Do you have friends or family members who constantly nag you about your electronic cigarette use? Or maybe you're like us and have read countless articles that ignorantly bash e-cigs with either no solid support to their arguments or blatant misinterpretation of research.
Whatever the case may be, we all have to understand that this is a relatively new market for devices that mimic the actions produced by a product that is known to cause cancer and a plethora of respiratory illnesses. There is bound to be some initial backlash while we wait for the government to take a side. And even they are prone to jumping the gun with statements like “Electronic cigarettes lead to smoking.”
That said, here are some rebuttals to that and 19 more commonly heard anti-ecig arguments; 15 from the anti-smoking crowd as well as five from reluctant smokers.
This is the main selling point on most government proposed bills that would regulate the usage of e-cigs and classify them as tobacco products. Some studies have found there to be trace amounts of nitrosamines in electronic cigarette cartridges. The levels found were comparable to that of a nicotine patch and 14,000 times lower than in a tobacco cigarette. No studies have yet to find any toxic nitrosamines in the vapor produced by an e-cig.
In all reality it is nearly impossible to avoid nitrosamines as they are produced during the consumption of many vegetables. In terms of second-hand vaping, a Clearstream-AIR study found that e-cigarettes do not produce detectable amounts of toxic substances in the air of an enclosed space and that it would be more harmful to breath air in a large city than in a room with someone who is vaping.
Actually, the evidence suggests that electronic cigarettes have had a profound positive impact on the public’s health. Analyses of cigarette sales has suggested that because of smokers switching to electronic cigarettes, the sale of tobacco cigarettes is substantially down. This translates into an improvement in the public’s health: fewer deaths and diseases. That’s hardly a “public health hazard.”
The argument for not banning the use of electronic cigarettes is that there’s no evidence that it is a hazard to others. Indeed, there’s a volume of evidence showing that the levels of chemicals released in e-cigarette vapor are nontoxic under various toxicological standards.
Because our e-cigs produce clouds of vapor that appear similar to cigarette smoke, some bystanders won't realize the difference and subjectively assume we are smoking. However, are people smoking when they exhale on a cold day and their breath turns to water vapor? That is essentially what happens when we are using electronic cigarettes. The only difference is that the vapor is produced from a liquid mixture and at much higher temperature and therefore appears as a smokey cloud-like substance when inhaled and exhaled at any temperature found in Earth's atmosphere.
Dr. Murray Laugesen, New Zealand's Most Experienced Researcher on Smoking Policy and Cigarettes – Health New Zealand:
At first glance, yes e-cigarette users inhale vapor, not smoke. With smoking, you have to light up. With vaping, you aren't lighting anything, and there is no smell of smoke. Cigarettes burn, e-cigarettes just create vapor with each puff.
A study published in April found there to be trace particles of metals in the vapor from one brand of electronic cigarette. Yes, those metals have been known to cause respiratory complications. But while the levels found may have been equal to or higher than those found in cigarette smoke, they were far within USP standards for maximum allowable daily exposure to metals from inhalation medicines and comparable to those of FDA approved nicotine inhalers.
Indeed, researchers found several particles in nanometer size, that are able to penetrate deep into the lungs. The numbers they report show that e-cigarette produces 880 times less particles compared to conventional cigarettes.
Many e-liquids are made to taste sweet like fruits, deserts and popular beverages. So it's not surprising that anti-smoking activists are now claiming that e-cigs target teens or are a threat to minors. However, electronic cigarettes are not cheap. While they will save a smoker thousands of dollars in the long run, their entry cost is anywhere from $30 and $150 and require additional purchases for refills and replacement parts. A $5 pack of smokes is much more easily attainable to minors. As for the fruity flavors, well, adults enjoy those just as much as children and they simply make e-cigarettes more appealing to smokers than the tobacco variety. In reality, since there is no combustion of paper or tobacco leaf, it is very difficult for e-cigs to actually mimic the bitter taste of a cigarette.
David Dorn, Vaper and Commentator on Vaping – VapourTrails.tv
For many it could be disastrous – they’ve moved away from “ciggie” flavours onto any one of dozens, in some cases, or, in many cases, they switch flavours during the day to suit their moods… This, apparently, is to get away from their taste buds becoming used to one flavour, so that every change makes it a “fresh” experience and helps them avoid going back to fags. It’s not something that bothers me, particularly, but I do know that for a very large proportion of folks, it’s a vital part of the e-cig experience. Without it, going back to cigs isn't too much of a stretch.
The American Lung Association is very concerned that e-cigarettes–with flavors like cotton candy and bubble gum–are being marketed to kids, which could result in a lifelong addiction to nicotine.
Paul Bergen, Former Research Associate at the Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta – Tobacco Harm Reduction:
If you start with any of the flavourings and out of interest try a regular cigarette it will seem harsh and horrid in comparison. To take that point one step further, to remove or outlaw flavourings in e-cigarettes (or smokeless tobacco) would make migration more likely.
Let me preface my comments by saying electronic cigarettes should be used by adults only. I am 100% behind any ban to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarette products to minors.
Although it's hard to believe, adults like flavors too. Apparently some of our taste buds survive as we grow older. If we're going to say that flavors are targeting minors and will lead to smoking, we will need to take a good hard look at other products that are doing the SAME THING, yet go unmentioned. A prime example would be the rash of flavored alcoholic beverages. From a popular Vodka company we have the following flavors: Mango Passion Fruit, Raspberry Pomegranate, Raspberry Lemon, Cinn-Sugar Twist, Wild Honey, Fluffed Marshmallow and Iced Cake. If the flavors in electronic cigarette liquids are targeting minors and will lead to smoking, then these flavors are clearly doing the same and will lead to alcoholism.
Most of us are well-versed with the 2009 FDA study that found trace levels (1%) of diethylene glycol, a toxic ingredient in anti-freeze, in 1 out of 18 cartridges from just two brands of electronic cigarettes. Not one study since then has found the chemical in any cartridges or liquids, suggesting that the device in question may have been contaminated. While cigarette smoke contain thousands of chemicals, we know what goes into e-cigarettes. The four ingredients used in the majority of e-liquids are propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, GRAS flavoring and nicotine. Propylene glycol is also a component of antifreeze but only to make it less toxic if swallowed.
No testing, including that done by the FDA, has ever found anything close to a harmful amount of diethylene glycol in e-cigarette liquid. The amount found in just one cartridge was so insignificant that it would not have even been worth mentioning unless the FDA wished to scare consumers from using electronic cigarettes. The use of the word “antifreeze” was clearly meant to make it sound more scary and dangerous than it really is. I rate this lie to be A Toxic Shocker.
First, FDA itself notes that this was merely a preliminary analysis and that “due to the variability among products, this analysis should not be used to draw conclusions about what substances are or are not present in particular electronic cigarettes or brands of electronic cigarettes.” Of course, that hasn't stopped those against e-cigs from citing this report as evidence of how dangerous e-cigs are. FDA also failed to note that the trace levels of tobacco specific nitrosamines found were merely fractions of what is found in cigarette smoke and actually on par with levels of such impurities found in FDA-approved NRT products.
Electronic cigarettes are not intended to be used by non-smokers. They were designed and marketed as safer alternative for smokers looking for a healthier form of nicotine delivery. Furthermore, cigarette smoke tastes awful compared to the sweet vapor of e-cigs, a deterrent for anyone attempting to make a reverse switch.
The notion that electronic cigarettes could be some sort of “gateway” to smoking seems downright impossible to me. e-Cigarettes are so popular because they provide a superior experience to smoking itself, otherwise there wouldn't be so many smokers that made the switch. Why would anyone intentionally go from a method of nicotine consumption with lower harm, more options and better available flavors to a product that tastes terrible, smells, is a known killer and is increasingly shunned by society? The only way the gateway scenario can exist in reality is if prohibitionists are able to ban or sufficiently neuter e-cigarettes to the point where current vapers are forced back to smoking due to lack of a viable alternative.
Of course, the biggest lie is the “gateway” lie. You know that when prohibitionists start making claims about a gateway that they have given up on pretending that a behavior is a problem in itself. So they have to make up some reason for prohibiting it, so they claim that it leads to something that is a problem. There is never any evidence to support those claims, about anything, as far as I have ever observed.
Some will point to a recent CDC study which claims that e-cig usage among teenagers has doubled over the last year. But, a careful reading shows that it wasn't regular “usage” that spiked among teens, but rather the number who had ever tried a single puff in their lives. For a novel product like e-cigs, this is not a very unexpected result. There is no real data that supports the notion that kids are getting hooked on e-cigs and then transitioning to smoking cigarettes.
We do know the ingredients used in the majority of e-cigarette juice. Furthermore, recent studies have analyzed vapor content of electronic cigarettes and found volatile organic compounds at levels far below safety limits for exposure.
The components of electronic cigarettes are at least as well understood as the chemicals that are generated by smoking, or indeed traffic fumes, if not more so. Crucially, the chemicals produced by electronic cigarettes are orders of magnitude less toxic than both tobacco smoking and traffic.
We've all read the story about the Florida man who's electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth, shattering some teeth and taking a chunk out of his tongue. What is little known is that the e-cig he was using was a homemade device involving stacked batteries. Stacking batteries is not recommended for electronic cigarette use. If you are considering creating your own mod, check out Battery University or E-Cigarette Forum to brush up on your safety skills.
Nick “GrimmGreen” Green, Vaper and Reviewer – GrimmGreen:
People need to remember that ALL batteries have the potential to be dangerous. Back in 2006 Dell laptop batteries were failing left and right. Some simple research, freely available on the internet can make all the difference. Don't overcharge, don't over dis-charge and don't ask more from your batteries than they can handle. Pay that little bit extra and get some high quality batteries, cheap batteries just simply aren't worth it.
Contrary to popular belief, nicotine is not the cancer-causing agent in cigarettes. A two year study on lab mice found there to be no harmful effects of nicotine when given in its pure form by inhalation. If nicotine were the culprit in cigarettes, we're pretty sure the FDA would never have approved any NRT gums, patches or inhalers. It is still poisonous when ingested in large quantities so make sure your e-liquids are used properly and kept out of reach of children.
On this scale, the effects of nicotine are about invisible. Even when consumed in properly-made smokeless tobacco, as in Sweden, it's virtually impossible to identify harm at population level statistically.
The FDA has determined that there are no significant safety concerns with respect to long-term/recreational nicotine use. More specifically, the Agency recently published a Notice of Findings in the Federal Register indicating that the long-term use of the nicotine-containing NRT products was safe and does not appear to have significant potential for abuse or dependence.
In 2007, Dr. David Sweanor of the University of Ottawa, published an article in the International Journal of Drug Policy called, “Tobacco harm reduction: How rational public policy could transform a pandemic,” where he noted that “nicotine, at the dosage levels smokers seek, is a relatively innocuous drug commonly delivered by a highly harmful device, cigarette smoke.” The article goes on to note that compared to tobacco smoke, nicotine itself is benign: “A fatal dose of nicotine would require roughly 60 mg for an average person, but, as with a fatal dose of caffeine, such quantity is far more than is sought or attained by consumers (Fagerstrom, 2005).”
As already stated, electronic cigarettes do not produce detectable amounts of toxins into the air. Furthermore, they do not emit second-hand nicotine as the amount of it in the vapor they deliver to the user is far less than in conventional tobacco smoke. Any amount exhaled would be so minute that it would not have an effect on bystanders, as the vapor dissipates within seconds as opposed to minutes for smoke.
Even when compared to workplace standards for involuntary exposures, and using several conservative assumptions, the exposures from using e-cigarettes fall well below the threshold for concern for compounds with known toxicity. That is, even ignoring the benefits of e-cigarette use and the fact that the exposure is actively chosen, and even comparing to the levels that are considered unacceptable to people who are not benefiting from the exposure and do not want it, the exposures would not generate concern or call for remedial action.
We won't deny the fact that smoking tobacco cigarettes is a highly addictive habit. When a smoker switches to electronic cigarettes, they are still most likely consuming nicotine, to an extent. However, most of us gradually reduce our intake by using cartridges or e-liquids with lower concentrations of the drug and eventually become nicotine free. A recently published PLOS One study found that 73 percent of participants who stopped smoking using e-cigs also quit vaping by the end of the 52 week trial period. Some of us have quit vaping and smoking altogether while those who continue to vape have turned into a hobby. And hey, some smokers simply don't want to quit nicotine; they just want to “smoke” in a way that drastically reduces the harm done to their bodies. Electronic cigarettes provide a means for adult cigarette smokers to transition to a less harmful form of recreational nicotine delivery.
It isn't the nicotine that causes the harm, but rather how the nicotine is delivered. Smoking is the biggest killer by far. Almost all noncombustible products including smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes are 90-percent-plus lower in risk. Nicotine is like caffeine in some ways. If we were to smoke the coffee bean, we'd have thousands of chemicals produced in the smoke. But the risks disappear when used in a noncombustible form. Tobacco, as a plant, could be made into a tea that would allow people to get their nicotine without the risks. E-cigarettes, lozenges, etc., are all non-combustible products that are significantly lower in risk.
Vapers always hear this kind of thing and in a way it suggests we should feel bad for using nicotine in any form. The reality is that while many people do completely stop using nicotine with e-cigarettes, some don't. This isn't because they're just an ‘addict', feverishly searching for their next fix, it's because they truly enjoy it. Much in the same way a coffee lover enjoys that first cup or a foodie searches out specific cuisine, sometimes the things we love come with health risks. Fortunately, the nicotine in e-cigarettes is not what made our former habit so risky and truthfully, deadly. So we have a bunch of people who used to love smoking enough to let it kill them. Now, they've found something they love even more that is far less harmful in vaping. If that sounds like someone just trading off addictions, then you're not paying attention.
Just because you quit cold turkey doesn't mean anyone can do it. It also doesn't mean you aren't susceptible to a relapse. Different smokers have different levels of addiction and most who want to quit have tried going cold turkey or reducing the amount of cigarettes they smoke. Statistically speaking, only 3.5% of smokers who try going cold turkey end up actually quitting. Because e-cigarettes are so new to the market, we don't have any reliable quit rates for them yet. We can still estimate their quit smoking rate to be somewhere around 30-50% based on small preliminary surveys.
When it comes to anti-smoking groups criticizing e-cigs for containing nitrosamines, it could be the same cynical mechanism operating, or they could genuinely misunderstand the risks. Perhaps nobody has ever told them that the quantities are nearly undetectable, or perhaps people have and they were just too dim to understand the obvious lack of risk. Either way, if somebody still insists that the nitrosamines in e-cigarettes are something to worry about after becoming aware of the facts in this article, they are either idiots or people who just plain hate anything that looks like smoking. There is no question that, when compared to the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke, the e-cigarette is the far less harmful option for smokers.
James Dunworth, E-Cig Advocate and Co-Founder of E Cigarette Direct – Ashtray Blog:
This really is a non-issue. The FDA only found nitrosamines in eliquid at a maximum level of 8.2 billionth of a gram, which is at the same level as those found in FDA approved nicotine inhalers, and 14,000 times lower than those found in Marlborough cigarettes. Even then, these nitrosamines were only found in eliquid, not in the vapour. When an independent lab Analyze looked at the vapour of the electronic cigarette, they only found one, non-carcogenic nitrosamine. More importantly, the FDA tests failed to find ANY of the other 56 tobacco smoker carcinogens in the eliquid. For more information on nitrosamines, see this post.
A study published last September found that use of an electronic cigarette for 10 minutes increased airway resistance in smokers without COPD or asthma. However, a temporary increase in airway resistance does not equate to lung damage nor does it cause a reduction in blood-oxygen levels. Things like humidity, cold air and exercise can also cause elevated airway obstruction yet aren't known to actually damage lungs.
The components of e-cigarette vapor, of any significance, are water vapor with nicotine (usually), glycerine/vegetable flavoring, and propylene glycol (GRAS as per the FDA). A recent study by Prof. Igor Burstyn of Drexel Univ. School of Public Health showed the incredibly remote chance of e-cig vapor contributing to long-term health effects. See the study here
…..and read the discussion from CASAA, a harm reduction advocacy group, here as well.
I'm not sure what else I can add. None of the above-mentioned vapor components have been shown to cause harm in experimental or epidemiological studies. Nicotine particularly has never been found to cause any long-term health effects; it does NOT cause cancer, COPD or asthma.
The FDA has yet to approve electronic cigarettes because they “have not been fully studied.” Our evidence would suggest otherwise. Nothing is 100% safe but e-cigs are exponentially safer than tobacco cigarettes and have the potential to save millions of lives.
Electronic cigarettes have proven, time and time again, that there IS an effective tool to drive down the numbers of early deaths, heart disease, lung cancer, and other maladies caused by the direct use of tobacco. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be encouraging the use of ‘e-cigarettes' for smokers, the anti-smoking crowd most of all. There has been more than enough scientific studies that show e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. At this junction in time, why isn't that enough?
Our Standards demand the highest (verifiable per batch) quality nicotine and diluents with very specific limitations for purity and, more importantly, impurities. Accuracy of content is also monitored and verified at both working levels (for measuring adjustments) and final product. Mixing lab requirements are also extensive as are packaging and labeling (with traceable batch numbers), childproof caps and tamper evidence and more. AEMSA Standards also require a level of transparency.
We are preparing a post delineating our first year progress (launched Oct. 8, 2012) and it is impressive. We have been before the FDA three times (twice in private “Listening Sessions”), invited to present before the Tobacco Merchants Association (TMA) Annual Conference and meeting where CTP/FDA Director Mitch Zeller was the keynote speaker: AEMSA Presents on Self-Regulation at TMA Conference 2013 Presentation. And we have more speaking engagements (all invitations) already on the calendar. As a registered 501(c)(6), we have stringent operating rules, etc. within which we must function. As we are approaching year 2, we have Board elections and more on the immediate horizon. And, if all the above is not enough, we may be the first and only Professional Trade Association founded, formation facilitated and led by Consumer Volunteers. The association still has zero payroll (but we are growing at such a rate that this may have to change).
Some smokers may have once tried an e-cig they picked up at their local gas station or convenience store and were disappointed in its performance. Not all electronic cigarettes are created equal, however, and some of the more mass produced variety may not be suitable to heavy smokers. Make sure you let them know they can purchase cartridges or liquid in stronger nicotine concentrations and in a plethora of flavors to satisfy their palate. If you live close to a brick & mortar vapor shop, bring them along on your next visit or point them to online forums to find a quality starter kit.
Professor Riccardo Polosa, Full Professor of Internal Medicine of the University of Catania – Italy:
In ECLAT 14% of regular users of ecigs containing nicotine abstained from smoking conventional cigarettes and a further 23% reduced their use substantially (more than 50% from baseline). Data speak for themself and as the philosopher Pascal said: “there is enough light for those who desire to see”. Therefore, this product has the potential of helping many smokers quit.
If we consider that by inclusion criteria smokers were not interested in quitting, that the model under investigation was underperforming, and that participants did not receive any form of smoking cessation counseling, the above success rates are impressive. Thus for (some) smokers, satisfaction from e-cigarette use was good enough to compensate for their need of own brand cigarette. Indeed the replacement of the ritual of smoking gestures and cigarette handling, the opportunity to use the product in public places and to reduce bad smell, as well as the perception of an improved general sense of wellbeing might have been the cause for the substantial success rates.
In ECLAT, only 26.9% of those who switched to e-cigs resulting in complete smoking abstinence were still using the product by the end of the observational period (week-52). Thus, 73.1% of regular e-cig users ended up quitting vaping as well. Probably, the fact that participants were not supplied with the product beyond the 12-week intervention phase of the study and that its commercial availability during the extension phase was poor has produced an unexpected effect. Many regular vapers confronted with the situation of not being supplied with (or able to acquire) the product, rather than relapsing in tobacco smoking realized to be strong enough to free themselves also from the behavioral component of smoking that was being reproduced by vaping the product under investigation, that in this regard was not very “addictive” and in fact was instrumental to beating participants smoking addiction/behavior. It seems as if the E-cig could have stimulated a subconscious progression through the stages of change (from pre-contemplation to contemplation to determination to action i.e. quitting).
I was thankfully never a heavy smoker — perhaps not even heavy enough to be truly addicted — but the urge to smoke was still so strong that I rarely if ever went more than 24 hours without one (or ten). I initially failed to quit with e-cigarettes in 2008 because I could barely feel the vapor when I inhaled. A year or two later, having read that the technology had progressed, I gave it another try and I’ve yet to look back. Undoubtedly the largest contributing factors were the mimicking of the hand-to-mouth motion, the ability to feel the vapor in my throat, and the availability of flavors, but I can’t understate the importance of the positive comments that I would (and still do) receive from nonsmokers.
Electronic cigarettes are manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes. Larger personal vaporizers are becoming more commonplace and smokers might find their size a bit odd. However, a pack of cigarettes is pretty bulky in itself and no doubt stands out in a pants or shirt pocket. If size is an issue, there are plenty of quality electronic cigarettes that aren't much bigger than the real thing and don't require a cardboard box to be protected from the elements of one's pocket or handbag.
Because the popularity of electronic cigarettes has grown faster than the fall of oxygen bars into obscurity, their concept may seem like fad to many smokers. However, e-cigs have been in the marketplace since 2007 and sales have grown every year with no signs of slowing down. Tobacco giants like Reynolds and Lorillard have even jumped at the opportunity to get their share of the pie. The fact that millions of smokers have improved their health by switching from conventional cigarettes shows that e-cigs do work and aren't a marketing gimmick.
When I started ECF in December 2007 it was because I'd bought an e-cigarette from China and thought it was pretty rubbish. Of course, that's not the whole story: what I really thought was “this is a pretty interesting product, but it's poorly engineered. Once that's sorted, we'll have something amazing on our hands”. ECF has since become something of a test board for engineers, enthusiasts, DIYers and entrepreneurs to try their ideas out with a receptive community who give near instant feedback. In this way, I think ECF (and, other communities) have been really important in the further improvement of the products.
And what improvements we've seen! Starting with the Screwdriver, and the more commercially made Ego type devices, we've seen more or less constant developments for the last 4 years. And, more importantly, the number of users has grown and grown, and won't stop any time soon. Some analysts suggest there will be more than $1bn in e-cig sales this year, and possibly double next year. I think that if another, revolutionary step in the development story happens, we could see 4 or 5 times the number of users within a year.
Does any of this sound like a fad? No, of course not. It might have seen faddish three or four years ago, but thanks to the entrepreneurs and early adopters it's anything but.
To an inexperienced vaper, some of the more advanced personal vaporizers may seem like chore to maintain. But there's an e-cigarette for every type of smoker. Some are only two-piece devices with replaceable pre-filled cartridges that screw together in seconds. Make sure to let this type of person know that you felt the same way when you first started but have since opted for a more customized experience.
Again, nicotine is not the cancer causing agent in cigarettes! And even if it was, e-cigarettes would still be healthier than smoking as they eliminate nearly all of the carcinogenic chemicals that cause respiratory issues. By switching to electronic cigarettes, smokers will substantially reduce the harm done to their lungs. A smoker will have a far less chance of getting cancer if they make the switch to e-cigs.
Hopefully, we can come to a common ground with our local governments and agree upon terms that will please the majority. While the vapor produced by e-cigs has so far been proven far safer than tobacco smoke, it might be rude to sit in a crowded restaurant puffing thick clouds that travel onto a neighboring table. There shouldn't be a problem with any outdoor use as the vapor will dissipate a lot faster. But use some vaping etiquette and courtesy when in crowded indoor places and please don't give vapers a bad name. If you would like to sound off in your local community to protect your vaping rights, visit the CASAA website.
We would like to thank all those in the industry who helped contribute to this article. Electronic cigarettes face a constant battle with the FDA, CDC and media over lies and misinterpretations and your involvement further helps bring out the truth.