Take Back the Truth: Misconceptions about Vaping
By Dr. Diana Rangaves, PharmD
Diana is a pharmacology and ethics educator turned writer. She holds a Doctorate from the University of California, San Francisco and is the author of “Escape into Excellence: Building a Foundation for Honest Decision-Making.”
Self-education is essential for active decision making. Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), author, logician, and scientist wrote,
“There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.”
The debate is on regarding the health benefits and risks of vaping. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about 2.4 million users within the ages of 18 and 24 years engaged in vaping between 2017 and 2018.
These research findings demonstrate that some people engage in vaping as a cultural bonding ritual to boost their social image. In addition, some use it as a smoking cessation gateway to quit smoking of regular cigarettes.
The Center on Addiction describes vaping as the practice of inhaling and exhaling vapor or aerosol produced by an electronic cigarette, e-cigarettes, or other vaping devices. Typically, a vaping device comprises a battery, mouthpiece, cartridge that contains the e-juice or e-liquid, and a battery-powered heating component. The warming of the heating components of the battery converts the e-liquid into a vapor.
As with any issue involving the personal choices we make, there are agendas, politics, and money behind them. Marketing and information become blurred, with hype, publicity, and misinformation.
Misconception: Vaping is more harmful than traditional cigarettes
According to the American Lung Association, regular tobacco cigarettes contain about 600 different ingredients that produce over 7,000 chemicals when burned. At least 69 of these chemicals in cigars contain toxic elements linked to cancer, heart and other respiratory diseases.
By contrast, an e-cigarette contains vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol-based liquid with flavoring, nicotine, and metals. However, not the tobacco present in a traditional cigar or cigarette.
Vaping, unlike a traditional cigarette, exposes users to fewer toxic chemicals says Michael Blaha, the director of clinical research at John Hopkins Medicine.
Misconception: No one knows exactly what is in an e-cigarette, they use anti-freeze to hide this
This is another misconception used in the war against vaping. There is no iota of truth in this statement. Vape juice contains primarily four different ingredients, which appear on the packaging. This is much lower compared to the thousands of unknown chemical present in cigarettes. The four ingredients present in vape juice include
Natural and artificial flavoring
The assertion that vape juice contains anti-freeze is misleading. This misapprehension is because of the presence of propylene glycol. However, the Food and Drug Administration considers the use of propylene glycol safe for general use in food, as direct additives, food flavoring agent and in cosmetics.
Misconception: Vaping cannot be used to quit smoking
Actually, the original personal intent of the inventor was as a smoking cessation product. The creator of the e-cigarette, Hon Lik, a Beijing pharmacist, invented the product in 2003. It did help him quit smoking after seeing his father, a heavy smoker, passed away from lung cancer.
The number of smokers among both adults and high school students in the U.S. has reduced in recent years; thanks to the positive role of vaping. The use of vaping devices allows users to control the amount of nicotine released during vaping.
Currently, the use of the e-cigarettes does not have Food and Drug Administration approval as a smoking cessation method. However, there is documentation that it is effective as an aid that can help smokers quit smoking. To implement vaping as a smoking cessation tool, start with a medium-high nicotine output vapor and gradually moved to a low, then eventually to a zero nicotine output. Smokers use vaping to avoid or minimize the symptoms of withdrawal associated with smoking cessation.
Misconception: Nicotine is responsible for cancer
This is another fallacy to spread fear, anxiety, and worry. According to the American Cancer Society, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, which is present in cigarettes. The nicotine present in the aerosol of an e-cigarette is not a carcinogen and does not cause cancer.
Research from the Society for the Study of Addiction confirms that nicotine does not cause cancer. In addition, none of the other main ingredients in vape juice are carcinogens or cancer causing.
Misconception: Smoking and vaping are both unhealthy
Yes, cigarettes disable the sense of taste and smell in users. This is due to the many toxic chemicals, apart from tobacco, present. The American Lung Association reports that smoking cigarettes exposes users to not less than 69 toxic chemicals, which include carbon monoxide, tar, acetone, arsenic, and butane.
To the contrary, vapers are not at risk for exposure to these toxic chemicals, because the vape juice does not contain tobacco. Nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and natural and artificial flavoring are the main ingredients in vape juices. Since many users turn to vaping as a cessation tool, their usage of nicotine will likely decrease with time.
The popularity of vaping has grown since it was introduced in 2007 to the U.S. mass market. Many people, especially among the young, adults have turned to vaping. This has raised the level of awareness among many groups. A sundry of misconceptions and misinformation about vaping abound. However, education is essential. Look at all angles, to discern information and be an informed consumer.
1. Vaporizers, E-Cigarettes, and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)| FDA
2. Why Do People Vape? Reasons Have Changed| Livescience; Sarah G.Miller; March 1st 2017
3. What is Vaping? | Center on Addiction; October
4. What is in a cigarette?| American Lung Association; February 20th 2019
5. 5 Truths You Need to Know About Vaping
6. Toxic Substance Portal- Propylene Glycol| ATSDR
7. The Truth About Vaping: 7 Common Misconception
8. Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes| CASAA
9. Nicotine per se is not a substantial cause of cancer. Any cancer-related risks during short-term nicotine therapy to aid smoking cessation are insignificant compared to the risks of smoking.
10. What We know About Electronic Cigarettes
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