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E-Cig Opponents Create Smoke Screen

Public health commentators pushing for e-cig bans are doing everything they can to distort the existing research on safety and quit rates. The public relations campaign is looking more and more desperate.

The New York Post trumpets that "E-cigs may deliver more toxins than smoke", using as their expert source a specialist in craniofacial biology at a school of dentistry. Dr. Deepak Saxena claims that studies show vapers inhale more deeply and more frequently than smokers, and makes the completely unsupported claim that the product is "designed for new smokers [sic], to bring up a new generation". The article ignores the fact that however deeply inhaled, e-cig vapor simply doesn't have as many toxins in it to be inhaled, deeply or otherwise, not near as many, so that the claim that "more toxins" are delivered, trumpeted in the headline, remains unproven. Dr. Saxena and the article's writer consistently refer to vapers as smokers, quoting a hypothetical vaper as saying 'Now I am smoking [sic] and happy with my addiction'. The article opens with the line "Don't make that nicotine switch just yet." In other words, the Post is encouraging people to continue using a product known to be horribly toxic because of fears of a product everybody knows is less toxic, just not how much less.

The New York Daily News quotes Smoking Cessation specialist Daniel Seidman, whose concern is the much maligned "dual use". It is not enough to reduce smoking, however drastically, in favor of some vaping. If a smoker does not completely quit, then vaping is of no use whatever. Seidman notes that "over 90% of users added e-cigarettes as a second product but did not subtract tobacco cigarettes. In other words, they did not, in fact, [completely] quit smoking." For the prohibitionist mentality, harm reduction has no value, only an absolute cessation. Also, the passage fails to note the other side of the coin, the fact that if 90% didn't quit, that means 10% did.

In his comments on the recent New Zealand study cited in The Lancet, Seidman ignores the positives of the study, saying that "e-cigarettes did not prove statistically better than a nicotine patch alone in helping smokers stay smoke-free." In fact, e-cigs proved consistently better, but only marginally so, not rising to the level of statistical significance. He notes that smokers cut down more but did not totally cease significantly more.

Seidman argues that the long term effects of inhaling nicotine vapor are unknown. Yes, everyone knows this. But everyone also knows that whatever they turn out to be in the long run, those effects are much less toxic than combustible cigarettes. It is typical of writers from the smoking ban camp to talk simply about "dangers" and "toxins" and "risks", saying nothing about differential levels of all of those. We all know that the FDA allows you to eat trace levels of toxins in many products, but don't expect them to distinguish between trace levels and dangerous levels when comparing e-cigs to cigarettes. This means that in effect all of these "health advocates" are advising the public, in effect, that continuing to smoke cigarettes is more healthful than switching to vaping. 

An article in Time plays much the same trick when it starts out by saying that vapor "can still contain harmful ingredients." It turns out that the harmful ingredients ingested by 'second hand vapers' include only nicotine, since other components of e-cig vapor were not shown to be ingested. "The found that e-cigarettes are a source of second-hand exposure to nicotine, but not of other compounds released when tobacco is burned. And the nicotine exposure was 10 times less than that from tobacco smoke." Nicotine is not addictive at trace levels, and the toxicity of second-hand smoke comes, in fact, not from nicotine but from burning tars, which are completely absent from e-cig vapor.

So once again the anti-e-cig press has produced a smoke screen alleging harm from e-cigs, which is loudly touted in their headlines, but in fact not borne out by the articles themselves.