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Vaping Harmful to Health

At the recent Structure conference, a young woman who had just moved from the east coast to San Francisco boasted of her boyfriends' addiction to "Vaping". She showed photos of all the accessories he has been obsessing about, from batteries to different colors and patterns. A young man visiting from New York echoed her story and said he was happy to be spending money on hip new e-cigarettes.

The e-cigarette contains a nicotine cartridge in four strengths – 16mg, 11mg, 6mg and 0mg, compared with the 13mg in the average manufactured cigarette. One cartridge lasts for 300 to 350 puffs, or two days. It also has a battery that enables it to emit a mist of propylene glycol, essentially fake, fast-dissipating smoke, and light up at the end when puffed on.

My first reaction was that there should be a chip in the e-cigarette that captures data to be transmitted and stored. Big data should be collected from vaping immediately. I was thinking about all the health info that could be assembled quickly from these battery powered devices. Lung capacity, amount of nicotine per second/minute/hour, draws per charge, particulate matter in external air…and trend-lines for everything.

My next thought was that they should be solar powered. Why aren't they able to absorb sunlight as power? Standing in the sun with a stick in your mouth? Use the power right there. And for that matter why doesn't the act of sucking air generate sufficient power? Hello, funnel turbine. Why are you sucking power out of the grid? Oh, that's right. You want to buy accessories, I mean batteries. Got it.

Neither of them seemed to have a firm idea about the energy use, let alone health risks or harm. They said it's "just vapor". But the fact is not much data has been collected.

The man from NY listened to me, took a long drag from his plastic tube of toxic fumes and said "By Jove! My old man you might be right! Could a teeny chip really go inside this contraption to record data? I will go start a company right now on that idea!"

I wondered if they read the news from the FDA:

Dr. Mike Feinstein, a spokesman for the American Lung Association said, “People are inhaling some type of chemical vaporized compound into their lungs without really knowing what's in it."

[...]

Authorities don't necessarily know what's inside of e-cigarettes, but the FDA tested a small sample just a few years ago and found a number of toxic chemicals including diethylene gylcol – the same ingredient used in antifreeze.

The accessory feature can actually introduce additional risks. Obviously the idea of putting a battery between your lips can be harmful to your health.

Chief Butch Parker of the North Bay Fire District responded to the call. He said a faulty battery inside the electric cigarette likely caused the accident. Parker described the explosion as if Holloway was holding a "bottle rocket in his mouth."

[...]

Parker said the explosion knocked out all Holloway's teeth and part of his tongue. The event also set fire to the room.

For some reason all the unsubstantiated buzz and positive marketing around e-cigarettes just reminds me of the tobacco smoke enema.

By 1805, the use of rectally applied tobacco smoke was so established as a way to treat obstinate constrictions of the alimentary canal that doctors began experimenting with other delivery mechanisms. In one experiment, a decoction of half a drachm of tobacco in four ounces of water was used as an enema in a patient suffering from general convulsion where there was no expected recovery. The decoction worked as a powerful agent to penetrate and "roused the sensibility" of the patient to end the convulsions, although the decoction resulted in excited sickness, vomiting, and profuse perspiration.

If only exploding batteries and unknown other "toxic chemicals" could have been used for anal treatment hundreds of years ago; today we would know better and not bother with e-cigarettes. Then again, I guess I shouldn't joke about them becoming a public enema. Given the nature of the young vaping proponents I met, they might be thrilled by the idea and interested only in new accessories they could buy or sell…

Posted in Energy, History, Security.


15 Responses

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  1. vapingpoint says

    Your facts are incorrect in this article – please correct them by researching all the medical papers out there that prove we know more than you imply. There is LOTS of evidence about vaping – not "little" evidence. Vapers know exactly what is going into their lungs. The same vapour is used in asthma inhalers, and has been for years. Propylene Glycol has also been used since the forties for inhalation. The only question is the harm flavourants might do over the long term.

    I think, already, data is being collected by e-cigs manufactured in America. But your idea of a solar charging device is really the way to go – brilliant. I live in the UK in The Yorkshire Dales National Park in the north west – we have a lack of sun unfortunately. If someone invented a sort of flat pad that generated electricity from every raindrop we could really generate lots here!

    Laughed about the enema! In the UK there is a huge clinical trial ongoing on the beneficial effects of nicotine (the active ingredient in enemas and ecigs) on Altzheimers. It's an amazing medicinal chemical.

    Thanks for this article – but, it's not up-to-date and true facts are missing!

  2. Davi Ottenheimer says

    @vapingpoint Thanks for your comment. Some must have said tobacco enema was good too, but here we are without it.

    It seems e-cigarette proponents want it to be considered under a principle of least harm (a better alternative to legacy products) but the burden of proof on those who propose a new product is to prove no harm — the precautionary principle. Given this, I do not see "LOTS of evidence" that you mention. Where should I find it? If it is so easy to find please give at least one example.

    Critics of the FDA study, which did find harm, emphasize it was based on a limited sample. That actually supports the FDA position that more data is needed. Even more critical is proof of control to pass the precautionary principle. What control do present consumers have over ingredients and false claims on an unregulated product?

    Take for example the statement by the U.S. DOT at the end of 2011 on proposed rule OST-2011-0044

    Electronic cigarettes cause potential concern because there is a lack of scientific data and knowledge of the ingredients in electronic cigarettes.

    The ATA/RAA/IATA/ACAA comments to the DOT perhaps said it even better:

    We agree that e-cigarettes should be banned from use in the cabin in the same manner that smoking is prohibited for US and foreign carriers. In fact, all carriers already prohibit e-cigarette use in the cabin for the same reasons the Department provided. As the Department points out, there is a wealth of information that supports treating e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products. For instance, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found that the Tobacco Control Act broadly defines tobacco products as extending to “any product made or derived from tobacco.” In addition, studies have shown that the ingredients contained in e-cigarette mist may cause airway irritation and slight airway obstruction for users and those around users. Other studies have found e-cigarette design flaws, inadequate labeling, and concerns over quality control and health issues. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration states “e-Cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans, and may contain other ingredients that may not be safe.” FDA also raises e-cigarette concerns because “consumers currently have no way of knowing whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use or what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals are found in these products."

    That is why I still see burden of proof on proponents of e-cigarette to show no harm. When I say proponents, I include tobacco companies (not just the ones that sell e-cigarettes) because they are the source of e-cigarettes' addictive ingredient, nicotine.

    Saying tobacco companies are an opponent to nicotine use when you take out the tar is like saying the petroleum industry is an opponent to gasoline use when you take out the lead.

  3. Elaine Keller says

    There is an excellent reason why, in the courtroom, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution to prove guilt, rather than with the defense to prove innocence: It is impossible to prove that something never occurs or could not have occurred. I can point you to hundreds of stories by people who experienced improvements in their health after escaping from the deadly effects of inhaling smoke by switching to an e-cigarette. Here's a small example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUyn1kCZwZ4&feature=youtu.be

    But you (or someone else) could always say, "Yes but that doesn't prove that the overall health effects for the population won't be negative in the long run."

    I'm sorry you were offended by the enthusiasm of someone who feels that their life was saved by e-cigarettes. While the e-cigarette community does contain a lot of hobbyists, it contains a lot more ex-smokers like me who thank God that they finally found something that worked. My lungs were in bad shape after 45 years of smoking. If I had not switched to an e-cigarette three years ago, I'm convinced that by now I would be dead or lugging around an oxygen tank, instead of experiencing a reduction in wheezing, elimination of morning cough, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. Nothing else I tried worked.

    Consider this: According to the CDC, respiratory diseases account for 103,338 of the 392,683 deaths they attribute to smoking. Removing the smoke eliminates the lung damage, thereby reducing respiratory diseases and deaths. Cancers of the trachea, lung, and bronchus account for an additional 125,522 deaths. There are no known cases of lung cancer being triggered by smokeless tobacco products or any other smoke-free source of nicotine. So changing the delivery method eliminates more than 58% of the mortality. It also eliminates any danger whatsoever of causing harm to bystanders.

  4. Elaine Keller says

    Those who believe that the FDA study found harm are relying on the FDA's press release, rather than the lab report. The lab report shows that the FDA found nothing at all harmful in the vapor form. See this: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/11795302-fdas-partial-truths-and-exaggerations-endanger-health

    Immediately after the FDA's July 2009 press conference, NJOY hired an outside lab to test their products, and then an additional scientific toxicology expert to evaluate the outside lab's methods and report. See: http://truthaboutecigs.com/science/5.php

    Cahn and Siegel reviewed 16 studies of liquid and vapor and concluded , "A preponderance of the available evidence shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products." http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/centers-institutes/population-development/files/article.jphp.pdf

    The most recent study also looked at exhaled vapor to determine whether bystanders might be at risk. They found nothing harmful. http://www.utahvapers.com/resources/Clearstream-air-lab-results.pdf

    This might be your cue to say something like, "Yes but someday some lab MIGHT find something harmful in the vapor." My response is, "Whatever they find could not possibly rise to the level of harm posed by inhaling tar, carbon monoxide, particulates and thousands of chemicals of combustion found in cigarette smoke."

  5. Davi Ottenheimer says

    Elaine, you left out the part about this not being a courtroom. Although your logic doesn't apply here, obviously there are easy examples to find of courts that call upon the precautionary principle and place burden of proof on proponents.

    Reversing the burden of proof in favour of the victim, the Cour de Cassation decided that it was the responsibility of each of the pharmaceutical companies to prove that its product was not the cause of the damage.

    Let's face it. This is a product safety discussion. It has little to do specifically with e-cigarettes. What consequence do you propose to prevent a manufacturer or distributer to harm buyers? Since the American meat-packing plant fiasco (e.g. The Jungle) at the turn of the last century the clear emphasis has been on a system where products are regulated and tested for safety before they can be sold. Safe food. Safe power. Safe furniture. All negative proofs. Nevermind the fact that the background to the system was a fight for workplace safety. The goal is to establish a basis for trust in products and trust in the market.

    The difficulty in proving a negative is nothing new to science. It's a common practice with a body of knowledge on what is required. On the other hand we have many examples like leaded-gas and Heroin (also turn of the last century) where even the immediate and obvious negative results were ignored. Heroin was initially argued to be a safe alternative to Morphine, designed to get Morphine addicts to quit. Leaded gas was argued to be the best way to avoid making gasoline engines work more efficiently. You don't have to even bring up motives; the health consequences of both are tragic. The harm was known early yet we still suffer from them today.

    That is why proving a negative is only the first step. It concerns me that the definition of addiction is an impaired ability to assess and respond to negative data. As you point out yourself, you were unable to stop smoking even after you knew of serious harm to yourself and others. The bottom line is that a discussion of harm should not be limited to only those addicted; it is a study of harm relative to everyone and the effect of harm to the market. If you go with a lesser harm principle as your best argument, then you aren't really looking at the big picture. You should stop smoking, yes, but even more importantly you should support those whose job is the detection and prevention of unsafe products. They're trying to help you.

  6. Davi Ottenheimer says

    Elaine, thanks for the links. When you say "The lab report shows that the FDA found nothing at all harmful in the vapor form" you don't link to the lab report or quote it. I find that very odd. Instead you link to a press-release by a proponent of e-cigarettes that re-interprets the report.

    If you don't like citing press-releases then don't cite press-releases. I mean if the lab report shows nothing harmful, why not cite that directly? Here's the actual FDA report:

    Diethylene Glycol was detected in one sample (Smoking Everywhere 555 High cartridge) at approximately 1%

    It should be no surprise then when they later said e-cigarettes "contain carcinogens, including nitrosamines, and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol." Do you disagree that they found it? If I were you I would be encouraging the FDA to run additional tests to verify the frequency/likelihood and to look for ways to regulate the nicotine producers and distributers so future tests show no trace of harmful ingredients.

    I also hope you realize the irony of your focus on the safety of new versus old. At some point you might acknowledge that the reason e-cigarettes try to prove they are better than cigarettes is because of harm tests and subsequent regulation. It should make you a fan of regulators and their effect on your market. In other words, would you have the e-cigarette option if cigarettes weren't so regulated? If you accept that logic, then let's discuss the best path for regulators to continue in the same direction. The issue is how to best control harm of a new product entering the market, not just whether that product is better than the old products.

    I read the "studies" you suggest and found them extremely weak. Take the "Flavourart" company "evaluation report" about a "closed environment". You referred to it as

    The most recent study also looked at exhaled vapor to determine whether bystanders might be at risk. They found nothing harmful

    That's not what I read. How does this kind of writing give any confidence of safety? Here's the actual report:

    "…diffusion in a closed environment, without air exchange…room remained closed, except for the time necessary to allow the subjects to enter and leave…remaining inside the room just for the time necessary for the aim and using the room in the same manner…maximum number of volunteers simultaneously in the room was three…between the two experiments have passed three days, during which the room has been ventilated for a long time…the sampling point was unique and placed where the volunteers were"

    Do you consider this scientific? It sounds barely sensible to me.

    It was a "closed environment" except for the fact that it was opened repeatedly without any log.

    The room was ventilated "for a long time". Really? It was open "for a long time"?

    The maximum they measured was three out of five volunteers but no mention of the minimum? So a single person could have been in the room. Or two. Or none!

    The study clearly implies the number of people smoking was not constant or consistent between experiments, calling into question the closed environment. The behavioral differences between the two groups of volunteers also isn't mentioned.

    And a "unique sampling spot"? That's the most accurate description they could provide of a sensor somewhere in a "dining, bathroom and lounge room"?

    There's no way I would put my health on the line based on this study. I don't need to read comparisons of one tobacco product to another. I don't think that's the point. But if you must focus on that subject, can you come up with a safety report that doesn't have such obvious irreverence for results?

    There must be something out there better than this very odd example from a company that sells products to hide the flavor of tobacco.

  7. Elaine Keller says

    I wrote the essay that you believe "re-interprets the report." I admit to being a proponent of the products that proved to be the answer to my prayers. But my essay does not re-interpret the FDA report. It is a critique of the propaganda techniques that were used in the FDA's press conference to exaggerate the potential for harm. Read the report for yourself. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ScienceResearch/UCM173250.pdf

    The FDA found barely detectable amount of TSNAs in some of the liquid samples and a 1% concentration of DEG in the liquid of one cartridge. The FDA found no toxins and no carcinogens in the vapor.

    Even if everything the FDA measured in liquid samples made it into the vapor (which it obviously did not) I challenge you to find any reports of exposure to 8 nanograms of TSNAs triggering a case of cancer, or of someone needing medical treatment after ingesting 5 mg of DEG. Remember the first rule of toxicology: The dose makes the poison. The lowest reported toxic dose of DEG in the literature is 14 mg / kg. So a 70 kg adult would need to ingest 980 mg.

    I was not the first to criticize the FDA's deceptive handling of publicizing their results: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/aug/06/fda-smoke-screen-on-e-cigarettes/
    Dr. Whelen commented on the fact that the FDA invited people who used e-cigarettes to report adverse events. To this day, the worst report the FDA has collected referred to "dry throat."

    I find it interesting that you believe I am "putting my health on the line" by switching from smoking to e-cigarettes. Do you honestly believe that if I had continued inhaling smoke for the past three years instead of vapor that some magical property in tobacco smoke would have made my wheezing clear up, my blood pressure drop, and my cholesterol level go down?

    You mentioned the precautionary principle. All statements of the Precautionary Principle contain a version of this formula: "When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action."

    In my eyes, and in the eyes of the 2 million or so former smokers who used e-cigarettes to escape from smoke, waiting for scientific certainty is a death sentence.

  8. Davi Ottenheimer says

    Elaine, obviously you wrote the report. I already noticed you have a habit of using yourself to prove your points, which doesn't make them very convincing.

    You admit there was harmful substance detected by the FDA. So at least we can agree on that. Then you say "barely detectable" as if that makes it all go away.

    The point in detecting dosage is to direct further study. In other words if a monitor found a trace of poison in your drinking water would you immediately say "ah, but I prayed for safe water earlier today and the poison is barely detectable" or would you say "I want to know origin and the rate of change". I would choose the latter.

    And here we also disagree:

    Do you honestly believe that if I had continued inhaling smoke for the past three years instead of vapor that some magical property in tobacco smoke would have made my wheezing clear up, my blood pressure drop, and my cholesterol level go down?

    That's a classic fallacy of logic, often called the straw man argument.

    Here is what I believe: You say in the past you were chronically unable to assess the data on harm from tobacco and quit cigarettes. I believe you. You say you would have continued harming yourself and those around you even with all the proof of harm. I believe you. Then you say after regulations kicked in and created a market for safer products you want to buy them but you also want to argue against regulations. I believe you but your reasoning is backwards and self-defeating. Why do you fight against the very thing that brought you e-cigarettes? Imagine how great the next innovation will be if you continue to let regulators work with you. Who do you think is really answering your prayers for safer nicotine?

    I also don't follow your logic here

    All statements of the Precautionary Principle contain a version of this formula: "When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action."

    You realize this is an argument AGAINST smoking, right? You are telling me we should not have to prove the harm from tobacco, we should take protective action to preserve the health of humans and the environment? That totally contradicts your position on letting people smoke. I'm afraid you have gone from shaky reason to no reason at all.

  9. Dr. Amen says

    Nicotine constricts blood flow to the brain, eventually causing overall lowered activity and depriving the brain of the nutrients it needs.

  10. David McCarroll says

    Hi. Just thought I would get involved with this discussion and put my tuppence worth in. I for one am not against the government testing my vaping products for safety, in fact I actively encourage it. However, I do tend to distrust the massive tobacco lobby and the money behind them.. For me this is a very simple argument. We know smoking regular cigarettes is harmful to both the user and those around them. We also know that the potentially harmful ingredients in e-liquid is way less than in tobacco (The meager tests carried out thus far have proven this at least)… If your wife, son, daughter was a smoker and you were given the choice of cigarette or e cigarette and they would go along with your decision….. Which one would you go with? Yes, tests need to be done to prove the safety of e-cigarettes but looking at the list of ingredients in them as apposed to tobacco, I know which method I will be sticking with.
    There is no argument here… Test them, improve them… JUST DONT BAN THEM!!!

  11. Curtis Hansley says

    Well i was a cigarette smoker for 15 years and the electric e-cig has gave me a way out i feel so much better no more coughing and sleep like a baby,i do not by my e-cigs from the gas stations,i go to my distributer,where i have worked my nicotine level down,but i love smokeing,and don't plan on quiting.

  12. Susan Romer says

    I was in a room with someone who started vaping without asking me. I smelt it first and then saw what she was doing so asked her to do it outside (as it was my home). She blew up at me and told me that I couldn't smell it! I have had a sinus headache for 36 hours since this incident. I don't smoke any more but I can smell the ecigs and don't think people should use them in crowded places. I gave up smoking with the help of a drug (in UK). It was very effective but it is prescription only. So yes, I agree that ecigs are better for you than cigarettes but I will be staying away from anyone using one!

  13. Jake Conrad says

    As far as the toxins in e-liquid, you have to look at who is making it. I can't speak for the gas station brand e-cigs like BLU, but if you find smaller vape shops that make their own liquid, they tend to use less chemicals than the big brands. After smoking for 6-7 years, my switch to vaping has helped me. I breathe better, no longer have that hellacious smokers cough, and can actually do something without being out of breath. As bad as this sounds, even if harmful chemicals are found in e-liquid, I'd much rather vape than smoke. Since I cannot kick my nicotine addiction, one harmful chemical by vape sounds alot better than 4000+ in cigs. The lesser of two evils in my opinion.

  14. Chris says

    You know what? Im tired of hearing the reason for a ban is a "lack of information" If you want more information on them, then why the hell don't just to more test on them? Its because they don't want to. There afraid that if they did then they would find that e-cigs are safer than regular cigs. And that in turn would harm Big Tobacco, so they would rather affix steep regulations on them first, then do the research. They just keep stalling and stalling, while everyone else is trying to find out more about them, all these people who are trying to have them banned and regulated do is sit back and keep spouting "not enough information" over and over. And yes they have found some toxins, just like in anything else out there. But when you think about something that has somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 times less toxins then a regular cig, then its a pretty safe bet that there safer. And this whole exploding battery thing, well guess what? the same thing could be said of cell phones, and Bluetooth that we stick to our heads everyday but you don't see anyone raising a stink over that do you? No, because as long as the big corporations are making money and getting there cut of the profits then no one is going to say a thing about it. So I say until they have definitive proof that the vapor is MORE or even just as harmful as regular cigs than they need to try and cast doubt on something that in there own words "they don't have enough information on" Big tobacco just doesn't want anything out there that is causing them to lose customers, and that there not getting there cut of the profits. That's the only thing that they and the lobbiest care about, is the almighty dollar. And if theres something that is going to stop them from squeezing every dollar out of me before I fall over and die of cancer then there going to have a problem with it. they don't really care about peoples health, they don't really care if someone lays in a hospital bed dieing of enphazema as long as they can continue to get every dollar from them then of course there going to say that ANY and Everything that comes along that may help prevent that is "BAD" or "POTENTIALLY HAZARD TO YOUR HEALTH" If they can get everyone to believe that e-cigs "MIGHT" pose a bigger risk, and get e-cigs banned, then they stand to make even more money converting e-cig users back to regular cigs. Just like regular cigs, if big tobacco wouldn't put all those other additives into the tobacco, then it would be AS harmful or addictive, but like always, anything that they can do to keep people addicted then they will do it. If anything they should BAN all regular cigs, because they know that millions of people die every year from cigarette smoke, they KNOW that it causes cancer, they KNOW it causes a multitude of other health problems, and they KNOW it causes death, but do they want to ban them and put even higher regulations on them, WHY HELL NO. So why should they so it to e-cigs, they should ban regular cigs and ONLY sell e-cigs. That would be the more responsible thing to do, that would be the thing to do if you were REALLY worried about peoples healths, find out as much as you can about something before you judge it, and if then it is proven to be healther, then get rid of the old ways and adopt the new, better way. But that will never happen, they don't care how many people die each year, theres just too much money to be made in the production, and sell of tobacco, and even more money in the "treatment" of the health problems attributed to it. So I say no to big tobacco, and yes to a newer, safer alternative. But I also do agree that we really need to step up, and find out as much as we possibly can about the e-cigs and the liquid nicotine, and if there are any health risks, then what we might be able to do to midigate or even completely get rid of them, so that one day people who still insist on smoking/vaping will be ale to do so in such a way that would be the least harmful to there health. And in order for us to do this, then we are going to have to stop companies such as "big tobacco" from putting out false and hurried conclusions about new technology that may help us get there. We must be willing to try new things in order to find out what really works, and not let greedy money hungry hypocrites try and crush them before they can be properly tested and evaluated. But all in all, e-cigs are in deed MUCH safer then normal cigs, for one simple reason, which to me is the largest and most important, there is nothing burning, so there is no toxins that everyone knows will hurt you, and that just from simply anything that burns should not be enhaled into the lungs. Point blank, everything else can and will be learned in time, and hopefully even made better.

  15. Heath H. says

    Blah, Blah Blah… Am i the only one that sees something potentially horrible about to happen??? What about the message we are sending to the next generation of adolescents? Let\'s justify inhaling something because Elaine doesn\'t think further testing is needed. It is a ridiculous argument that anyone would not want further studies of anything we are going to ingest into our bodies. Who saw the potential hazards in any of the carcinogens we had surrounding us in the 20th century? And moving on into modern times if we don\'t learn from history… Do I need to say more. How about this; take your vap, e-cig, whatever and go do it alone. Away from everyone where you aren't influencing children, or stinking up the place, or blowing out giant plumes of idiocy that we are NOT sure are healthy for us.



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