Like many other people, one of your new year’s resolutions may be kicking your smoking habit by trying e-cigarettes. If you have only just started exploring the world of vaping, our 2015 roundup of the year in e cigarettes will give you a good overview of recent events and discoveries, and what these revelations mean for vapers. Today we look at some of the major news stories surrounding vaping over the past year and consider where that leaves us as we begin 2016.
Queensland introduced new e cig laws
A New England Journal of Medicine study raised concerns early on in the year with its findings that formaldehyde (a probable carcinogen also found in industrial strength disinfectant, many glues and other household products) was released from e-liquid as it was vaporized in an e-cigarette. However, several scientists and other thought leaders have pointed out a critical flaw of the study.
Greg Conley, the President of The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association questioned the reality of the testing conditions. He pointed out that the temperature at which the glycol was broken down into formaldehyde during the study was a major issue. “These are not settings that real-life vapers actually use.” Mr. Conley stated. Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician and Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, has a similar opinion. Professor Siegel explains that “if an e-cigarette were to reach the levels of heat used in the study…the e-cigarette would break apart or at best allow only one puff” which would taste “extremely unpleasant.”
In August Public Health England (a British government body) released what was hailed as a "landmark review" of electronic cigarettes in which they concluded that e cigarettes are about 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and could one day be dispensed as a licensed medicine in an alternative to anti-smoking products such as patches. The study suggested that e cigarettes should be labelled as an effective means of helping smokers quit. The PHE report refers to vaping as a nicotine delivery system with the "potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco".
Towards the end of 2015, Harvard released a study which found that 75 % of flavoured e-cigarette liquids contained a chemical called diacetyl, commonly used in artificial butter flavourings. In the early 2000s the chemical was revealed to be linked to the severe respiratory disease bronchiolitis obliterans. After workers at a number of popcorn factories came down with this condition the disease became known as “popcorn lung”. The Harvard study led to disturbing news headlines across the world such as “Vaping may cause fatal 'popcorn lung' disease” and “E-cigarettes linked to popcorn lung”.
However, according to Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician and Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, the Harvard study “creates a scare by omitting a key piece of information, undermining the public's appreciation of the severe hazards of tobacco smoking and leading to perverse public health outcomes.” That key piece of information that Dr. Siegel was referring to is that all conventional cigarettes produce tobacco smoke that contains diacetyl, and the levels of diacetyl in cigarettes are a lot higher (750 times higher) than those produced by e-cigarettes, yet earlier tobacco studies found that even these levels were not sufficient to cause popcorn lung in smokers.
After this eventful year in the vaping industry, electronic cigarettes remain as controversial as ever. However, it appears that as scientists, members of the media and vaping supporters shed light on some of the misconceptions and poorly understood facts about e cigs, we are seeing somewhat of a shift where vapers no longer sound like the crazy minority. In 2016, we are likely to see even more evidence emerging to support the idea that e cigarettes could represent a genuine chance to save the lives of millions of people.