes. There is room for debate about the appropriate role of these products in smoking cessation, but there is no room for lying or spreading false information. Science should be our guide, not pure ideology.

No comments: