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COLUMN: E-cigarette safety continually in question



Media sources have been reporting a frightening new aspect of e-cigarettes: “popcorn lung.”

According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health in December 2015, 39 of 51 tested e-cigarette liquids were found to contain varying levels of diacetyl.

This might be concerning at first glance.

But when compared to the diacetyl present in traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are still a slightly better choice.

Diacetyl is a food additive that gained notoriety in the early 2000s when workers in microwave-popcorn factories began to suffer from unexplained respiratory issues.

Researchers found airborne exposure to diacetyl, which was used in the butter flavoring.

It has caused various symptoms such as asthma, coughing and chronic bronchitis.

Diacetyl is found in traditional cigarettes too, but in much higher levels, wrote Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University in The Wall Street Journal.

Siegel has spent 25 years working in tobacco control, and he says vapers are exposed to about nine micrograms of diacetyl per day, while smokers will inhale closer to 6,718 micrograms.

Siegel says the bias found in both media reports and research is serving to undermine the true dangers of smoking.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told The Daily Caller, “Reckless communication of the risks of vapor products causes fewer smokers to quit the practice. It also leads some vapers to return to smoking. It is horrifying to see this happen.”

While it is obviously wise for non-smokers to avoid vaping too, the limited research we have regarding e-cigarettes seems promising.

Additionally, e-cigarettes reduce the effects of yellowing teeth and lingering second and third-hand smoke.

Many vapers are also able to taper their nicotine dosage to significantly lower levels, given the wide variety of nicotine content that can be found in e-juices.

This is effective as vaping still includes the conditioned behavior of holding a cigarette and drawing vapor.

This is different than the simple delivery of nicotine through patch or gum.

Some of the vaping converts I have talked to say they were just as addicted to the act of smoking as they were to the nicotine.

Even in light of the numerous benefits, the concept of vaping isn’t perfect.

When e-cigarettes were first sold, I was surprised at how they were legally sold to minors.

Though most stores did not sell to minors because of existing policies, it would not have been hard to get a legal e-cigarette.

From my own experience, the idea vaping is safer than smoking won a few of my non-smoking friends over.

Today most states limit sale to minors.

But the wide assortment of attractive flavors makes e-cigarettes an appealing to non-smokers of any age.

Though the verdict is still out on e-cigarette safety, smokers who switch to vaping can probably feel satisfied that they have taken a step in the right direction.

For the people who take up vaping because it’s cool and safe, we’ll see what 
happens.

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