Professor Debunks Common Myths About Electronic Cigarettes

Turn on any news report or do a quick scan of the newspaper and you are bound to encounter some faulty information about electronic cigarettes. It seems that myths are more abundant than truth in the vaping world these days, but one tobacco addiction expert is speaking out to set the record straight. Riccardo Polosa is a world recognized expert in respiratory medicine and he has been heavily involved in electronic cigarette research.

During a recent interview with the Ashtray Blog, he offered a closer look at the actual facts regarding vaping. If you had any doubts about ecigs in the past, get ready for a reality check. Let’s take a look at the explosive evidence that Polosa revealed in this recent interview.

Heavy Metals

There has been a lot of concern that ecig vapor could contain dangerous levels of heavy metals like lead, zinc, nickel, and chromium. Should you be worried? Polosa said that there is need to panic. “First, levels of metals found in these studies are well below the maximum permissible daily exposure from inhalational medications according to US Pharmacopeia. Second, although the levels found in e-cigarettes may pose some residual risk, it is by far lower compared to tobacco cigarettes,” he explained. Polosa went on to say that vapers were at far higher risks from environmental pollution than from heavy metals in ecig vapor.

So why is the media running stories about ecigs having dangerous levels of heavy metals if it is simply untrue? Polosa said it’s a common tactic that journalists use to fuel emotional debate. The key to discernment in this (and many other) health related reports is to look at the science. “It is the dose that makes the poison, and so by that understanding, everything can be toxic at some level. But everything we touch, see, and smell is made up of chemicals and anything reduced to its chemical name can sound sinister when presented to people who are unfamiliar with chemistry,” he said.

Lipid Pneumonia 

The possibility of developing lipid pneumonia has caused another recent scare in the vaping world. Lipoid pneumonia is a serious illness that occurs when you aspirate or inhale fatlike materials in products like lip balm or oil-based laxatives. Is it true that vaping could put people at risk for this and other respiratory illnesses? Polosa said, “There is no such threat!” In fact, he said that the much feared lipoid pneumonia is extremely rare and has only occurred in two cases of ecig users, but there is no way to determine if it was directly related to vaping.

“There is no way that regular exposure to glycerin in e-vapor will cause accumulation of fatlike material in the lung, because glycerin is not a lipid, but an alcohol. In the Spanish case, radiological evidence for lipoid pneumonia was preceding electronic cigarette use, hence it was not a consequence of vaping. In both cases I could identify a more plausible cause for these patients’ lipoid pneumonia,” Polosa said.

In reality, it seems that many former smokers experience improvements in their health after switching to ecigs. In fact, studies have even shown that when a smoker with asthma switches to ecigs, they have a reduction in the number of asthma-related symptoms.

E-Liquid Additives

Even when you move beyond heavy metals and fears of developing respiratory effects, there is still a lot of worry about the additives in e-liquid. Companies includes flavors and coloring agents into these liquids, which some have suggested could be harmful when inhaled. The good news is that you don’t need to worry as long as you are careful to use quality e-liquids that follow proper safety standards.

Polosa said that e-liquids do need to be considered carefully to avoid any unwanted additives. “As a general rule, flavorings, whether natural or artificial, should be of food grade under local legislation. Where natural or naturally extracted flavorings are used, these should be subjected to an additional toxicological risk assessment,” he explained.

The Bottom Line

When you cut through the fear mongering and look at the science behind vaping, Polosa said he absolutely encourages smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes for the sake of harm reduction. “Tobacco cigarettes were found to be by far the most harmful and the e-cigs among the least harmful. Hence, to a cigarette smoker considering switching to e-cigs, but worried by potential health risks I would simply say if the health risk associated with tobacco smoking is equal to 100, vaping health risk is 4. The choice is yours.”

Do you have any fears or concerns about vaping? What is holding you back from switching to vaping today?


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