In November, a U.S. tobacco company issued a press release claiming that their products may not be any more harmful than electronic cigarettes. They cited several government and non-government public health agencies to back up its assertion.
The tobacco company stated, “Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a solution of nicotine and propylene glycol in order to vaporize the nicotine and deliver it as an aerosol. There is no tobacco in these products, and there is no combustion. Studies have found that the levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a carcinogen) in electronic cigarettes are up to 1,000 times lower than in our products.”
“Nevertheless, numerous public health agencies have declared that our products may not be any more hazardous than using these non-tobacco, non-combustion products that contain only trace levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines, similar to what one is exposed to in nicotine gum or nicotine patches.”
“Reputable public health sources have stated that it is not clear whether cigarette smoking is any more hazardous than electronic cigarette use.”
To the contrary, there is an abundant amount of evidence that cigarette smoking is much more harmful than vaping. It is true, electronic cigarettes are not “safe” in absolute terms. No one is claiming they are safe or provide health benefits. However, there is no question they are much safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
On the other hand, you don’t need a medical degree to understand that nicotine plus tens of thousands of other chemicals, including 60 known carcinogens is more dangerous than nicotine vaporized from a propylene glycol and glycerin solution.
The evidence is pretty simple to understand. While cigarette smoke contains more than 60 carcinogens at relatively high levels, there have been only three carcinogens found in electronic cigarettes at very low levels. The levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (which are present because the nicotine is extracted from tobacco) are more than 1,000 times lower than those of the same carcinogens in tobacco cigarettes.
There are more than 20 laboratory studies conducted by the constituents of electronic cigarettes, and none have identified any chemicals at levels which would warrant serious concern that vaping poses any where near the level of risk as cigarette smoking.
I have no idea how a tobacco company can go out and publicly state that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes are any safer than what we already know is the most dangerous and toxic consumer product on the market, which we know kills hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.
The tobacco company’s statements pose a major problem, not only because it violates basic ethics, but because it could be harmful to the public’s health. Not only does the statement undermine five decades of public health efforts to convince the public of the very serious health hazards of cigarette smoking, it could even cause smokers to continue smoking rather than to quit using a helpful product like electronic cigarettes.