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Here we go again - another vaping scare story from the U.S.

An article published on the Huffington Post website yesterday grabbed my attention. The headline was “3 Things To Know About E-Cigarettes And Your Kids”.  It was written by Diane L. Danois who describes herself as an “Attorney, Author, Stepmom, Co-Parent, Blended Families Expert”.

As her article was specifically about vaping and children, perhaps I should describe myself as a “Political Campaigner, Journalist, Dad, Stepdad, and Jack of all Trades”. I know I am being a little frivolous, but when you have children of your own you really don’t like being lectured to by a know it all lawyer who enjoys playing fast and loose with the facts in order to get as many hits as they can for a scare story. Because that’s exactly what this article is: a scare story.

Here is an example:

“…the use of e-cigarettes among high school students has skyrocketed from 1.5% in 2011 to 16% in 2015. For those non-mathematicians out there, that’s a 900% increase in use. More alarmingly, middle school students are also using e-cigarettes. According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarettes are among the most commonly used tobacco products. Surveys have demonstrated 3 million middle and high school students are using e-cigarettes.”

Here we go again, incorrectly referring to e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. What she also fails to mention in that from 2011 to 2015, cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students. Quoting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) back at her (and including a link!), it says:

  • About 2 of every 100 middle school students (2.3%) reported in 2015 that they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days—a decrease from 4.3% in 2011.
  • About 9 of every 100 high school students (9.3%) reported in 2015 that they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days—a decrease from 15.8% in 2011.

Interestingly, the figures I have just quoted were on the same page as the figures she quoted. Putting the two together, you can see that fewer children are smoking cigarettes because they are experimenting with e-cigarettes – which incidentally, in case Ms Danois’ research (or lack of it) doesn’t extend beyond the United States, are 95 per cent safer than smoking cigarettes, according to Public Health England.

The same CDC report goes on to say:

  • In 2015, about 7 of every 100 middle school students (7.4%) and about 25 of every 100 high school students (25.3%) used some type of tobacco product.
  • In 2013, nearly 18 of every 100 middle school students (17.7%) and nearly half (46.0%) of high school students said they had ever tried a tobacco product.

So again a decline in tobacco use, whether or not you incorrectly call e-cigarettes a tobacco product.

“But, that’s not the scary part”, she goes on to say as she tries to conclude her article with a crescendo.

“The scary part is that the e-cigarettes industry is, for the most part, completely unregulated in the United States. There is no governmental agency establishing standards for what can or can’t be sold, how it can be sold, or what information needs to be included on labels for consumers. So, for example, today you may purchase an e-cigarette that you believe contains no nicotine, when in fact, it contains nicotine. Informative labels are required on food and beverage consumables, but somehow, E-Cigarettes have slipped under the radar. As a result, consumers are blindly inhaling who-knows-what into their lungs and exhaling it into our environment.”

From that statement, you would think that all e-juice manufacturers were producing the equivalent of moonshine in their garden sheds – putting in some antifreeze for good measure to make the fastest buck possible. Of course consumers should know what’s in their e-liquid – no-one is denying that, but on the label on the bottle next to me as I write, that information is already included. I know the nicotine content and the ingredients that make up the e-liquid. I’m all for better labelling, but don’t give the impression that the vaping industry is full of manufacturers who don’t take their responsibilities seriously. That is simply not true.

For her final flourish, entitled “Even worse…”, she says:

“Some of the ingredients used in e-cigarettes may contain toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that have not yet been tested in their gaseous form. Some of these chemicals are known to cause damage to blood vessels and lung inflammation when inhaled, but the long-term effects to users and bystanders remain unknown.”

Well, I did mention her lack of research, so I suppose it’s hardly surprising that she came up with this old chestnut. Here is an extract from a recent report from the UK’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology:

“Health concerns have been focused on vapers inhalation of vapour, and bystanders’ passive exposure to vapour. The inhaled and exhaled vapour varies depending on device characteristics and user behaviour. There have been concerns about possible adverse health effects for the user from inhaling vapour that can contain propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine, flavourings, metallic elements and carcinogenic substances such as nitrosamines. Since 2014, there has been more research into vapour content (rather than solution content). The amount of chemicals inhaled, rather than their presence alone, is the important determinant of toxicity, and current data suggest that the levels of toxins and contaminants within inhaled vapour do not pose significant health risks. Laboratory studies using cells have suggested that inhalation of vapours containing flavourings can increase airway inflammation, but there is no evidence of a clear risk to people. The consensus is that long-term health risks to vapers require monitoring, but are “unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco”. Health risks to bystanders are smaller still, as current evidence shows that levels of nicotine and contaminants released via exhaled vapour are neglible.”

It’s not even worse, is it? The levels of toxins and contaminants do not pose significant health risks, and as far as passive vaping is concerned, it’s a non-starter.

So what was the point of this article other than to spread misinformation? I don't know. You'll have to ask her yourself. 

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