In light of the recent flurry of media attention following the release of Public Health England’s (PHE) latest findings on e-cigarettes, it’s clear that e-cigarettes continue to divide opinion, much like Marmite, stirring up debate among both the public and the press.

Given this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that a wealth of inaccuracies and misunderstandings about e-cigarettes and vaping have proliferated. This blog aims to dispel some of the most widespread myths by laying out the facts.

Our most recent independent review on e-cigarettes, penned by esteemed experts in the field of tobacco control, zeroes in on the current truths regarding vaping’s prevalence among adults and youths in England.

Despite the often mixed, and at times misleading, portrayal in the media concerning the safety of e-cigarettes, there’s an emerging consensus regarding the evidence. Although e-cigarettes are not devoid of risks, they are significantly less harmful compared to traditional smoking.

This perspective is endorsed by several prominent organizations, including Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, and, of late, a leading American scientific institution, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Myth 1: Vaping causes popcorn lung

The most classic argument there is

Amid the extensive dialogue surrounding the use of e-cigarettes, one prevailing concern is the fear of developing ‘popcorn lung,’ a term that has garnered attention due to its connection with certain e-liquid flavorings. The root of this apprehension lies in the presence of diacetyl, a chemical used to achieve a buttery flavor in some e-liquids. High levels of exposure to diacetyl have been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a grave lung condition.

The moniker ‘popcorn lung’ originated from cases observed in workers at a popcorn manufacturing facility, where the condition was first identified.

Nonetheless, it’s crucial to note that in the UK, the use of diacetyl in e-cigarettes and e-liquids is strictly prohibited. Although traces of diacetyl were found in certain e-liquid flavorings previously, the concentrations were significantly lower—hundreds of times less—than those found in traditional cigarette smoke. Importantly, even at these lower levels found in e-cigarettes, smoking has not been identified as a significant risk factor for this rare disease.

Myth 2: Vaping products are unregulated and their contents are unknown.

Strict regulations ensure safer practices

The United Kingdom boasts among the most stringent e-cigarette regulations globally. Governed by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations of 2016, these products must adhere to established minimum standards for quality and safety. Additionally, they are required to meet specific packaging and labeling criteria, ensuring consumers have access to essential information for making knowledgeable decisions.

Manufacturers are mandated to submit all products for notification to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), providing comprehensive details such as a complete ingredient list.

Myth 3: Vaping must be harmful as E-LIQUID contains nicotine!

no TAR or Carbon Monoxide

A significant misunderstanding exists among smokers and former smokers, with four in ten mistakenly believing that nicotine is the primary culprit behind tobacco-related cancers. However, research indicates that nicotine itself poses minimal health risks. While it’s true that nicotine fuels the addiction to smoking, it’s the myriad of other chemicals in cigarette smoke that inflicts nearly all the damage.

E-cigarettes present a contrasting scenario; their vapor lacks tar and carbon monoxide, which are among the most detrimental substances in tobacco smoke. Although e-cigarette vapor does share some chemical components with tobacco smoke, these are present at considerably reduced levels.

Myth 4: Exposure to e-cigarette vapour is harmful to others

Smoke & Mirrors

It’s well-documented that second-hand smoke poses significant health risks, leading to stringent UK legislation banning smoking in enclosed public spaces and workplaces. However, these regulations do not extend to vaping, leaving organizations to determine their own policies regarding e-cigarette use on their premises.

E-cigarette liquids mainly consist of nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerine, along with flavorings. A key difference from traditional cigarettes is that e-cigarettes do not emit side-stream vapour into the air, but only the aerosol exhaled by the user.

Public Health England’s (PHE) evidence review in 2018 concluded that, thus far, passive vaping has not been shown to pose health risks to bystanders. Nonetheless, individuals with asthma or other respiratory issues may react to various environmental irritants, including vaping aerosols, pollen, and cold air. Consequently, PHE recommends that organizations consider these sensitivities when formulating their e-cigarette policies, making adjustments as necessary to accommodate everyone’s health needs.

Myth 5: Vaping E-cigarettes don’t help you quit smoking

Vaping is the most effective method to quit smoking

In a study separate from our review, a significant clinical trial funded by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and published in February 2019, involving nearly 900 participants, demonstrated that e-cigarettes are notably more effective in aiding smokers to quit than combination nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This trial, conducted in Local Stop Smoking Services, found that using a standard e-cigarette was twice as effective as the choice of NRT selected by the participants aiming to quit. Both groups received behavioral support, with the e-cigarette group experiencing significantly quicker reductions in symptoms such as coughing and phlegm.

Myth 6: Vaping is being used as a Trojan horse

An industry created by folks just like you

Presently, there’s no substantiated evidence indicating that e-cigarettes are promoting continued smoking; rather, the situation in the UK points to a contrary effect. The ratio of e-cigarette users who have successfully quit smoking has been on the rise in recent years.

Among the 3.2 million adult e-cigarette users in the UK, over half have managed to quit smoking entirely. Additionally, 770,000 individuals have ceased both smoking and vaping. Concurrently, the success rates for quitting smoking have been improving, accompanied by a significant reduction in smoking rates, which have reached an all-time low of 14.9% in England.

sOURCES USED FOR THIS ARCHIVE

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Offers comprehensive information on vaping-related health issues and statistics: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – Provides research and data on vaping trends, risks, and addiction: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/tobacco-nicotine-vaping/e-cigarettes
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Offers regulatory updates, research, and information on the safety of vaping products: https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/products-ingredients-components/vaporizers-e-cigarettes-and-other-electronic-nicotine-delivery-systems-ends
  4. Public Health England (PHE) – Presents evidence-based reports and guidance on vaping for the public: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-evidence-review
  5. National Health Service (NHS) – Provides information and advice on vaping as a smoking cessation tool: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/e-cigarette-vaping/
  6. Australian Government Department of Health – Offers resources and updates on vaping regulations and health impacts: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/about-smoking-and-tobacco/e-cigarettes
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