Vaping Myths That Refuse to Die
A Quick Guide to the Zombie Vaping Myths
The recent debunking of a study that found toxic metals in e-cigs is a great example of a zombie vaping myth being laid to rest. There are many of these myths and expect them to reappear wherever anti-vaping activists can be found.
Vaping Myth Bingo
The same horde of zombie vaping myths (a plague in zombie parlance) appears with regularity and they are discussed in detail below. If you encounter someone who parrots more than one or two of these myths and refuses to be persuaded by facts, there is always the possibility that you have encountered a dyed in the wool anti-vaper. Despite that possibility, the vast majority of people who buy into these myths have simply been misled by hysterical headlines and the organized efforts of anti-vaping zealots.
Vaping faces a lot of headwinds in the eyes of the public, politicians and regulators. We are competing from a position of weakness but are armed with the facts. Rolling back these myths will be a time consuming process and is up to us. But rather than getting too frustrated, the next time you encounter an anti-vaping op-ed, website, or advocate, count the number of zombie myths they rely on. If the number reaches four — spelling the word “Vape”— you have won “vaping myth bingo”.
Toxic Toxins, Meddling Metals
Last February, news outlets pounced on a John Hopkin’s study about metals in e-cig vapor. The general gist of these articles, too numerous list but easily found with a simple search, was that vaping is poorly understood, vapers face unknown risks and vapor clouds are laden with mysterious, frightening toxins. That the mechanism of vaping is well-understood and the study was a bit suspect did not merit a mention.
The fallout from this study was immediate. Anyone who has Facebook knows that talk of “toxins” and “metals” are pretty much kryptonite to consumers. There is no question that many of these headlines were designed to stir up those fears.
A closer inspection of the Hopkins “toxic metals” study, published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology, found that these metals were present in miniscule amounts and the Hopkin’s study reached its alarming conclusion due to a serious error in methodology.
The authors of the original study measured e-cig vapor as an environmental toxin and not as something that is inhaled a couple hundred times a day at most. You would have to vape over a ton of e-juice a day to hit the aluminum toxicity threshold.
The popcorn lung is the rather flippant nickname for a horrid condition: bronchiolitis obliterans. This is a frightening disease damages the smallest airways in your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. It has been compared to COPD. The disease was dubbed popcorn lung because of its prevalence among employees of a microwave popcorn factory. The culprit was found to be diacetyl, which is used to mimic buttery flavors. Workers at the factory were exposed to excessive quantities during the manufacturing process.
The amount of diacetyl in cigarette smoke is one hundred fold greater than was found in the e-juices with diacetyl. Moreover, since concerns about diacetyl first made headlines several years ago now, there has been a concerted effort remove that ingredient from e-juices. It is banned outright in the UK, one of the most vape friendly countries.
If you are concerned about popcorn lung, there are plenty of great diacetyl free options available. That said, there are no known cases of popcorn lung that are attributed to vaping.
More tellingly, there is also no link between smoking and popcorn lung, a much more likely conduit based on both dose and the sheer number of people who smoke heavily. There is also no scientific evidence linking popcorn lung and the grinding of coffee beans, in which diacetyl happens to occur naturally. Diacetyl is also found in such diverse items as vinegar, coffee, milk, yogurt, wine, whiskey and cheese.
Popcorn lung is no joke and biased sources will continue to use it to effectively vilify vaping.
A Formaldehyde Myth That Just Won’t Quit
Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring in your body but is toxic in larger doses. It has a very negative connotation because of its association with embalming and death. It is also present in a wide range of foods ranging from meat to tomatoes. Traces of formaldehyde in aspartame, present in amounts less than your body generates or is found in a many common vegetables, have been used to malign the artificial sweetener for years.
Formaldehyde appeared in relation to vaping when the New England Journal of Medicine used jacked-up power settings and dry hits to generate elevated levels. It has since been shown that no human could reasonably be expected to pursue or endure such a punishing and madcap approach to vaping.
This shoddy work has been dismissed a number of times, including a 2017 study in the journal Food and Toxicology. Unfortunately, hack pieces such as an intentionally obtuse and misleading op-ed piece by Dr. Joseph Allen in the NY Times, continue to resurrect this zombie myth.
One of the more scientifically illiterate myths is that e-juice contains anti-freeze. This is due to the presence of an ingredient with a scary sounding name: propylene glycol (PG). Authorities in the US, Europe and globally have declared PG to be GRAS, the standard for generally safe in food.
This has not stopped click-baity headlines about PG in various popular foods from flooding social feeds for the past several years. The scientific community invariably mocks these PG awareness campaigns but companies often respond to consumer pressure.
PG is in the same chemical family as alcohol and found in scads of medications, prepackaged foods, dressings, condiments, ice cream, frosting, candies, baked goods, cosmetics, hygiene products, toothpaste, popcorn, soft drinks, bread, dairy products, fast foods, drink mixes and sundry other items.
As it is flavorless and odorless, PG is used with vegetable glycerin (VG) as a carrier in e-juice. The PG/VG blend in an e-juice has a huge impact on throat hit, cloud size and viscosity. Here is an article that explains PG/VG ratios in e-juice.
Unfortunately, PG is often confused with toxic ethylene glycol, which is the primary ingredient in anti-freeze. To further muddy the waters, non-toxic antifreezes are made with PG. So technically, PG is found in anti-freeze. It just happens to be used because it is not poisonous and is especially valuable in applications where using toxic ethylene glycol would not be appropriate, such as the cooling systems of food processing machines.
Myths about E-Cig Users
There is no shortage of myths about e-cigs being a gateway drug, more addictive than cigarettes, being as dangerous as smoking and nicotine causing cancer. None of these has been shown to correct. It is important to keep in mind that while addictive and potentially dangerous, nicotine is NOT the cancer causing agent in cigarettes. That would be the smoke, ash, tar and additional added chemicals from combustion.
Anti-vaping advocates and federal regulators have gotten a lot of mileage out of flavor myths. The fact is that fruit and dessert flavored e-juices are not manufactured with the sole purpose of hooking children. They are by far the most popular flavors with adults as well. Whether there were unscrupulous marketers targeting children or not cannot be answered with complete certainty, but the fact is that Vapor4Life has no interest in selling their products to minors. We have taken serious steps to prevent this from occurring either on our e-commerce website or at our Northbrook vape shop.
Old concerns about pets and children drinking e-juice have been largely addressed by changes in bottle design and by adding child proof latches to mod tanks. It was never the epidemic that it was made out to be, but please keep these items safely out of reach.
E-Cigs Are Not Regulated
The FDA announced new e-cig regulations just last month. The FDA’s mandate to regulate has been exercised with a frightening degree of regularity, stultifying innovation and potentially establishing insurmountable obstacles for adults who are looking for cigarette alternatives.
There are few things more repellent than the idea of having your face or genitals blown off by an exploding e-cig. There have been several gruesome stories over the years, especially during heyday of Mech Mods when rank amateurs were experimenting with devices far beyond their level of expertise.
During the height of these fears we provided this 18650 Battery Safety Guide.
That said, lithium ion batteries can explode under certain circumstances and battery safety is extremely important. Last year, there was a recall of certain Samsung devices due to the fear of battery explosion. The culprit in this case was overheating and sub-par counterfeit batteries. This news story can serve as a cautionary reminder to always purchase your batteries from a reputable seller and to be mindful of your battery’s condition.
Store your batteries in a plastic case when not in use, do not transport them in a purse or a pocket with change, keep them out of direct sunlight and water, refrain from placing them by an open flame, replace them when signs of wear and tear appear and do not use peeling batteries. Lithium are used in all manner of electronics and you should take similar precautions with all of your devices.