Mirosław Dworniczak | 17 November 2013
From time to time e-cigarettes appear in the media. Unfortunately, they are usually still presented in a bad light. The usual arguments are as follows: we do not know exactly what's inside an e-cigarette, they are as poisonous as „the real ones”, there's no research concerning e-cigarettes.
When four years ago I started vaping, this last argument was the most annoying. I come from the scientific community, which supports good research aimed at the results published in good journals and, indeed, there wasn't much to be shown in 2009. So I used to answer that it was just the beginning, the research is still in progress and the results would appear soon. E-cigarette supporters referred to the well-known (few years ago) report by Murray Laugesen but this was not enough for our opponents, of course.
Fortunately, the situation is changing rapidly. Research publications related to e-cigarettes - from the chemistry of liquid and the resulting cloud, to typical clinical research, to surveys among vapers – come in dozens. I'd say we can count them in hundreds now. In my opinion in a year or two there will be even a place for a multidisciplinary scientific journal – let's say - Journal of Electronic Cigarette Research. I think there's a really a good bunch of specialists who could ensure a sufficiently high scientific level of such a journal covering all the aspects of vaping – medicine, chemistry, sociology, and psychology.
Meanwhile, let's go back to current problems. Recently in Poland a lot of text on e-cigarettes appeared in the media. Most of them showed e-cigarettes in a very bad light. There were numerous discussions among Polish vapers trying to answer a question: how should we respond to such actions? Some say that we should just ignore it, others (including me) think that we should do something about it.
There is one important issue – the society should be provided with smart arguments. This is our task! Bloggers, journalists, scientists and other influential people should fill the media with reliable information. It is very important that this information is provided in a clear, simple way. Otherwise it wouldn't get through to the average reader.
For personal use I prepared a set of such standard answers to common allegations presented in the media or during conversations with people, for whom the subject is still exotic.
Allegation # 1: we do not know the composition of the liquids.
Answer: If you buy liquid from a large, reliable seller, you can feel safe. None of them will risk adding something bad to the liquid. Most of them test their liquids frequently, usually in independent laboratories. On the other hand, buying from unreliable sources is of course risky – similar to buying alcohol on the black market.
Allegation # 2: there are no studies on the effects of vaping on humans.
Answer: we already have many such studies. If someone wants to look at them, I suggest searching for such names like Chris Bullen, Jean-Francois Etter, Konstantinos Farsalinos, Murray Laugesen, and Riccardo Polosa (alphabetical order). I'd like to appeal to fellow bloggers – try to spread the results of scientific research, at least the key ones. Comment on them using plain language, not the obscure scientific jargon – we have to address an average reader, not scientists.
Allegation # 3: but there is no study on the long-term effects of vaping.
A: Yes, it's true, but the science guys need to have some time to complete such research. Remember, e-cigarettes are on the market for some years only. There are already short term studies (see eg Polosa), more profound research is underway.
Allegation # 4 (one of the most common in Poland): Nicotine is a highly addictive substance!
Answer: yes, but one should remember that e-cigarettes are for smokers and only for smokers. These people are already addicted, so the argument is not valid. We should also underline that nicotine, contrary to popular myth, it is not considered a carcinogenic chemical. It is worth mentioning that this compound has quite positive effect on the so-called short-term memory.
Allegation # 5: The e-cigarettes may be children's gateway to smoking
Answer: everything is possible, but only in theory. So far no-one has shown that this takes place. What's more, a fair seller does not sell e-cigarettes/liquids to minors, even though in many countries it's not forbidden. The gateway effect (or rather a lack of it) has been examined thoroughfully by Clive Bates in his blog post.
Certainly every blogger/journalist/scientist can prepare their own set of answers to common objections. Such Q&As should be spread using blogs, forums and other media. Looking from the Polish point of view, I think that we need to spread this knowledge especially among health care specialists. Unfortunately, all the time they say that the best method in the fight against tobacco dependence is to use gums, patches, lozenges, drugs etc. In my personal opinion it is essential to give people the right to choose the e-cigarette, because this device makes it possible not only to satisfy the biochemical need to maintain a certain level of nicotine, but also fulfill the typical behavioral needs – throat hit, holding something in the hand, watching the vapour in the air etc.
Does that mean that I would like to classify e-cigarettes as a novel form of NRT? No, at least not yet. Vaping, in my humble opinion, should be classified as a recreational form of ingesting nicotine. No more, no less. If it helps someone getting rid of smoking – very good. If not – vaping is much less harmful than smoking. Either way – the result is positive.