In 1968, the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company circulated an internal memo among colleagues where an executive of the company stated “What we want to do this morning is to take a summary look at the smoking and health question and then make a proposal to you for a B&W project to counter the anti-cigarette forces.” He continues “Doubt is our product, it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy”. ( read the full memo here)
Big tobacco waged a war to discredit legitimate science as part of its overall effort to create controversy and doubt.
Fast forward to 2015 and the same type of controversial campaigns are being used to sow doubt and discredit science.
Only this time the source is our government, various health organizations and electronic cigarette critics.
Painting the Target
Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) come in a variety of forms but all share a universal design of being a battery-powered device that heats a solution to produce an inhalable vapor. The devices do not contain tobacco, and do not burn it. E-cigarettes release a vapor that contains none of the carcinogenic tar present in cigarette smoke.
Despite the clear indication that these devices are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and, independently, the California Department of Public Health launched “public education” (what could be considered borderline False Light) ad campaigns aimed at derailing the future of e-cigs. The ads being released are laden with half-truths, speculation and massive spin.
As the advocates and lobbyists for the e-cig/vaping industry have begun to fire back, critics of the industry have begun making accusations of astroturfing. That includes accusations that Big Tobacco is behind the push back against California Department of Public Health with the spin campaign at notblowingsmoke.org.
Which it’s not. That site was created in just a few days by a team of volunteers headed up by Stefan Didak – a known volunteer advocate for the vaping industry with no ties to Big Tobacco.
These, and many other individuals and organizations, are painting a target in an effort to eliminate e-cigarettes. Because they do not understand it, because they stand to lose revenue generated by tobacco tax, and because they have been unable to regulate it – they seek to end it.
Their misinformation has spread into the general public, and that needs to be corrected. Below we’ve compiled a list of common misinformation spreading around the world with evidence to refute their claims.
We don’t know anything about e-cigarettes
Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, openly states “There are things we don’t know about e-cigarette toxicity.” On the contrary, there is quite a bit that we do know. The eliquid and vapor contains propylene glycol (PG), a substance regards as generally safe by the FDA. It is used in toothpaste, food, cosmetics as well as asthma and inhalers. That means that the FDA has already recognized it as safe for inhaling. In fact PG was first registered by the FDA for use in hospitals as air disinfectants. ( proof of that one right here)
“E-cigarettes are getting kids hooked on smoking and are a gateway to tobacco”
There is absolutely no evidence to show this. The CDC’s own data show that the percentages of adolescent children who used e-cigs at least once within 30 days tripled from 1.5% to 4.5% percent between 2011 and 2013. Conversely, during the same period there was a decline in adolescent smoking from 15.8% to 12.7%. That’s the lowest it has ever been.
E-cigarettes produce formaldehyde
This is another drum beat of fear from California’s “Still Blowing Smoke” campaign. The bogus formaldehyde scare stems from a report in the New England Journal of Medicine ( read it here). The report described what happened when researchers used two different voltage settings on a vaping device.
When they tested the product at a realistic voltage of 3.3 volts, no formaldehyde was detected. Then they tested at 5.0 volts for an extended duration (100 seconds) which resulted in formaldehyde concentrations five to 15 times higher than that measured in tobacco cigarettes.
Here’s the problem: That study was done on a machine, at unrealistic levels that no human would sustain. There is no way a living person would or could physically force themselves to inhale such acrid vapor. At that point you’re not even measuring the contents of eliquid – you’re measuring the byproduct of burning the cotton or other wicking material. That doesn’t happen with normal day to day vaping.
E-cigarettes are more harmful than real cigarettes
This is a flatly absurd statement initiated by the StillBlowingSmoke.org campaign out of California. It claims that e-cigs are more harmful than real cigarettes because (and this is a direct quote) “ they contain more particles.”
This is false because particles alone are not a measure of whether or not something is harmful. Asthma inhalers also deliver particles to the lungs. If “particles” were dangerous, we would all develop cancer by the sheer volume of particles we inhale in our day to day lives.
E-cigs leave residue on everything
This is nothing more than trivial yet somehow presented by vaping critics as a threat. The concentrations of ambient are far below biologically meaningful levels ( here’s proof for you).
E-cigarette companies are targeting children
It’s easy for lawmakers to accuse eliquid and e-cig manufacturers of targeting children with their marketing because of the flavors that are used. This “think of the children” tactic is just one more way lawmakers are trying to demonize the industry.
There’s a surprising fact for you that requires no case study or research: adults like those flavors, too. People, by nature, like things that taste good. Nothing more even needs to be said about that.
Second hand vapor is harmful
Anti‐smoking groups claim the toxins and carcinogens in electronic cigarettes can be accidentally inhaled by bystanders, just like second‐hand tobacco smoke.
One study, reported by Inhalation Toxicology, a peer-review journal focused on the evaluation of health risks associated with airborne chemicals, indicated that there was “no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the [e-cigarette] compounds analyzed”.
In the study’s “non-cancer’ risk analysis, all vapor samples of e-cigarette liquids revealed to be of “No Significant Risk” to human health.
A separate test was performed on tobacco cigarette smoke.
The test results comparing the concentrations of pollutants between the two products produced two very different results in measuring the health risks of each.
In the study’s “non-cancer’ risk analysis, all vapor samples of e-cigarette liquids revealed to be of “No Significant Risk” to human health. Tobacco smoke, on the other hand, showed a “Significant Risk” of harm to human health.
Additionally, tobacco cigarettes burn constantly, creating continuous “side stream smoke,” which is the smoke that comes directly from the end of a lit cigarette and the smoke lingers in the air and travels a fair distance from the smoker.
Electronic cigarette vapor does not behave in the same manner as tobacco smoke. There is no vapor produced from the device, until the user activates it by inhaling, so no “side stream vapor” is created and the vapor dissipates very quickly. In the event that a bystander would pass through the vapor, since it doesn’t contain the irritating toxins of tobacco smoke, it would be barely detectable beyond the faint scent of the flavor and only for a fleeting moment.
Nic by itself is about as dangerous to your body as regular doses of caffeine. It’s not the nic in tobacco that causes cancer, it’s the tar created when tobacco and its preservatives (and lingering pesticides sprayed on the live tobacco plants) are burnt. This tar contains thousands of harmful chemicals including 70 known carcinogens. There is ZERO tar and none of the carcinogens in e-cig use because there is no combustion of tobacco.
E-cigarettes are Big Tobacco
Second to the “marketing to the kids” campaign, this is one of the most prominent messages coming out of California and other states.
We see the vaping industry as small business because that’s what it’s made of; start ups manufacturing mods, eliquid, accessories, distribution channels, vape shops. None of which are tied to big tobacco directly.
Big Tobacco does have a foot in the game though.
- Lorillard: The 3rd largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, Lorillard acquired BluCigs in April 2012. Lorillard, including the BluCigs line, was acquired by Reynolds American in July 2014.
- Reynolds American : The 2nd largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States and the produce of Camel and Pall Mall. Released the Vuse cigalike and promptly sold the BluCigs line to Imperial Tobacco shortly after acquiring Lorillard.
- Imperial Tobacco : A UK based tobacco company. Purchased the BluCigs line from Reynolds after acquiring the Dragonite in 2013 originally owned by Hon Lik, the Chinese inventor of the original e-cigarette.
- British American Tobacco : A global tobacco group with brands sold in more than 200 markets worldwide. Also has a 40% stake in Reynolds American. Launched the Vype e-cigarette in the UK in August, 2013 manufactured under its subsidiary Nicoventures.
- Japan Tobacco International : World’s 3rd largest international tobacco company headquartered in Switzerland. Owns minority shared in the Ploom, a loose-leaf vaporizer that heads tobacco pods. Acquired the e-cigarette brand E-lites in June 2014.
- Altria/Philip Morris USA : Largest selling cigarette brand in the world (Marlboro). Nationwide rollout of the MarkTen cigalike in 2014.
- Philip Morris International : The largest international tobacco company. Partnered with Altria to gain the exclusive right to sell Altria’s e-cigarettes outside the United States. In June 2014 acquired Nicocigs, owner of the Nicolites brand, to enter the UK e-cigarette market.
Big Tobacco may sell cigalikes, but they are not the vaping industry. They are not the vape shops, the eliquid manufacturers, the mod, atomizer or rebuildable manufacturers. Vaping is not Big Tobacco, it’s Small Business.
Vapers want nothing to do with Big Tobacco. Specialty vape shops generally don’t sell cigalikes as a rule. We’ve struggled with quitting cigarettes for years, we’re not in bed with Big Tobacco and we’re certainly done with giving them money.
E-cigarettes contain antifreeze
This has been blasted through the media countless times and each time it must be refuted as false. E-cigs do not contain anti-freeze. What they do contain is propylene glycol which is only one component in anti-freeze.
While the various uses of PG have already been listed, it needs to be reiterated: Propylene glycol is considerably less toxic than ethylene glycol (the other more toxic glycol used for years in antifreeze) and when used in antifreeze may be labeled as "non-toxic antifreeze". It is used as a component in antifreeze where ethylene glycol would be inappropriate, such as in food-processing systems or in water pipes in homes where incidental ingestion may be possible.
That’s right – propylene glycol is used in anti-freeze to make it LESS harmful.
As confirmation of its relative non-toxicity, the FDA allows propylene glycol to be added to a large number of processed foods, including ice cream, frozen custard, salad dressings and baked goods.
Propylene glycol is used as a primary component in antifreeze because of its low freezing point when compared to water.
For example: pure water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A solution that is 25% propylene glycol to 75% water lowers the freezing point to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. A 50/50 mix of propylene glycol and water reduces the freezing point even further to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
If all propylene glycol is antifreeze, because it’s used in antifreeze then all caffeine is coffee because it’s a component of coffee.
And that’s what you call “junk science.”
Only 8 percent of all former smokers have converted to vaping. That percentage needs to grow. But agencies such as the CDC and state of California are doing their best to halt the progression. It’s up to each of us to stay educated, and to pass that information along to educate everyone from other individuals in our social circles all the way up to those who influence legislation.
The CDC and the California Department of Health have ripped a page from the Big Tobacco playbook. “Strongly call out the point – Controversy! Contradiction! Other Factors! Unknowns!” as Hill and Knowlton, the PR firm that advised the tobacco industry, urged it to do in the 1950s and 60s.
By warping the perception of risk, these agencies will surely create enough doubt about the very real benefits of e-cigarettes that smokers will simply say to themselves, “Why switch?” And keep inhaling dangerous smoke. If there were such a thing as public health negligence, the nation’s flagship public health agency and California’s health department could rightly stand accused.
What this industry needs is advocacy to help push forward appropriate legislation and regulation; specifically for manufacturing standards and regulation prohibiting the sale to minors. What we don’t need are excessive sin taxes, flavor bans, product bans and smearing false-light campaigns that spread untruth.
Instead of focusing on lost taxes due to reduced tobacco sales and pushing through house bills that limit the industry, state legislators should be working with e-cig manufacturers & industry activists to help foster an innovative industry that - without a doubt - can change the lives of millions of people around the world.