“Independent scientific reports that have come out in recent years have concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95-percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes,” said Vishal Daswani, vice president of the Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association.
Daswani was responding to a doctor who was recently interviewed by several media outlets. “The doctor claimed that most of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are also present in e-cigarette vapor. This is untrue. Even Centers for Disease Control says e-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes,” said Daswani.
The misinformed anti-vaping proponent also claimed that e-cigarette advocates did not have hard evidence that e-cigarettes were less harmful than combustible cigarettes. “The doctor is obviously not up to date with the emerging research on vaping,” Daswani said.
Daswani cited the conclusions of “Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes”, a 2018 consensus study report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine which said there was conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for combustible tobacco cigarettes reduced users’ exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes.
Daswani said there was substantial evidence that except for nicotine, under typical conditions of use, exposure to potentially toxic substances from e-cigarettes was significantly lower compared with combustible tobacco cigarettes.
The US Food and Drug Administration commissioned NASEM to complete a review of the science that can inform the understanding of public health risks and benefits of e-cigarettes.
NASEM are private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the U.S. and the world. They produce groundbreaking reports that help shape sound policies, inform public opinion, and advance the pursuit of science, engineering, and medicine.
“The main conclusions of the NASEM report are consistent with those of the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England, which concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes and are viable smoking cessation aids,” said Clarisse Virgino, the Philippine representative to the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates.
The Royal College of Physicians is the leading professional membership body for physicians in the UK and internationally. Public Health England is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the UK Department of Health that brings together public health specialists from more than 70 organizations.
The PHE evidence review released in 2018 concluded that “vaping, or using e-cigarettes, poses only a fraction of the health risk of tobacco smoking and should be encouraged among smokers to reap substantial health benefits.”
The report said that e-cigarettes could already be helping at least 20,000 UK smokers a year to quit tobacco smoking and that the evidence does not support concerns that e-cigarettes are a gateway into tobacco smoking among young people.
It also noted that there was “much public misunderstanding” about nicotine, with fewer than 10 percent of adults understanding that the vast majority of the harms from smoking are not caused by nicotine.
Virgino said that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes have been available in developed markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. for well over a decade, with tens of millions of users.
“The U.K. and New Zealand governments actively promote vaping as a route to smoking cessation,” she said.
According to Daswani, the doctor without citing any specific study claimed research had shown that the “vapor cloud” produced by vaping was similar to tobacco second-hand smoke and contained cancer-causing chemicals.
“Again, this embarrassingly inaccurate statement would not have been made if only the doctor bothered reading the PHE evidence review,” he said.
Citing the PHE report, Daswani explained that e-cigarette liquid is typically composed of nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerine, and flavorings. Unlike combustible cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not emit side-stream vapor into the atmosphere, just the exhaled aerosol, he said.
“To date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to the health of bystanders,” the PHE evidence review stated.
“This doctor and other misinformed anti-vaping proponents should stop issuing baseless and irresponsible statements on e-cigarettes. Such misinformation will mislead people and deprive smokers of the benefits of reduced-risk products,” Virgino said.
E-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are forms of tobacco harm reduction, a public health strategy to lower the health risks to individuals and wider society associated with using tobacco products, Virgino said.
“Tobacco harm reduction aims to provide safer alternatives to reduce harms caused by smoking and to provide nicotine to people who cannot or do not want to quit smoking by themselves or with currently-approved methods,” she said.
While both are forms of tobacco harm reduction, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products differ in the way they deliver nicotine. The vapor from e-cigarettes is produced using a heating element that turns the e-liquid contained in the cartridge, tank or pod into a vapor.
“Unlike tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not burn organic matter at very high temperatures, E-cigarettes heat and vaporize the e-liquid at much lower temperatures,” Daswani said.
On the other hand, heated tobacco products which are also called heat-not-burn products heat specially designed tobacco units just enough to release a flavorful nicotine-containing tobacco vapor but without burning the tobacco.