The media fueled fear of e-cigs doesn’t match the science

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A guest post of science-backed studies on e-cigarettes that goes beyond the negative hype and highlights actual facts to educate non-vapers – by Steve Miller of White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes.

When it comes to public perception, the vapor industry faces an uphill battle. Whether you vape on a high-end mod, ego style device or a simple cig-a-like, we are confronted with many falsehoods from friends, relatives or even strangers: “Aren’t those things just as bad as cigarettes?” or “I heard they contain formaldehyde.” Both of these notions have long since been dismissed. These myths and many others simply won’t go away. As educated vapors or members of the vaping industry, we know how wrong they are. We understand the reality of e-cigarette science, and we know what the concept of harm reduction means. So why can’t we get that idea across to the mainstream? Why do the negative stereotypes continue? One need not look much further than the media to begin to understand why this misinformation continues.

A walk-through a real-life scenario

On September 15, the Tobacco Control Journal published a study suggesting that e-liquid flavorings affect the toxicity of e-cigarette vapor. This study has popped up in my Google Alerts with headlines like ‘Flavorings Increase Toxicity of E-Cigarettes” and “Strawberry Flavour Increases Toxicity in E-cigarettes” Quick, everyone panic. Rest assured your concerned Aunt or Uncle will relate this horrifying news to you this Thanksgiving before you step outside for a quick vape after dinner.

You know I read that those things were toxic…

Really, where did you read that? Because they are way less dangerous than a tobacco cigarette…

Well, I didn’t read the whole article, just the headline.

The difference between positive and negative headlines

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We have all had that conversation. It’s not their fault, they’re just not as educated as they need to be, and let’s be honest: we are all guilty of reading headlines and merely skimming articles. The reality of this particular study is that the headlines could have put a positive spin on the study’s findings. The headlines could’ve easily read “Study Finds: E-Cigs Significantly Less Toxic than Tobacco Cigarettes” as noted by the authors of the study:

However, all tested carriers were significantly less toxic to H292 cells than smoke from tobacco cigarettes.

Additionally, the central argument that flavorings increase toxicity seems very flawed by their own admission:

Additionally, only one ENDS liquid product was tested for each flavour name (eg, strawberry). It remains to be determined whether other ENDS liquid products with the same flavour name that may contain an alternate flavour chemical composition yield a similar result.

So they only tested one e-liquid for each flavor style, and they do not know which chemical compounds are problematic. This results in broad-reaching, scaremongering headlines decrying all flavors as toxic.

How is this for a headline, “Tobacco Flavored E-liquids Found to be Significantly Less Toxic than Tobacco Smoke”? A headline of that nature would’ve been appropriate considering that another positive takeaway from the study was that:

Aerosol generated from tobacco-flavoured liquid did not alter either viability or metabolic activity compared to air controls and was significantly less toxic than tobacco smoke.

The reality of this study is that the majority of findings are encouraging for the vapor and harm reduction communities, but that is not how they are being presented. This study, along with the recent British American Tobacco study finding that e-cigarettes are 95% less toxic than tobacco, continue the trend of positive science in the face of regulatory crackdowns. I have to believe that the science will eventually outweigh the fear and e-cigarettes will take their proper place in the world of public health.

The fear will fade

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Whenever I worry that the fear of e-cigarettes will win out, I think back to people’s initial concerns about trains. There was a time when many in the public believed the human body simply wasn’t meant to travel at speeds of 30 mph. Well, eventually science was proven right in that situation, and I believe vapor products will be as well. So try not to lose hope, keep your patience and explain the truth to that annoying uncle. They may not believe you today, but one day they will. On that day you’ll be able to say, “I told you so.” And really, isn’t that what family is all about?

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