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OWN #13 | 1-7 July 2019

It's cooling down out there, but the fight against vaping seems to be heating up all over the place. Fortunately, there are still many fighting back, trying desperately to preserve that which gave so many of us the chance to finally be smoke free. With that, let's have a look at the news of the week.

Is vaping 95% safer than smoking?

A writer over at the Vaping Post has written a wonderful article explaining how Public Health England came up with that often cited magic number. As vapers we often use that to ward off those naysayers who tell us that vaping is as bad, or worse, than smoking. This article aims to explain why they came to this conclusion (scientifically speaking) - knowledge is power.

Now this is an involved article, with some great explanations but it is beyond the scope of this little write up to cover all of it - if you have the time I strongly encourage you to read this entire article. For the rest, I'll summarize it here as best I can.

At least 95% safer

This now iconic "at least 95% safer" statement originated from a study performed by an international expert panel which was convened by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.

What they did was to develop a model that rated nicotine-containing products on 14 different harm criteria (7 on which was to the user, and the other 7 to bystanders). The products tested ranged from cigarettes to vaping to nicotine patches. They were rated from 100 (most harmful) to 0 (no harm) and the results were as follows (approximately):

  • Cigarettes - 100
  • Small Cigars - 65
  • Pipes - 22
  • Cigars - 15
  • Water Pipe - 13
  • Smokeless unrefined - 11
  • Smokeless refined - 8
  • Snus - 6
  • ENDS (Vaping) - 5
  • Nasal Sprays - 3
  • Oral Products - 2
  • Patch - 1

ENDS (e-cigs) obtained a score of less than 5, meaning that the devices carry approximately 5% the risks of smoking. In other words "vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking".

Formaldehydes and acrolein

The UK government looked into the compounds found in vapour, especially formaldehydes and acrolein. There had been various studies that claimed vapour had higher levels of formaldehyde than cigarettes. However, looking at the methodology used revealed that these tests were performed under abnormal use conditions - basically dry hits and power levels no human could ever manage for extended periods.

A later study by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos tried to replicate these results using human subjects. None of them were able to vape under the conditions used by the former study.

With regards to acrolein, other scientists have shown that vapers have much lower levels in their urine than tobacco smokers.

A vaporizer produces higher levels of formaldehyde than smoking, only when used under poor and unrealistic conditions. In normal use, the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette contains "absent or negligible"” levels of toxic compounds.

Vaping and lung problems

Various studies have shown that vaping causes various lung complications. Again, these studies were highly flawed in their execution (they did not mimic normal use of an e-cigarette) and failed to show a comparison to smoking.

The only symptoms currently reported when using a vape, are local irritation of the mouth and drying of the mouth. Concerning the respiratory tract, research has shown an improvement in the condition of smokers with asthma. Another study has found no significant effect on the human body following the use of an electronic cigarette for 1.5 years.

And there you have it, scientific proof that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Now that is not to say that future proof may alter this value, but as of what we know right now it seems to be a solid, and scientific, starting point.

Again, this summary does not do the article justice and no links to the studies mentioned are provided here (but they are all cited in the source article). A highly recommended read.

Scott Gottlieb vs Vaping

If you don't know the name Scott Gottlieb, he's the former FDA Commissioner who, after stepping down in March, announced a few weeks back that he is now on the board of directors at Pfizer.

That doesn't seem too bad - he got himself a nice new job, good for him.

The problem is that, whilst commissioner at the FDA he set in motion the idea of having an "FDA approved electronic nicotine delivery system".

Basically, he lay the groundwork for a "big pharma" vaping device, which would carry FDA approval and hence would not be classified as a tobacco product. Unlike every other vaping product being sold.

Now if I were a tin-foil wearing individual, I might consider that a conspiracy to gain an upper hand in a very lucrative market.

Time will tell how this story unfolds, but for now, read the entire article below:

San Francisco's Vape Ban May Push Teens To Cigarettes

Some people are concerned that the recent ban on vaping may lead teens to smoke cigarettes instead, and rightly so.

Teenagers will experiment - that is their very nature. Educating them is the only way to really steer them clear of the harmful products out there, and even then, some will always try them anyway. This is no less true today than it was 50 years ago.

So now, if you take away the vaping, but leave the cigarettes (which is exactly what is happening) - will they suddenly stop any and all experimentation? Unlikely. More than likely they will experiment with what is available to them - or resort to the black market and end up with unregulated and potentially dangerous products.

The ban was implemented on the argument that vaping is a gateway drug.

The argument goes, then, that Juul serves as a "gateway drug" to more harmful ways of consuming nicotine, such as chewing tobacco and cigarettes. That's unlikely, as smoking levels have dropped precipitously, and it is more reasonable to assume that those who vape would have been those who smoked a decade or so ago.

So right now, these teens that may have been smoking are vaping instead - a product that is all but guaranteed to be far less harmful than smoking. What happens when you take that away?

And of course, all of this doesn’t even begin to touch on the arguments San Francisco progressives rolled out to support marijuana legalization. It is entirely inconsistent to ban vaping but permit the sale of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

And this is really at the heart of the matter - vaping gets banned, but all these other, arguably much more harmful, substances remain "business as usual". It really isn't a "for the good of the children" as much as it is an attack on vaping itself.

San Francisco's ban is poorly considered, leaves smokers attempting to quit out in the cold, and threatens to reverse a decades long effort to get teenagers off of cigarettes.

Read the full article below:

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