The amazingly rapid growth of the electronic cigarette market has attracted the attention of public health officials and anti-smoking groups.
The focus of their interest is the vapor produced by e-cigarettes and its effect on both the user and people in close proximity to it. The basis for their concern is the knowledge that “second hand” smoke emitted by conventional tobacco cigarettes is known to contain many carcinogenic chemicals and is extremely toxic.
Recently, there have been many stories in the media about the potential danger of e-cigarette vapor but the justification for this allegation is based on very flimsy evidence. Indeed, most of the studies relating to the toxicity of vapor show that these fears are unfounded, such as the study carried out by the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.
In 2013, for example, Tobacco Control reported that research carried out in Poland examined a dozen of the top e-cigarette brands and found that the levels of toxic compounds in vapor were up to 450 times lower than those of conventional cigarettes.
This finding was subsequently confirmed by a report in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology which stated that a study of leading American and British e-cigarette brands had found that the levels of potentially problematic substances in e-cigarette vapor were about the same as those detected in ambient air. The researchers compared the output of two leading e-cigarette brands with the smoke generated by Marlboro Gold and other leading US cigarette brands.
The analysis of the smoke from conventional cigarettes revealed that the mainstream cigarette smoke delivered approximately 1500 times more harmful and potentially harmful constituents compared to e-cigarette vapor, or even to breathing normal air.
The results of this study backed up the long held claim of e-cigarette manufacturers that there is a considerably reduced exposure to any form of toxins compared to cigarette smoke. E-cigarette vapor consists of up to 85 percent glycerin or propylene glycol, with around 10 percent water and the balance made up of flavorings, with nicotine at a maximum of two percent.
Can we deduce from these findings that e-cigarette vapor is as safe as air?
Well, the real answer is, maybe. That’s because e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for us to know their long term effects. After all, it took hundreds of years until the dangers of tobacco were fully understood.
However, what is certain is that vapor is nowhere near as toxic as tobacco smoke and any claim to the contrary can not be taken seriously. So, what are we to make of the claim of people like Mark Leno, a California lawmaker, who predicts that
We’re going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use, just like we did from traditional tobacco use.
Then there is Ron Chapman, director of California’s Department of Public Health, who claims that e-cigarettes are “a community health threat.” To support that contention he alleges that vapor contains chemicals known to cause cancer. He neglects to point out that these chemicals are present in the same level in the air we all breathe.
This kind of scaremongering is simply not supported by the facts. These people, and others like them, are being irresponsible. Frightening people away from e-cigarettes is only going to contribute to a decline in the overall level of public health.