Sunday, January 29, 2017

How We Know Vaping Opponents are Driven by Ideology and Not Science

I have presented many examples on this blog over the past months demonstrating the fact that vaping opponents are being driven by ideology rather than science. But there is one observation I made which is dispositive. In legal terminology, dispositive means "evidence that unqualifiedly brings a conclusion to a legal controversy." This observation brings a conclusion to any controversy about whether the position and actions of vaping opponents have been science-based or ideology-based.

The Rest of the Story

The observation is actually quite simple:

Not a single anti-tobacco or health group or agency which has warned the public about the risks of "popcorn lung" from vaping has warned smokers about the risks of popcorn lung.

Let us assume, for a moment, that it is true that vaping puts people at risk of developing popcorn lung because it contains diacetyl, a chemical which was found to cause popcorn lung in several popcorn factory workers. Well, it turns out that cigarettes deliver hundreds of times more diacetyl to smokers than vapers get from e-cigarettes. Given the exposure difference, if diacetyl poses a risk of popcorn lung to vapers, then it certainly poses a much larger risk of popcorn lung to smokers.

Yet I am unable to find a single web site of a health or anti-tobacco group that warns smokers about the risk of popcorn lung from smoking, based on the presence of high levels of diacetyl.

It seems to me that if the actions of vaping opponents were science-based, then they should be plastering the headlines with warnings about the risks of popcorn lung to smokers. But they're not. They are only telling the public that e-cigarettes poses such a risk, not real cigarettes. This can only be explained by ideology: a huge bias against vaping. Without realizing it, these groups are actually defending smoking by not calling out the risks of popcorn lung.

Now the truth is that there is no evidence that vaping is associated with popcorn lung. While cigarettes deliver much higher levels of diacetyl, cigarette smoking itself has not been associated with popcorn lung. So the hysterical claims about the relationship between vaping and popcorn lung have little basis in science. But if we assume that there really is a risk of developing popcorn lung if you vape, then certainly these health groups should be warning smokers, who would face a much larger risk.

As an example, take the American Lung Association. They have a web page entitled "Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes." The first problem with this page is that it isn't true. There is no reason to believe that popcorn lung is a dangerous risk of flavored e-cigarettes. As far as I know, despite millions of e-cigarette users, there has not been a single documented case of popcorn lung caused by vaping. 

But the second problem is that even if we assume that the risk is real, the American Lung Association nowhere warns smokers of this risk. Shamefully, while the American Lung Association demands that "FDA act quickly to require that diacetyl and other harmful chemicals be removed from e-cigarettes," the Lung Association is not calling on the FDA to require that diacetyl be removed from real cigarettes.

Is this really about health, or is it just about demonizing e-cigarettes?

With that said, I agree completely with other vaping advocates, however, that diacetyl should not be used as a flavoring in e-cigarettes. It is not an essential ingredient, so why use it. There is no need to even take the risk, as small as it may be.

Also, in retrospect, it may have been unreasonable to have suggested that the ALA would ever request the FDA to have diacetyl removed from tobacco smoke: it is a product of the combustion process in tobacco cigarettes, and it cannot be removed.

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