- By Casey Watts, Editor Feb 1, 2019
E-cigarettes, vaping and other electronic methods of delivering nicotine to the user via inhaling are a fairly new trend. Many professionals warn the practice is unhealthy, especially to youth, but studies have not yet found conclusive evidence that link the practices to major health problems.
Because of this, the other side that argues the benefits of vaping is largely overshadowed.
“[Vaping is] not safe,” said Mid TN Vape Shop CEO Richard Banaski. “I don’t recommend anyone who hasn’t smoked before to become a vaper.”
However, he claimed it helps people quit smoking.
“Based on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the health effects of long-term use are not known,” according to the American Cancer Society’s statement on electronic cigarettes.
Banaski added his opinion that the medical professionals saying no studies have been done on vaping and health-related concerns is “bunk.”
In a government committee meeting held on May 15, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products Director Mitch Zeller said vaping is a better alternative to smoking.
“If we could get all of those people [who smoke] to completely switch all of their cigarettes to noncombustible cigarettes, it would be good for public health,” Zeller said during the committee meeting.
All studies claim that tests are still being done to understand the long-term exposure of these chemicals for the user and those who inhale it second-hand.
Debunking popcorn lung
Popcorn lung is a rare medical condition that damages the lungs’ smallest airways. The disease was named when workers in a popcorn factory had trouble breathing after spending long shifts working with a chemical in artificial butter flavors. The chemical that caused the condition, diacetyl, is also found in some e-liquids — the liquid used in vaping.
The flavoring is the “wild card,” Banaski explained, as it can contain small amounts of diacetyl. However, Banaski said it is not enough to cause the disease.
In 2015, a Harvard study linked popcorn lung and vaping, but this study has largely been debunked by Snopes.
“Prior research into tobacco cigarettes (which contain measurably higher levels of diacetyl and are more commonly used than e-cigarettes) determined that smoking is not a risk factor for popcorn lung, so the lower concentrations of diacetyl in e-cigarette juices are not likely a risk factor in popcorn lung,” according to Snopes.
Based on this finding, Banaski said no known smoker has contracted popcorn lung, therefore people who vape cannot get the disease from vaping.
Second-hand smoke, while an issue for traditional cigarettes, is not as serious of a problem with vaping, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCBI).
In 2015, the NCBI released an assessment on the indoor air quality before and after unrestricted use of e-cigarettes in a small room.
“The data suggest that any additional chemicals present in indoor air from the exhaled e-cigarette aerosol, are unlikely to present an air quality issue to bystanders at the levels measured when compared to the regulatory standards that are used for workplaces or general indoor air quality,” according to the study.
Youth vaping and flavors
The CDC states e-cigs are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. Professionals and Banaski do not dispute this.
The current FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained vaping has benefits for adults, but not youths, in a series of tweets posted on Aug. 23, 2018.
“Vaping may well be a good alternative for currently addicted smokers to help them quit cigarettes, and reduce their risk; but I’m both surprised and dismayed by how many advocates of vaping criticize #FDA's efforts to keep e-cigs out of the hands of kids,” he posted. “If we’re going to preserve these opportunities for adult smokers for the long run, we’re going to have to work together to do much more to make sure products aren’t being used by kids; and don’t become a gateway to hooking an entire generation of children on tobacco and nicotine. We have an opportunity now to put in place policies that can preserve these products for adults and advance a regulatory framework that allows them to be used as smoking cessation tools; but widespread abuse and misuse of these products by kids put these opportunities at risk.”
The State of Tennessee does have laws in place to make vaping and using e-cigs illegal if the user is under the age of 18. Banaski explains the problem is that the law is not heavily enforced.