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We Don't Need 'Decades of Research' to Know Vaping Is Safer Than Smoking

A chemical comparison shows e-cigarettes are far less hazardous than tobacco cigarettes.

FIN e-cigarette adFIN e-cigarette adDieter Holger defends his Inquisitr article about e-cigarettes, saying he did not dodge the issue of whether they are less dangerous than the conventional kind, because he never meant to address it:

My article wasn't primarily concerned with comparing whether e-cigarettes are safer or more dangerous than cigarettes. My article presented health dangers of e-cigarettes. I never said that e-cigarettes were more harmful—or equally harmful—as cigarettes anywhere.

If Holger did not mean to address the relative hazards of vaping and smoking, it is confusing, to say the least, that he opens the original article with this question: "Are e-cigarettes really any better than smoking a cigarette?" More to the point, an article about the potential health hazards of vaping that fails to talk about how those hazards compare to the well-established risks posed by smoking is irresponsible, especially since regular users of e-cigarettes consist mainly of current or former smokers.

For a smoker contemplating a switch to vaping, it is worse than unhelpful to say, as Holger does, that "e-cigarettes pose dangers to our health," that they "carry their fair share of toxic chemicals," or that they "have negative effects on lungs." The relevant question is how the risks of vaping compare to the risks of smoking, and there is no question that they are much lower. By implying otherwise, e-cigarette alarmists may very well deter smokers from making a switch that could save their lives.

Holger claims to be agnostic on the question of whether vaping is safer than smoking, and he thinks this is a scientific position. It isn't.

"Sullum is right that I had no intention of answering this question," he says in his reply. "I don't have the answer because the jury is still out. It could potentially take decades of research before we know the long-term effects of e-cigarettes compared to smoking."

This seemingly cautious position is not only wrong but reckless. We already know, based on the fact that e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco or anything else, coupled with chemical analyses of the aerosol they produce, that they are much less dangerous than conventional cigarettes. According to what Public Health England (PHE) calls the "best estimate" of the difference in risk, vaping is about 95 percent safer than smoking. 

Holger is unimpressed. "Even if e-cigarettes are '95% less harmful' than cigarettes," he says, "that doesn't mean they are safe." In a world where nothing is 100 percent safe, this mindless insistence on the complete elimination of risk is a menace to public health. An alternative to smoking that's 95 percent safer is a huge opportunity that should be welcomed by anyone who wants to reduce tobacco-related harm. 

Might the current estimate of the difference in risk be off by a few percentage points? Sure. That's why it's called an estimate. But such a correction would not affect the conclusion that smokers who switch to vaping dramatically reduce the health risks they face. That would still be true even if the estimate exaggerated the difference by a factor of two, although there is no reason to think it does. In fact, it's possible that the actual risk reduction is higher than 95 percent. "Some flavourings and constituents in e-cigarettes may pose risks over the long term," says Ann McNeill, co-author of the PHE report. "We consider the 5% residual risk to be a cautious estimate allowing for this uncertainty."

It is true that we don't know exactly what the long-term health effects of vaping are. Although propylene glycol and vegetable glyercin, the main components of e-cigarette "vapor," are approved as safe food and drug ingredients, a widespread practice of inhaling aerosols containing these substances is relatively new. But contrary to what Holger implies, that does not mean we need "decades of research" to know whether smoking is more dangerous than vaping. Whatever the long-term effects of inhaling propylene glycol or glyercin, they cannot possibly compare to the long-term effects of inhaling the numerous toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Hence it is journalistic, medical, and public health malpractice to tell a smoker who is thinking about trying e-cigarettes that he should wait a few decades until the evidence is clearer.

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  • Almanian Bridges, Not Walls||

    Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

  • Almanian Bridges, Not Walls||

    OT: Clinton's beginning to sound like Nixon. "Beginning" to?

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/...../71504450/

  • SusanM||

    "One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don't they'll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Bill on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a cat. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was?

    It was a little cat in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Chelsea, the 6-year-old—named it Socks. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the cat and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it"

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Check(ers)mate!

  • Rich||

  • SusanM||

    ;)

  • Almanian Bridges, Not Walls||

    I can't believe Socks didn't jump out of the crate brandishing an AR.

    Being from Texas and all.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Superb!

  • SusanM||

    In all seriousness, it looks like my earlier pessimism may have been unwarranted. Either the Clinton Magic is slipping or the Repubs aren't the retards I thought they were.

  • Almanian Bridges, Not Walls||

    I'm gonna go with the former, cause The Stupid Party gonna Stupid, and they already are. But it looks as if SHE'S MELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLTING!!! Ohhhhhh, what a world....what a world!!

  • Rich||

    She'll get you, my pretty!

  • SusanM||

    It depends on how you look at it. With The Donald being the Stalking Horse of Stupid and barfing out all the loony shit, the rest of the GOP looks even-tempered by comparison. It doesn't have the "blood feud" vibe this time around and people who are usually supporters are beginning to have doubts and ask uncomfortable questions.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Wow. Reading those quotes, Nixon almost comes off as respectful compared to her. Her responses (granted, they me be out of context) seem so "fuck off" dismissive.

  • Rich||

    Her smirking demeanor oozes dismissiveness and condescension.

    But, I suppose that's just one of the charms that make her so appealing to so many.

  • Mr Lizard||

    Good morning mammals

    I shall leave this right here:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/a.....month.html

    And I recommend you wait until halfway through your first cup of coffee

  • ||

    In this country of guns, no place is safe, not when you are a little girl doing your homework on mommy’s bed, not when you are a suburban cop stepping from your car to investigate something suspicious on a weekday morning.

  • Mr Lizard||

    Did you check out the stats and pic on this particular enforcer?

    And btw that quote reads like the disclaimer on your front door

  • ||

    Look, it says right here on my FOID; "This card does not permit the bearer to UNLAWFULLY carry or use firearms." I'm sure it says the exact same thing on the FOID of whichever of the three suspects shot this officer and, frankly, I'm astounded that they didn't check with the Illinois State Police to confirm that the fallen officer's FOID was valid before transferring the weapon(s) to themselves.

  • sarcasmic||

    He was a gung-ho SWAT instructor...

    Society is safer without him.

  • Rich||

    An alternative to smoking that's 95 percent safer is a huge opportunity that should be welcomed by anyone who wants to reduce tobacco-related harm.

    "An alternative to cars that's 95 percent safer is a huge opportunity that should be welcomed by anyone who wants to reduce automobile-related harm."

    "An alternative to firearms that's 95 percent safer is a huge opportunity that should be welcomed by anyone who wants to reduce gun-related harm."

    It's simple common sense.

  • Mr Lizard||

    Like throwing red turtle shells from Mario kart?

  • Rich||

    Exactly!

  • Mr Lizard||

    Blue turtle shell vs Contra Spread Cannon

    Which is more effective?

  • some guy||

    Contra spread cannon. More than one use and can easily hit more than one target.

    Blue turtle shell. Only one use and can easily be avoided by not being in first place.

    Contra spread cannon wins by a mile.

  • pan fried wylie||

    I haven't played mario kart, but I'm pretty sure you can't toss turtle shells while doing a spinjump.

    Contra 1, Mario 0

  • some guy||

    "An alternative to cars that's 95 percent safer is a huge opportunity that should be welcomed by anyone who wants to reduce automobile-related harm."

    "An alternative to firearms that's 95 percent safer is a huge opportunity that should be welcomed by anyone who wants to reduce gun-related harm."

    So... you're pushing for DC-style trolley cars and tasers?

  • pan fried wylie||

    I was gonna do the same thing with seatbelts.

    *shaken fist*

  • pan fried wylie||

    which lynchpin actually covered further downthread.

    fucking comprehensive commentariat.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    As I've noted before, the Anti-smoking industry abandoned facts some time back, since facts weren't convincing that last stubborn residue of smokers to quit. The Secondhand Smoke narrative is 90% fantasy. The stats they quote on "deaths per year" always seem to end up with the number 400,000 no matter what they are talking about; actual smokers, secondhand smokers, children of smokers....

    Doubtless we will soon hear that 400,000 vapers die every year from smoking-related illness.

  • some guy||

    And then there's third-hand smoke where you breath the stuff wafting off a secondhand smoker's clothes. That's like 20,000 extra deaths right there. Followed by fourth-hand smoke where you breath the spittle of a vitriolic anti-smoking campaigner. It's actually more dangerous than either secondhand or thirdhand smoke.

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    If Dieter Holger ever comes in for an MRI, I'll warn him that they're "not 100% safe" and send him on his merry way.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I am glad Dieter Holger is out there keeping my future children and I safe.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    When your brain is twirling, your toes are curling.

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    Masters and Johnson had the same observation

  • Trump-o-Matic 5000||

    Heheh...you said "Johnson"

  • LynchPin1477||

    The relevant question is how the risks of vaping compare to the risks of smoking, and there is no question that they are much lower.

    That is only true if you are intellectually honest and interested in helping people.

    If you are *actually* concerned with fighting a crusade against people that you think are desecrating their bodies, then the most important thing is to scare away the corruptible; the already-fallen be damned.

  • some guy||

    Or if you actually just want to use scary headlines to gin up readership and secure your future paychecks. I don't know which Dieter is. Principled overbearing nanny, or heartless charlatan?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I don't think it's even as dignified as "They're desecrating their bodies!". It's coming off as pure, heel-drumming, "do what we tell you! Whaaaa!"

  • Rhywun||

    It's coming off as pure, heel-drumming, "do what we tell you! Whaaaa!"

    It's that, plus a huge heaping dose of moral preening.

  • The Shrubber's Woodchipper||

    Who would be against common sense regulation of unregulated activities?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Anybody with any common sense?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Holger is unimpressed. "Even if e-cigarettes are '95% less harmful' than cigarettes," he says, "that doesn't mean they are safe."

    "Even if driving with a seatbelt on is 95% safer than driving without, that doesn't make it safe to drive."

    "Even if planes with emergency exits are 95% safer than those without, it doesn't make planes safe."

    "Even if wearing sunscreen is 95% safer than going without, that doesn't make being outside safe."

    "Even if cancer patients are 95% more likely to survive with chemotherapy, that doesn't make chemotherapy safe."

  • Rich||

  • Rockabilly||

    Only central committee knows what's best for you - a once free cozen.
    They are pro-choice and they will decide what's best for you - a once free citizen.

  • robc||

    If vaping led to a 20 fold increase in new users, there might be a negative consequence.

  • some guy||

    True, but only from an epidemiologist's or a nanny-statist's point of view.

  • pan fried wylie||

    "150% of people now vaping, more at 11."

  • robc||

    I think you are the only one who caught the sarcasm.

  • LynchPin1477||

    The number of people using it has no bearing on the possible negative consequences for one person.

    But even if you are looking at aggregate effects, a 20-fold increase would only make e-cigarettes as harmful as regular cigarettes if that 5% risk they are talking about is for things like cancer, lung disease, etc. It's not really clear if that is the case.

  • Rich||

    The number of people using it has no bearing on the possible negative consequences for one person.

    *** rising intonation ***

    What about second-hand vapor?

  • Slammer||

    BAN FOG MACHINES!

  • Rich||

    Why does anyone *need* dramatic effects?

  • Swiss Servator||

    OT: paging SugarFree, SugarFree to the red courtesy phone...

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/w.....ed-6358363

  • some guy||

    More material for the grist mill. This will open up whole new avenues for his "literature".

  • Slammer||

    Was he wearing his Fruit of the Tomb?

  • SusanM||

    Nah, he was a BVD (Best Vertical Display) kinda guy

  • sarcasmic||

    The mini-series didn't say anything about that.

  • SugarFree||

    Damn, that's pretty hot.

  • sarcasmic||

    The anti-smoking zealots make the abstinence-only brigade look sane.

  • Trump-o-Matic 5000||

    BUT IT LOOKS LIKE SMOKING!!! WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDRENS!!1!!!1!!!

  • Rich||

    They *did* think of the childrens, by replacing those damn chocolate cigarettes that always dripped on your clothing when you tried to light them!

  • Loki||

    propylene glycol and vegetable glyercin, the main components of e-cigarette "vapor,"

    I thought the main component was water /pedant

  • bassjoe||

    There's little to no water in e-liquid.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Talking to progressives about the science behind vaping is like talking to conservatives about the science behind climate change.

    People believe the science says whatever supports their preferred conclusions, and they believe anyone who disagrees with them is biased.

    They also believe that evidence of bias proves that the science itself is bad--assuming the science doesn't support their preferred conclusions, that is.

    The truth isn't a consensus, but science is, and although science really is a consensus, it isn't a popularity contest. But science feeds popularity contests, and popularity contests make the science important. The bigger the popularity contest, the more important the science is behind it.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Talking to progressives about the science behind vaping is like talking to conservatives about the science behind climate change

    What? This makes no sense. You seem to be suggesting that talking with folks who want to warp science because of the feels is the same as talking to people who keep pointing out that 'consensus'(often known as 'the feels') is not part of the scientific method.

    Of course, you DO seem to think that science is a consensus, so maybe you're not the best person to talk with about anything to do with science.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "You seem to be suggesting that talking with folks who want to warp science because of the feels is the same as talking to people who keep pointing out that 'consensus'(often known as 'the feels') is not part of the scientific method."

    The first part of that sentence is supportive of my statement about how "people believe the science says whatever supports their preferred conclusions, and they believe anyone who disagrees with them is biased", and the second part of that sentence is just plain wrong.

    Science is a consensus. The consensus changes when new data becomes available. Presently the consensus is supportive of heliocentric theory. If new evidence becomes available tomorrow showing that the sun orbits the earth after all, then the scientific consensus will change.

    Science is a consensus, but science isn't the truth.

    The consensus is integral to the scientific method itself. If it isn't testable, it isn't science because if other scientists can't do the same experiment and confirm your results, then they can't form a consensus. In order for it to be science, it needs to be repeatable--for the same reason! What do you think peer review is all about? What's the point of publishing your results?

  • Ken Shultz||

    All of this consensus building is integral to the scientific method. If you think science isn't a consensus, then you are wrong, and if opposition to the progressives' climate change proposals is what's driving your willingness to accept the science, then you're guilty of exactly what I described above: "People believe the science says whatever supports their preferred conclusions".

    Jesus, libertarianism isn't about rejecting the science that drives bad public policy. It's about opposing bad public policy. And you can oppose the progressives destroying the economy with foolish environmental proposals without rejecting any and all science that suggests there might be a problem.

    Capitalist and libertarian solutions are better than socialist and progressives ones--even if there is a problem. Denying the science makes it seem otherwise--like capitalist libertarians don't have any solutions. Let's stop shooting ourselves in the foot--and making the world think we're willfully obtuse about science.

  • bassjoe||

    Common sense says that no longer burning and inhaling the smoke of a plant to get your nicotine fix will in all likelihood be safer/healthier. Most if not all e-liquid uses substances we've used (and consumed safely) for decades. The most dangerous part of the e-cig is the vaporizer itself, which can be poorly manufactured, degrade from regular use, etc., and result in metals and other toxins being vaporized along with the e-liquid into your lungs. But the industry I think is capable of coming up with safety standards and "best practices" guidelines for customers.

  • Robert||

    Tell me when they're going to infer danger from these https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V87YLfyHkhw , because except for the optional add'n of nicotine, that's all vaping is.

  • howardshaunna||

    I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h… Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link... Try it, you won't regret it!......

    http://www.HomeJobs90.Com

  • premium e-liquid||

    Noooo joke! FDA is trying like hell to put out the small businesses. HEY FDA think it might hurt the economy?? What about the guys trying to get off cigarettes and vaping tobacco eliquid, but can no longer afford to switch due to price increase, because of the horrible regulations that is very costly that just gets put down to the customer? What about us regular people?? Wake up FDA, and get real!

  • Elaine Keller||

    Maybe we don't know the long term effects of vaping; but we do know the long term effects of smoking. Why doesn't the journalist understand that, in effect, he is telling a smoker who is thinking about trying e-cigarettes that it's a better idea to continue to smoke for a few decades until the evidence is clearer?

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