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eCigs & Myths

There are no health claims made by manufacturers of personal vaporizers (electronic cigarettes, eCigs). They are also not claimed to be smoke cessation products and have not been tested as such.

This being said, the addictive component of a tobacco cigarette is nicotine. One of the few ingredients in eCigs can be nicotine. Considering eCigs to help in a stop smoking strategy is a valid option.

I have read a considerable number of cautions from the medical community and from government (mainly health agencies). All of these point to the lack of studies and research into the safety and efficacy of eCigs, claiming that only anecdotal evidence is not adequate. Yet in those same reports, they use anecdotal evidence to increase their profile and raise the question of risks in eCigs. Here are some examples of their anecdotal evidence:

  • They claim eCigs contain diethylene glycol –
    In 2009, the US FDA reported they had found diethylene glycol in tests of eCigs. Diethylene glycol is a toxic ingredient found in anti-freeze. Independent labs extensively tested other electronic cigarettes and found no evidence of diethylene glycol, the toxic component of anti-freeze claimed to have been found in the brands the FDA tested. To further the confusion, electronic cigarette liquid can include propylene glycol, an ingredient recognized as safe for human consumption by the FDA. While propylene glycol is sometimes used in anti-freeze, it is an additive intended to make it LESS harmful if accidentally swallowed. The FDA tested just 18 cartridges, from only two companies. Out of those 18, just one tested positive for “about 1% diethylene glycol.” Because so many other tests failed to find diethylene glycol, many experts conclude that the single sample may have been contaminated in some other way. It is not standard ingredient in electronic cigarettes. If electronic cigarettes did contain anti-freeze, there would be news reports about the thousands of electronic cigarette owners suffering from diethylene glycol poisoning and that is not the case. After many years on the market worldwide, there have been no such reports.
  • They claim eCigs batteries have a high rate of explosion –
    Every battery type has risks. This latest claims dates to February 2012 when a Florida man (Tom Holloway, 57) was treated at hospital. It appeared the eCig that he was smoking had blown up while in his mouth. The damage caused was extensive: knocked out all of his teeth, part of his tongue, and severely burned his face. The cause of the explosion was reported to be a battery from an electronic cigarette that blew out of the device and into a closet (also setting that on fire). It was found that this was not from an electronic cigarette, but rather from a modified device that the man built himself from an electronic cigar. There were several CR123A type batteries found indicating Holloway had modified and was outside the specifications for the device. There have been a few other reports of electronic cigarette battery failures with some causing small fires. This happens with rechargeable batteries intended for all electronic devices,  not just electronic cigarettes. We suspect it is equivalent to the risks of fire from cigarettes (ie. matches, lighters, dropping lit cigarette, etc.).

  • Vapor from electronic cigarettes is worse than second hand smoke –
    Nothing further from the truth! Electronic cigarettes would be better named "Personal Vaporizers". The "smoke" they generate is not smoke at all, it is a vapor. It is not a tobacco by-product. There is no smell, no lingering odor, or anything that will offend bystanders. A study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 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 and/or tobacco cigarettes. The study showed that e-cigarettes are a source of second hand exposure to nicotine but not to combustion toxicants. The average concentration of nicotine resulting from smoking tobacco cigarettes was 10 times higher than from e-cigarettes.
  • eCigs are more expensive than regular tobacco cigarettes –
    Whoaaa! More expensive? The cost of starting with eCigs is about $150 and that would include enough eLiquid to last one month. Compare that with a one-pack a day smoker that would spend approximately $300 on his tobacco cigarettes. In the first month alone, that is a $150 savings. Now you have the "hardware", buying eLiquid would total perhaps $60 each month, leading to savings of $240 each month. Which is more expensive?

  • eCigs contain highly addictive nicotine and is more dangerous than regular tobacco cigarettes –
    Agreed, nicotine is highly addictive. Kicking this habit has been reported to be as difficult as kicking heroin. One of the claims they make, though, suggests that nicotine in eCigs can lead to death. The exact wording is:
    "Touted as having no carcinogens, e-cigarettes employ a nicotine filled cartridge activated by a battery powered nebulizer, and they are provided in nicotine strengths as high as 16 mg. The lethal dose of nicotine for a 150 pound male is 60 mg. Due to the burning process, traditional cigarettes deliver only about 1 mg of nicotine per cigarette, so reaching the lethal nicotine dose requires smoking about 60 cigarettes over a fairly short time. In high contrast "smoking" four electronic cigarettes delivers a toxic dose."
    These are complete falsehoods intended to scare those considering eCigs. The first statement intended to mislead is that an e-cigarette nicotine filled cartridge contains nicotine strength as high as 16 mg. This is completely false. The entire eCig industry reports nicotine levels in one of two ways (often both ways). 16 mg or 1.6% nicotine would refer to the amount of nicotine per milli-liter of eLiquid. A nicotine filled cartridge contains 0.6 ml of eLiquid (on average). That means each e-cigarette nicotine filled cartridge contains 9.6 mg of nicotine. Each nicotine filled cartridge is equivalent to 6 cigarettes. To achieve a lethal dose at this rate would require smoking more than 6 electronic cigarettes – although not correct, the equivalent of 36 regular cigarettes. That also isn't quite right. The second misleading statement is that a traditional cigarette contains only about 1 mg of nicotine. There are two problems with this: 1) this should be 1.5 mg; and, 2) a traditional cigarette contains 8 mg or more of nicotine (the average is 8-9 mg). What they are reporting as 1 mg (should be 1.5 mg) of nicotine per tobacco cigarette is called the absorption rate. The FDA (US) and Health Canada permit the tobacco companies to report the absorption rate instead of the real content. The absorption rate for tobacco cigarettes is calculcated as approximately 15% of the actual nicotine content. If you read one of the points above, it is clear that not all  nicotine is absorbed in an eCig either. It is also calculated that an eCig absorption rate is 15%. So, the reality is to achieve a lethal dose of eCigs would require smoking more than 41 eCigs in one single day (that is the equivalent of 250 tobacco cigarettes, more than one full carton in a 24 hour period).

  • There is no evidence eCigs help people give up smoking –
    Survey results published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine show that 31.0% of respondents who used eCigs were still not smoking cigarettes after 6 months. You can read the full study report.

  • They claim eCigs are not an effective smoke cessation strategy –
    The latest study on e-cigarettes, published in the journal Lancet, does not support that claim. In the first clinical trial comparing e-cigarettes and nicotine patches in helping people to stop smoking, both methods proved equally successful. After a 13-week smoking cessation program, similar numbers of smokers who used e-cigarettes remained smoke-free after six months as used nicotine patches. You can read the abstract report.

Comments

  • Posted by Joseph S. on February 23, 2014, 7:31 pm

    According to your own information on this website, you have a calculation error somewhere. One nicotine filled cartridge should be equal to 9.6 mg of nicotine, not 0.32 mg.

    from Andy: You are absolutely correct. I just looked at my spreadsheet and made one data entry error. I have now corrected this. Thank you for this comment, and the other three emails received about this.

Comments