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Anti-freeze Redux

Just when you think that ignorance has finally been dispelled, along comes another journalist who thinks that vaping liquids are anti-freeze. Time for another chemistry lesson.

In an article on the new e-cigarette Smokio, and its extraordinary apps for monitoring health and usage issues, (covered in this blog several months ago), a journalist introduced the discussion with the injunction: “Forget for just a moment that e-cigarettes contain several of the same toxic substances used in antifreeze….”

In common parlance, the term “anti-freeze” means the liquid you pour into your car’s radiator. It is poison, unquestionably. These days it is almost always the chemical ethylene glycol, a highly carcinogenic, poisonous substance that nobody should ever drink. And nobody should ever inhale vapor from this substance. It is never in e-liquid for personal vaporizers or e-cigarettes.

However, many chemicals have properties that reduce the temperature at which freezing occurs. They may be termed “temperature-reduction-retardants” or “freeze retardants”, or, in extremely general parlance, “anti-freeze”. They include propylene glycol, the basic ingredient of the liquid used in vaporizers (approved by the FDA for inclusion in many processed foods, and other commonly used cosmetics and medicines for internal ingestion).

The new “Smokio” really does have some unique features. It can tell you not only how soon you need to replenish its e-liquid supplies, but also give you hints about improving your breathing and so forth. It really is the e-cig that is also an app. But it does not contain anti-freeze.

Language has an impact on human thought! Using a term that the public views in a negative light is a way of casting aspersions on whatever you are talking about. The use of the term “anti-freeze” in talking about the vaping liquid propylene glycol has been an irresponsible ruse of anti-vaping campaigns against e-cigarettes. It is a fear-mongering term, designed to whip up public feeling against a product that could save many lives.

This usage of the term was probably a product of simple ignorance, since so many have used the term irresponsibly in the past. Let us hope that it’s usage will fade away with increased public knowledge in the future.