Vaping myths dispelled: What’s real and what’s not
The City of San Francisco has become the first municipality to effectively ban e-cigarette sales, including online orders shipped to a San Francisco address. The city also bans flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. (Marijuana, on the other hand, is legal). In the wake of this restrictive law – which will no doubt trigger a local black market akin to the Prohibition era — it is worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the more common myths associated with vaping.
The San Francisco law was passed as a reaction to anti-vaping advocates painting a picture of children vaping everywhere, and easily buying e-cigarettes at every bodega and drugstore in the city as they clamor to purchase vaping liquids with sweet flavors. That is far from reality. As with alcohol, young people will find a way if they really want it, but there is no evidence to support the claim that flavors in e-cigarettes attract underage users any more than any other type of e-cigarette.
Recent FDA guidance, and the industry itself, has already addressed the issue, and stricter age verification measures for retailers have been mandated. Flavored liquids must now be sold in a separate, age-restricted area of the store; and even before the mandate, reputable online vendors have put in place near-foolproof measures for age verification.
One of the most common myths about vaping is that it produces higher levels of nicotine. This is part myth and part reality, as vape juices contain varying levels, which are clearly stated on the container. Some favor the large nicotine jolt from nicotine salts, but most juices are roughly equivalent to traditional cigarettes in nicotine content – and still others offer low-nicotine, or even nicotine-free vape juices.
But despite the level of nicotine, the concerns about nicotine level are misdirected. Nicotine does not cause cancer, smoking does. The harm from smoking comes from the smoke and the tars that are inhaled, and the resulting toxins and carcinogens. Vaping produces neither smoke nor tar.
One of the most persistent myths that is easily disproven is the claim that vape juice contains anti-freeze. Vape juices often do contain propylene glycol, which is a food additive, commonly used in the food & beverage industry to help foods retain flavor. It is commonly used in most fast foods and everyday grocery items like bread, soft drinks and all those delicious Entenmann’s cakes. Do you make cakes at home from a box? Yep – you’re eating propylene glycol.
Propylene glycol is not anti-freeze. Anti-freeze contains ethylene glycol, a completely separate chemical, which is never used in any food products, nor is ethylene glycol used in any vaping liquids. Propylene glycol is considered safe to use in food products by the FDA.
Acknowledged as a valid smoking cessation tool
Numerous unbiased, scientific studies have shown that vaping is useful as an effective tool for those who wish to quit smoking. The American Council on Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the FDA and the American Cancer Society have all published papers and guidance indicating that vaping contains far fewer toxins and carcinogens than smoking, and that vaping can be an effective tool for those who wish to quit smoking.
No “second-hand smoke” effect
Most public venues that ban smoking also ban vaping, over concerns about second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke from cigarettes is a valid concern and a major health issue. However, vaping does not produce second-hand smoke. It produces no smoke at all. According to the National Institutes of Health, e-cigarettes may indeed produce second-hand exposure to nicotine – which is not carcinogenic – but it does not produce second-hand exposure to the toxins found in combustible tobacco.
Traditional combustible cigarettes generate over 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogenic. Most of these carcinogens come from the smoke that occurs as a result of combustion. The American Cancer Society’s public health statement says it very clearly: “Based on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes.”
The first step to truly understanding what vaping is, and what it is not, is to ignore the bandwagon effect, false claims and anti-vaping hype, and take a close look at the science. Smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health – and any alternatives which help smokers reduce their dependence on cigarettes, including switching to vaping, should be given a fair hearing.