Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Anti-Vaping Advocate Testifies that E-Cigarette Aerosol is More Toxic than Secondhand Smoke

According to an article in Latinos Health, the head of the Muskogee Wellness Initiative told county health officials that the aerosol produced by electronic cigarettes is more hazardous than the smoke produced by tobacco cigarettes.

The article states:

"According to Muskogee Phoenix, the elected leaders in the county is planning to revisit in January the proposal that prohibits the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products on the city property. The said issue was rejected for about nine months already. The leaders come up to the said decision after a representative from the Muskogee Wellness Initiative made an impassioned plea to restrict the use of the said products which he believes is "more dangerous than second-hand smoke." Dr. James Baker was joined by three students at the podium and cited a recent study that found some liquid use in vaping devices contained chemicals used in artificial food flavoring. The said chemicals were found to be health hazards in industrial settings. ... "Who knows what they could put in there, I mean any juicer or anybody involved in the vaping sales could put any number of products in there," Baker said. "Without FDA (Food and Drug Administration) monitoring ... all of that could be exposed to children and lead to a much greater problem and epidemic than we have ever realized - at least with cigarettes we know what is going in there."

The Rest of the Story

Dr. Baker's attitude seems to be typical of anti-vaping health officials: e-cigarettes have unknown risks so we feel more comfortable advocating smoking because at least its risks are well-known.

The rest of the story is that many anti-vaping health advocates would rather that smokers continue to smoke than that they try to quit using electronic cigarettes, whose risks are not as well characterized as those of real cigarettes. Better that people should die due to known risks than take a chance on a product that is certainly less harmful than tobacco cigarettes but for which the precise long-term risks are not known.

Regardless of one's position on the policy issues, we should all agree that health practitioners should tell the truth and not lie to or deceive the public. Unfortunately, the Muskogee Wellness Initiative is lying to the public when it claims that e-cigarette aerosol is more dangerous than secondhand smoke.

There is abundant evidence that e-cigarette aerosol is much, much safer than tobacco smoke. E-cigarette aerosol results from heating, not combustion. Moreover, e-cigarettes contain no tobacco. Most importantly, the number and levels of toxins in e-cigarette aerosol are dramatically lower than in tobacco smoke. With regard to the chemical alluded to by Dr. Baker (i.e., diacetyl), the average level in e-cigarette aerosol is 750 times lower than that in tobacco smoke. Levels of the known carcinogens NNN and NNK are approximately 1400 times lower in e-cigarette aerosol than in the smoke produced by a Marlboro cigarette.

Why are so many anti-vaping advocates lying to the public about these basic facts? I believe it is because they feel severely threatened by electronic cigarettes. These products could actually save tens of thousands of lives, but when people use the products, it looks like they are smoking. Many of my colleagues in tobacco control are demonizing vaping because they have transformed a health battle to prevent smoking-related morbidity and mortality into a moral crusade against the use of nicotine or any behavior that resembles smoking, regardless of whether it may be saving people's lives.

This is a tremendous disservice to the thousands of vapers who have quit smoking using e-cigarettes, many of whom are thinking of switching back to smoking because of the false statements being made by groups like the Muskogee Wellness Initiative. It is also a disservice to the many smokers who are being discouraged by these scare tactics from trying to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes.

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