Vaping and e liquid - separating vaping myth from vaping fact!
From exploding vape batteries and popcorn lung, to ‘nicotine causes cancer’ and ‘e liquid makes you fat’. We explore (and debunk) these popular vaping myths, and many more.
Another week, another sensational story about the dangers of vaping. Now, don’t get me wrong, nobody is claiming that vaping is completely safe. However, much of the available evidence points to vaping being far, far, FAR safer than smoking traditional cigarettes (95% safer according to Public Health England).
There is no doubt that vaping has had a meteoric rise in the UK. Since 2012, the number of e-cigarette users (vapers) in Great Britain has risen from 700,000 to 2.9 million in 2017. A study by ASH found that 94% of the general population knows what vaping is. This same study also shows that a growing proportion of the general public (smokers included) fail to recognise that e-cigarettes are a lot less harmful than smoking. Additionally, between 2013 and 2017, the percentage of the population that thinks that e-cigs are as harmful, or more harmful, than smoking has nearly quadrupled from 7% to 26%.
Vaping is under fire from negative press
What this tells us is that we used to understand that vaping was less harmful than smoking, but we’re now less certain. The messages we’re being fed about vaping are creating a false perception that e-cigarettes are as harmful as traditional cigarettes. The negative press (and, to be frank, pure falsehoods) is so prevalent now that Cancer Research UK ran a pilot campaign at the start of 2018 aimed at raising awareness of the relative safety of vaping compared to smoking.
So, why all the negativity about vaping? What is the agenda? We know that we shouldn’t smoke; and we know that, if we do smoke, we should quit; and research shows that people who turn to vaping as an alternative to smoking find it easier to quit. So surely, common sense should tell us that vilifying the thing that is helping so many people quit smoking is not a great idea.
Let’s debunk the vaping mythology
As responsible vaping advocates, we decided to take a look at some of the more common vaping myths in order to put pay to the scaremongering stories that have plagued the vaping world over the past few years.
Vaping causes popcorn lung
Let’s get this old chestnut out of the way from the beginning. This myth came about because any e liquid with a buttery flavour used to contain the chemical diacetyl. The emphasis here being on ‘used to’! Diacetyl is now banned as an ingredient in vape liquids in the UK.
Even so, there has never been a diagnosed case of ‘popcorn lung’ (real name - bronchiolitis obliterans) in a vaper. In fact, we can’t find a reported case in a cigarette smoker either, despite the levels of diacetyl contained in cigarettes being hundreds of times higher.
Vaping gets teenagers into smoking
What if you read a report which claimed that liking James Bond films leads to mosquito bites? If enough people are surveyed, it would be easy enough to find a percentage who enjoy James Bond, and get bitten by mosquitoes. In statistical terms, this is known as correlation (people who like Bond AND get bitten) and causation (proof that James Bond films were the reason for their bites).
Consequently, this is a difficult claim to debunk completely, as we can’t say for certain that the teenagers who have tried vaping AND cigarettes, wouldn’t have tried the latter without the existence of the former.
What we do know, however, is that the smoking rates among young people continue to decline. Fewer teens and adults are smoking than any time since we started to record the numbers. So, even if vaping isn’t directly responsible for all the kids not smoking, it’s evidently not causing an uptake in cigarette use either.
Vapor contains formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is pretty nasty stuff - certainly not something that anyone would want to inhale. So, when the New England Medical Journal published a study saying that formaldehyde forms as e liquid is vaporised, people were understandably concerned.
In fact, the news sent the negative vaping press into overdrive - once more leading to claims that e-cigarettes were just as bad, if not worse, than smoking. Bold claims considering formaldehyde is actually present in tobacco smoke as well.
Since this study, many have been able to successfully debunk this claim. It has been found that the temperatures at which the glycol within the vape liquid was broken down into formaldehyde was far higher than any e-cigarette could even reach.
In fact, the efforts to refute the findings, by Professor Michael Siegel from the Boston University School of Public Health, actually enabled him to prove that glycol does not evolve into anything harmful at actual vaping temperatures. Special modifications would need to be made to the e-cigarette in order to achieve the temperatures required. Since this would produce a disgusting tasting ‘dry hit’ (which we all try to avoid), why would any vaper do this?
Exploding vape batteries - run for cover!
This one has received a lot of press coverage recently and, to be fair, it isn’t actually a myth. Vape batteries have been known to explode, ignite, or vent. However, in reality, the battery in an e-cigarette is no more explosive than the battery in your smartphone. Reported cases haven’t been as high as we would be led to believe; plus, almost all have been attributed to user error.
What this comes down to is battery education and safety - pure and simple.
When used properly, e-cigarettes pose no threat of explosion. Any vaper using a mod, or an external battery, will need to be aware of how to use, maintain, store, and transport their batteries safely. All reputable vaping retailers (including us) should provide thorough information about battery safety. You can find ours here.
E liquid flavours are designed to attract kids
“If vaping isn’t meant to attract children, why are e liquids flavoured with things like bubblegum and cupcakes?” Does this sound familiar? It should do - this is what is asked whenever the media takes aim at the vaping industry for trying to ‘turn the next generation into addicts’.
I’ll let you in on a (very well known) little secret - adults like sweet stuff too!
For the first time, in 2017, fruity vape liquid flavours outsold both tobacco and menthol flavours in the UK. And, since we have studies that show that less than 3% of 11-16 year olds are regular vapers, we can only conclude that it’s the adults that are turning away from tobacco flavoured e liquid.
Studies have shown that ex-smokers who prefer sweet, dessert, or fruity e-liquids, do so because it helps them to distance themselves from the memory of the flavour of combustible tobacco.
E-cigarettes were designed by the tobacco industry to keep people smoking
As we discussed earlier, 2.9 million adults in the UK now vape. Of these, over half (1.5 million) are now ex-smokers (the remainder being dual users). Furthermore, 770,000 people have now given up smoking AND vaping.
The success rates for quitting smoking are constantly improving - to the point where smoking rates are currently at a record low. A study reported by the British Medical Journal concluded that the rise of vaping has been associated to a rise in successful quit attempts.
From this we can safely conclude that there is no evidence suggesting e-cigarettes encourage people to keep smoking.
E liquids contain antifreeze
Whoever started this particular rumour has got their facts completely mixed up!
Antifreeze contains propylene glycol (PG), which is one of the main ingredients in vape juice. This seems to have been translated into e liquids containing anti-freeze, and consequently got the knickers of the anti-vapers into a right old twist.
The most ironic part of this myth, is that PG is put into antifreeze to make it less harmful if it is swallowed!
Nicotine causes cancer
A whopping 40% of smokers incorrectly believe that nicotine is the main cause of smoking related cancers. This needs to be cleared up immediately - nicotine is not a known carcinogen!
Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in cigarettes but, in and of itself, actually poses minimal risk to health. It is the thousands of chemical elements in tobacco smoke, including many known carcinogens, that cause the harm.
The most prevalent toxic chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke, tar and carbon monoxide, cannot be found in e-cigarettes. Certain chemicals found in tobacco smoke can be detected when vaping, but at much lower levels.
Vaping attracts non-smokers
A thorough report into e-cigarettes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that, of every adult surveyed that had tried an e-cigarette, only 3.2% had never been a cigarette smoker.
Furthermore, of the total number of adults that currently considered themselves vapers, just 0.4% were never a smoker.
E-cigarettes were designed as, and are only ever marketed as, a tool to help smokers to quit smoking. The evidence to date backs this up.
Passive vaping is just as bad as passive smoking
Although the evidence is absolutely clear that passive smoking is harmful to bystanders, the latest evidence from Public Health England (PHE) finds that, to date, there have been no identified risks of passive vaping.
The UK laws that strictly prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces do not apply to the use of e-cigarettes. To date, organisations have been left to make their own decisions on vaping indoors. As people with respiratory conditions can show sensitivity to a wide range of environmental irritants, which could include the vapour from an e-cigarette, PHE advises that organisations take this into account when making their decision.
Vaping products aren’t regulated
100% untrue! The UK’s regulations for e-cigarettes and e liquids are some of the strictest in the world.
In May 2016, the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) came into effect to regulate minimum standards for the safety and quality of vaping products. All vape liquids must be submitted to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for testing, and detail every ingredient.
From May 2017, all retailers of vaping equipment and e liquids needed to have sold off all stocks of non-compliant products. Consequently, every product you purchase from a reputable vaping retailer (like us!) will be thoroughly and entirely regulated.
And finally....vaping makes you gain weight
We’ve already established that sweet and fruity e liquids are now favoured above tobacco and menthol flavours. With the massive advancements in vape liquid flavourings, there’s no denying that they taste great! But we’re conditioned to believe that, if it tastes good, it’s probably bad for us.
The flavours even sound calorific! ‘Banoffee pie with a rich buttery biscuit base, topped with fresh cream’...if I saw that on a menu in a restaurant I’d gain 5 lbs straight away!
So, what’s the truth? How many calories are actually in e-liquid?
As it turns out, not many at all. E liquid mainly consists of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycol (VG). Each of these key ingredients contain only around 4 calories per gram. Furthermore, in order to gain these calories, you would need to drink the vape juice - which you definitely should not do!
In tests, vaping e liquid has not shown effects on blood sugar levels and has been marked as safe for use by those with type 2 diabetes.
When you quit smoking, you can notice an increase in appetite as your taste buds repair themselves and food starts to taste good again. This is far more likely to be the cause of any weight gain that is being reported. However, since you’re likely to notice a marked improvement in fitness and energy levels when you switch from cigarettes to vaping, any weight gain can be quickly overcome!
Do the research and find the truths about vaping
In summary, in spite of the negative, and confusing, media reporting around vaping and e-cigarettes, there is a growing consensus around the facts. While not completely risk free, when compared to smoking, vaping is far less harmful.
This view is supported by an ever increasing number of organisations, including Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, Action on Smoking and Health, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
While these organisations all agree that more studies are needed to truly assess the pros and cons of vaping, it’s important to remember that you should remain critical about everything that is reported.
The sensational headlines may give you cause for concern; but dig a little deeper and you can almost always find the counter story.
The key fact will always remain true: e-cigarettes are far safer than regular cigarettes. Switching from smoking to vaping could change (even save) your life. That is true, no matter what the media says.
- Nicola Webster