Wednesday, May 12, 2010

American Lung Association States that There is Only One Laboratory Study on Electronic Cigarettes

According to Connecticut's NBC affiliate, the American Lung Association is telling the public that there has been only one laboratory study conducted on electronic cigarettes: "We asked experts if e-cigs are safer than old-fashioned cigs. Michelle Marichal, of the American Lung Association, said the jury’s still out. 'We're reluctant because there have been no studies done except for one small one by the FDA, and that was an initial study and what it found is that these e-cigarettes contain carcinogens. They contain toxic chemicals like those found in antifreeze.'"

The Rest of the Story

Sadly, the American Lung Association is making completely uninformed and inaccurate comments on this important public health policy issue. If the ALA wants to comment and try to affect public policy, it has an obligation to first study the issue. Instead, the Lung Association is speaking first and doing so without having even researched the issue. As a result, the ALA is making false statements to the public that are misinforming consumers.

The rest of the story is that there are at least 11 laboratory studies on the constituents and safety of electronic cigarettes, not 1 study as the American Lung Association claims.

These studies have shown that:

1) Only one brand of electronic cigarettes has been found to contain diethylene glycol (a component in anti-freeze); and

2) There are only trace levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in electronic cigarettes, comparable to levels in nicotine replacement products.

Thus, the American Lung Association is misinforming consumers about the risk of electronic cigarettes when it states that they contain toxic chemicals like those found in anti-freeze and that they contain carcinogens.

It's true that they contain carcinogens, but so do nicotine replacement products that the Lung Association endorses. The critical issue is the level of those carcinogens. And in electronic cigarettes, tobacco-specific nitrosamine levels are up to 1400 times lower than in cigarettes, making these products a much safer alternative to smoking.

In the past two days, I have criticized the American Lung Association for providing inappropriate advice to electronic cigarette users and for claiming that there is no evidence that cigarette smoking is any more dangerous than vaping. Today, I have revealed perhaps the most troubling fact of all: that the American Lung Association's statement and position are based on a failure to actually look at the scientific evidence.

It would be one thing if the ALA had examined the scientific evidence and disagreed with my interpretation. But to make broad scientific and policy statements without having examined the evidence is irresponsible and it does a great disservice to the ALA's constituents and the public.

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