If you only listened to media reports detailing concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes, you might naturally wonder why these devices are even allowed to be sold to consumers. After all, media outlets and government officials routinely trot out claims that assert that e-cig usage is as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes. They claim that they are unsafe to be used in public, due to imagined secondhand vapor issues. They cite studies showing that toxic chemicals can be produced when the devices are misused at high temperatures. And they even go so far as to make it sound like the batteries could simply explode without warning at any moment. On and on they go.
With all of that background noise, it is a wonder anyone even tries vaping products these days. All of that raises one obvious question, however: where is the evidence? For all of their panicked claims of danger, these so-called experts rarely present anything even remotely resembling actual evidence of potential harm. Worse, they couch their assertions with qualifiers that all but beg for greater examination. So, what is the truth about electronic cigarette safety? Let’s examine the facts.
One thing is clear: the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that the real risk associated with the best electronic cigarettes and their usage falls somewhere between minimal danger and no danger at all. That’s not a popular thing to note, but the science is what it is. Various studies have confirmed that there is no serious danger from the vapor inhaled by users, and no dangerous contaminants released in the secondhand vapor.
Other research indicates that these devices do not entice non-smokers, and do not appear to lure children to the habit. They are demonstrably less harmful in every way than traditional tobacco cigarettes, and have been shown to assist in smoking cessation efforts. In short, they are nothing like what they are made out to be in the popular media. Those are the facts, uncomfortable as that might be for the industry’s opponents.
The UK View
Despite those obvious facts – truths that have been repeatedly proven in study after study around the world – the United States government stubbornly clings to a narrative that views these devices as almost mortal threats to human existence. Other governments have not necessarily followed that example, thankfully. For example, the UK has adopted a dramatically different approach to the issue.
Last August, that nation’s Public Health England released a report that stood in stark contrast to the American narrative. That report declared electronic cigarettes to be much safer than the traditional tobacco variety, and even went so far as to urge smokers to use them as a harm-reduction alternative to tobacco products.
But it went even further than that. Within its pages, the authors asserted that these products could actually help to reduce many of the smoking-related illnesses and disease, and reduce the death toll caused by tobacco. It then urged those responsible for operating the nation’s smoking cessation programs to actively support any smokers who are trying to use electronic cigarettes to kick their tobacco dependency.
- The report’s authors acknowledge that e-cig usage may not be entirely safe. However, they do not contain most of the disease-causing chemicals found in cigarettes, and are believed to be roughly 95% safer than tobacco products.
- The Cochrane Review was also cited as evidence that these e-cigarettes are useful for helping smokers end their tobacco usage.
- The authors also cited recent surveys that indicated that press coverage of bad scientific studies were having a negative impact on public perceptions about these products. In the two-year period from 2012 to 2014, the number of survey respondents who believed e-cigs to be more dangerous than tobacco products went from 8% to 20% – a disastrous trend that may prevent more people from switching from deadly tobacco to this safer alternative.
The Truth Could Save Lives
Unlike the British approach to this issue, the official American stance remains hostile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – like other agencies in the U.S. government – continues to maintain the fantasy that electronic cigarettes are tobacco products, even when its officials certainly know that there is no tobacco contained in vaping offerings. They reject all evidence that suggests that these devices are safer than tobacco, and thus discourage many smokers from switching to these demonstrably safer alternatives.
No one can accurately estimate how many needless smoking-related deaths will continue to occur as a result of the current misinformation campaign in the media and among government elites. Thankfully, however, there are groups and nations working to provide accurate information to the public so that smokers can make informed decisions based on real scientific evidence. With luck, that may be enough to help enough people learn the truth about electronic cigarette safety.