Study Shows Minimal Health Risks From E-Cigarettes

A study that was released this past summer by Professor Igor Burstyn, Drexel University School of Public Health, confirms that chemicals in electronic cigarettes don’t pose a health concern to users or bystanders. This is a milestone for the industry because it is the first study of the ingredients in e-cigarettes and the findings are that they don’t present any of the health concerns that are being spread by interest groups who are against the industry being accepted as a viable and safe substitute for traditional tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are devices that heat up liquid nicotine to create a vapor that can be inhaled to not only give a person the nicotine they desire, but also the feel and sense of smoking a cigarette. E-cigarettes are being used as a more effective and low-risk substitute for smoking by millions of former smokers. The popularity of e-cigarettes have lead to the substantial downtrend in smoking around the world. Experts have agreed that the risks posed by e-cigarettes are much less than those from smoking a tobacco cigarette, however, the extent of how much lower has been debated.

Dr. Burstyn was able to determine, after reviewing 9,000 observations about the chemistry of the vapor and the liquid in e-cigarettes, that the levels of contaminants e-cigarette users are exposed to are insignificant and far below levels that would be a health risk. The main reason for e-cigarettes being banned in places that ban cigarette smoking has been based on the thought that there was a potential risk to bystanders comparable to cigarettes. However, the study now shows they don’t have the same risks.

This study was the first to be funded by The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives (CASAA). CASAA is the leading consumer advocacy group promoting the availability and use of low-risk alternatives to smoking and is an all volunteer, donation funded organization. CASAA President Elaine Keller said, “Over the years, there have been a lot of small studies of e-cigarette liquid and vapor, but those studies were either ignored or misinterpreted. Past studies that showed even the slightest contamination were used for propaganda by those who object to e-cigarettes because they look like smoking. We realized that an expert review was needed to give an unbiased explanation of the available scientific evidence for our membership and they enthusiastically donated to make it possible.”

CASAA Scientific Director, Carl V. Phillips, stated the importance of the study by saying “It has always been clear that e-cigarettes were a much lower risk than smoking, but there was uncertainty about whether continuing to inhale a mix of chemicals posed a measurable risk. Even those of us who have long encouraged smokers to switch are a bit surprised that even the worst-case-scenario risks are so low. This study assures us that e-cigarettes are as low risk as other smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products, like smokeless tobacco and nicotine replacement therapy.

The study didn’t address the effects of nicotine on the users because e-cigarette users are consuming it intentionally. Nicotine has a very low risk when ingestion does not involve smoking. It has also never been proven to cause any disease. Although, same as caffeine and other common gratifications, there is the very small risk of heart attack and stroke which makes e-cigarettes not completely risk free of health concerns. But the risk is no different than drinking coffee or eating deserts.

Can You Vape Anywhere?

According to almost any electronic cigarette company’s website you can enjoy your e-cigarette almost anywhere. Up until recently, Blu eCigs claimed on its website that one benefit over traditional cigarettes is that you can “Smoke Anywhere!” The website has toned down its language more recently to say that you can “Smoke in many places where traditional cigarettes aren’t allowed!”

Among other industries, the confusion about where you can or cannot Vape has caused some problems for the travel industry. The FDA has not ruled on the safety of e-cigarettes, but the agency will propose a ruling on how to regulate them in the near future.

This isn’t stopping vaping enthusiasts and others who want to quit smoking with the smokeless and odorless alternative.

The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, which is the industry’s representative, claims that e-cigarette makers have been able to gain 10% to 14% of the 44 million tobacco users in the United States.

E-cigarettes heat liquid containing nicotine to produce a vapor. In addition to water, the e-cigs typically contain vegetable glycerine, artificial flavoring and sometimes, propylene glycol, which is also found in asthma inhalers.

“E-cigarettes as a whole have no secondhand smoke,” says Ray Story, chief executive officer of the association. “They don’t emit anything.”

However, as for where travelers can smoke e-cigarettes isn’t always clear.

Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, says the current ban on smoking on planes applies to e-cigarettes, though it does not explicitly say so.

“There has been some confusion over whether the Department’s ban on smoking includes a ban on the use of e-cigarettes,” he says.

The department’s proposed an amendment, in September 2011, which specifically bans e-cigarettes in an attempt to help clear up the confusion. However, a final ruling is expected in the near future.

Passengers who fail to comply with the no smoking ban can currently be fined between $1,100 and $11,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration. This, however, leaves airports and hotels to decide on their own how to deal with e-cigarettes.

You can’t use e-cigarettes at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. But you can at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “State law governs indoor smoking but does not address electronic cigarettes, nor have we chosen at this point to govern their use by ordinance,” says spokesman Patrick Hogan.

This same policy goes for hotels, which recently have become more aggressive in getting rid of smoking in guest rooms and public spaces on their properties.

Wyndham Hotel group, for example, hasn’t made any changes to their smoking policies but “will continue to monitor the trend as it emerges,” says spokeswoman Kathryn Zambito.

On the other hand, Jeffery Waddell, director of Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa, claims, “We would treat an electronic cigarette as a cigarette. There is nicotine vapor, and it falls into the realm of smoking.”

Until there is a clear and defined ruling concerning e-cigarettes it is best to check the policies when traveling.

Is Secondhand Vaping Safe to People Around You?

E-cigarettes have been proven to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, but is second-hand vaping safe to the people around you? Instead of burning a tobacco mixture, e-cigarettes use a heating element to heat a liquid solution containing nicotine. Instead of exhaling a cloud of smoke, a person who is vaping exhales mostly water vapor.

But the question is does vaping pose and secondhand dangers to bystanders? A new study, one of the first to look at the issue of secondhand e-cigarette vapor, finds that while you might get a small amount of nicotine from being close to someone who is vaping, you most likely won’t be receiving any other harmful chemicals.

“We were interested in whether people who are in close proximity of users of electronic cigarettes can be exposed to any toxic substances or nicotine,” study author Maciej Goniewicz, a researcher at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., said.

Goniewicz and colleagues looked at three different kinds of e-cigarettes. They conducted several experiments using smoking machines and human volunteers to puff automatically on e-cigarettes or conventional ones. The scientists collected the resulting vapors of smoke and analyzed the samples.

They found that both e-cigarette vapor and regular cigarette smoke contained nicotine. However, the average concentration in e-cigarette vapor was about 10 times lower, on average, than the amount found in the tobacco smoke. But the e-cigarette vapor did not contain some of the other toxic products found in cigarette smoke.

“The key finding of this study is that e-cigarettes emit significant amounts of nicotine but do not emit significant amounts of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds,” the authors wrote.

Goniewicz notes that their study is limited, they were only looking for a few of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke, which contains more than 5,000 elements. Future studies will be needed to look for other potentially dangerous components like formaldehyde. There is also the question of what the long-term effects of secondhand nicotine vapor might be.

“We don’t know how to answer this question yet,” Goniewicz says. “Before, we never had a device that released just pure nicotine into the air.”

“While we know that smokers aren’t getting cancer from nicotine by itself, Goniewicz says, there may be some subpopulations including pregnant mothers and people that already have cancer, where nicotine exposure could potentially do some harm. It is also known that occasional exposure to e-cigarette vapors at a bar or a restaurant is a much different situation than living with a constant user.

Wisconsin Bill Would Make it Legal to Vape in Bars and Restaurants

Just as many states and cities are planning on tightening electronic cigarette regulations, Wisconsin could be planning to move in the opposite direction.

A bill set before the Wisconsin Senate would update the language in Wisconsin’s statewide smoking ban to allow electronic cigarettes legal to use in public places.

Oneida County Public Health Tobacco Coordinator Niki Kostrova says that the government hasn’t yet approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device. “…the bill passed in 2010 did not necessarily distinguish in definite terms whether e-cigarettes could be used indoors. It was left up to the establishment owner as far as allowing them. I know most of them do allow them indoors at this time. But this legislation would make it very clear that they would be allowed…”

In Wisconsin, the state law isn’t clear on where e-cigarettes can be used.

The state banned smoking in workplaces in 2010, before e-cigarettes became as popular as they are today. The law doesn’t clarify if e-cigarettes fall under the same regulations as tobacco cigarettes do.

Just last month, the largest city in America took action to limit e-cigarette use. New York’s city council voted to extend its public smoking ban to include electronic cigarettes. Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill into law.

New Jersey, Utah and North Dakota are among the list of more than 100 cities that have already added e-cigarettes into public smoking bans.

State Senator Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, introduced a bill last month that would ensure electronic cigarettes aren’t banned under the same regulations as conventional cigarettes.

“We want to step in ahead of someone in Wisconsin doing what New York City has already done.” said Grothman.

Grothman’s bill is currently being worked on by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. Grothman chairs the committee and hopes the bill makes progress early this year.

E-Cigarettes Have the Potential of Saving Millions of Lives

Scientists in the UK say that if all of the world’s smokers switched from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, millions of lives could be saved.

Currently in the UK an estimated 100,000 deaths per year are attributed to smoking. Worldwide that number is staggering at over five million.

Now researchers are hoping that an increase in the use of e-cigarettes could prevent most of these deaths.

Instead of inhaling the toxic chemicals found in tobacco, e-cigarette users inhale vaporized liquid nicotine. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, told delegates at the 2013 E-Cigarette Summit at London’s Royal Society in November that “literally millions of lives could be saved.”

“The big question, and why we’re here, is whether that goal can be realised and how best to do it and what kind of cultural, regulatory environment can be put in place to make sure that’s achieved. I think it can be achieved but that’s a hope, a promise, not a reality,” he said.

This view is also shared by Dr. Jacques Le Houezec, a private consultant who has been researching the effects of nicotine and tobacco. He said that in comparison to tobacco, e-cigarette use should not be over-regulated.

Dr. Le Houezec also drew the delegates’ attention to a 1996 study that found that a person who inhaled nicotine for two years suffered no ill-effects. This was used to demonstrate the less harmful nature of electronic cigarettes.

“Every adolescent tries something new, many try smoking. I would prefer they try e-cigarettes to regular cigarettes.” Dr. Le Houezec added.

Lynne Dawkins, from the University of East London, said that while light-touch regulation was important, it must be treated with caution. She said that e-cigarettes presented a “viable safer alternative” to offer smokers.

“We don’t want to spoil this great opportunity we have for overseeing this unprecedented growth and evolving technology that has not been seen before, we have to be careful not to stump that.”

The Real Reasons Behind the Unproven Opposition to Vaping

It isn’t hard to notice that the popularity of electronic cigarettes is growing around the world, which is not expected to slow down anytime soon. While the industry continues to challenge the tobacco industry, regulators seem more than willing to voice their opinions to the public on whether or not those opinions are backed by reliable and proven statistics. The question needs to be asked. Is there a strong biased agenda against the electronic cigarette industry?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating the e-cigarette industry for over two years. Even though the FDA hasn’t been able to reach a decision, there were rumors that it would be enforcing regulatory changes toward the end of 2013. Since that estimated deadline has come and gone without any public guidance from the FDA, it seems obvious that there are questionable issues holding up the process. Some of the issues seem to be clouding the minds of regulators around the world.

Secondhand Smoke
Even though the FDA has not yet announced the findings of their two-year review of the electronic cigarette industry, several local authorities in the U.S. have already issued a number of local changes to the laws which have affected the use of e-cigarettes in public. These changes apparently relate to the risk of secondhand smoke. However, a recent study by the Department of Health Behavior at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York puts this risk into a very different perspective.

The report, which was co-authored by Maciej Goniewicz, compared the risk of secondhand smoke in the case of electronic cigarettes to that of tobacco cigarettes. The report also measured the nicotine content released into the local atmosphere. It also monitored levels of carbon monoxide and a wide range of other organic compounds found in tobacco cigarettes.

The results of the report were very encouraging for the electronic cigarette industry with levels of between 2.5 mg and 3.3 mg of nicotine per cubic meter of air compared to almost 32 mg for tobacco cigarettes. It was also found that electronic cigarettes didn’t produce any detectable levels of the other dangerous compounds that are associated with tobacco cigarettes.

The income from the taxes on tobacco is a point that can’t be taken lightly. Governments and regulators around the world have often sidestepped the issue of tobacco tax income when discussing the electronic cigarette industry. The figures reported by the show the overall U.S. tobacco tax income increased from $3.6 billion in 1977 to a phenomenal $17.6 billion in 2011.

Experts believe that the 2013 U.S. electronic cigarette sales were in excess of $1 billion, with a worldwide market close to $3.5 billion. This is only a fraction of the tax income created by the tobacco cigarette industry, which hardly even registers compared to the worldwide tobacco cigarette sales.

Even if you don’t agree with the regulatory standpoint of the FDA and other regulators around the world, one thing that can’t be disputed is that money talks. Also considering the the forecasted growth over the next 20 years, which could see the electronic cigarette industry overtake the tobacco cigarette, the concerns within government treasury departments around the world can only be imagined.

Could New York’s Law Banning E-Cigarettes Cost Lives?

Could a bill passed by the City Council in December, and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as one of his last official acts, cost New Yorker’s their lives? The city’s wide-stretching anti-smoking law also includes the use of relatively harmless e-cigarette vapor from anywhere cigarette smoking is banned. This ban includes not only bars and restaurants, but also parks and beaches. This ban makes it a lot harder for New Yorkers to quit smoking.

Similar bans are being considered in cities and states around the country. Santa Fe, N.M. already has a hearing on the matter scheduled for early this year.

If the government treats smoke-free e-cigarettes with the same restrictive laws as tobacco cigarettes, fewer people will be able to effectively quit smoking by switching to electronic cigarettes. Not only will e-cigarettes lose their helpful purpose of being a more effective and convenient alternative to traditional cigarettes, they will also be labeled with the incorrect message that they are just as dangerous. This implication will not only be directed at the person who is using the e-cig but also people who are standing near them.

These bans don’t make financial sense either. Electronic cigarettes are a product that has been created by the private sector that is achieving what several hundred million dollars in government spending, huge litigations, massive taxes, warning labels and punitive regulations haven’t been able to achieve in several decades, offer smokers a safer alternative and a better means to quit smoking.

The people who support the ban base their argument on false and unproven information. They claim that vaping “normalizes” smoking because people may think vaping is smoking, which is ridiculous.

Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association, in her supportive testimony of the New York City ban, said, “this mimicry of traditional cigarettes, if used indoors where smoking is banned, can easily lead to confusion and confrontation by New York business owners. The potential for this dynamic to weaken the city’s decade-long ban on smoking in workplaces is quite clear and is the greatest motivating factor to support this proposal.” However, after that comment, a spokesman for business owners denied there have been many such complaints.

Even though the vaping community is moving toward more elaborate designs and styles of “e-cigarette” and away from the initial style that replicated an actual tobacco cigarette, I’m sure most people can figure out that if someone is puffing away on something that is glowing blue at the tip, as in the case of “blu” e-cigarettes, they aren’t smoking a traditional cigarette.

Even if people still can’t tell the difference by site, there is the fact that e-cigarettes don’t smell and a non-smoker won’t gag on any plumes of smoke. Actually if you can’t tell the difference between the two, then you might just want to stay inside the rest of your life because the real world isn’t really for you.

At the same hearing, Spike Babian, co-owner of Vape New York, testified that “we don’t ban water because it looks like vodka.” And the New York City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley suggested that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking. But initial studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from, not toward, smoking.

As cities and states around the country consider adding e-cigarettes to smoking bans, legislators need to keep in mind the law of unintended consequences. Any former smoker who now vapes will tell you, if you keep e-cigarettes out of the regulation and restrictions imposed on tobacco cigarettes, more people will switch to vaping and more people will live.