We came across an article written in January, 18th, 2012 by Susie Stachan from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The article, entitled “E-cigarettes not the answer to quitting smoking” (full article can be found here) is full of misleading and incorrect information. And although we respect what the WRHA has done over the years, we also believe in facts and science so here are some corrections. Below are excerpts from the article and our opinion on their factuality.
Proponents say e-cigarettes help them to cut down on the health risks, eliminate the odour of burning tobacco, and cut down on the amount of nicotine they get with each inhalation.
The issue here is the word proponents, or rather than missing word “users”. The fact is, the internet is full of e-cigarette users praising the technology. It should be important what e-cigarette users and current/former smokers have to say, but it appears it is not.
Yet e-cigarette kits are both sold online through Canadian websites, and in stores in Winnipeg, all of which contain nicotine.
Simply not true. Some electronic cigarette retailers do sell e-cigs with nicotine, but many do not. One example is this online e-cigarette retailer which carries a couple different brands, all without nicotine.
Health-care providers don’t know if they are a safe alternative to regular cigarettes, or if they are a bid by Big Tobacco to continue having people buying their product.
How can they not know? Everyone in the industry and on the forums know the big players, and they aren’t tobacco companies. In fact the first sign of the tobacco industry getting involved in electronic cigarettes was when the tobacco company Lorillard bought the established e-cig brand, Blu. Most e-cigarette companies are small start-ups with some better funded companies slowly rising to the top.
As for the safer alternative, let’s compare. Tobacco cigarettes contain 4000 chemicals and kill about half the long time users. E-Cigarettes use propylene glycol, glycerin, water, flavoring, and optionally nicotine. All ingredients (minus the nicotine) are approved for use in food. Nicotine is found in all NRT products. And there have been multiple tests of the electronic cigarette.
“There are concerns about second-hand smoke, too. There’s no clear evidence on what’s in that vapour, and whether this will have a second-hand smoke effect on other people,”
At the time of the article, there wasn’t. But now there is testing showing that e-cig vapor is not dangerous to bystanders indoors.
In May 2009, the FDA’s Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis tested the contents of 18 varieties of electronic cigarette cartridges produced by two vendors: NJoy and Smoking Everywhere. They found known cancer-causing agents in a number of the cartridges, and also that the actual nicotine levels did not always correspond to the amount they purported to contain.
What the FDA found was trace amounts of TSNA (Tobacco-specific nitrosamines) and as Dr. Michael Siegel noted on his tobacco harm reduction blog: “The rest of the story is that an independent scientific expert report has now confirmed that – at least in the case of NJOY electronic cigarettes – there is no evidence that these products pose any increased health risks compared to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products and that they pose much less health risk than FDA-approved tobacco cigarettes.”
We do believe that nicotine content should be regulated to ensure accuracy.
The Winnipeg Health Region offers smoking cessation support and supplies patients with nicotine patches and gum while they are staying in region hospitals.
That is great. But seems odd that they would recommend a patch or gum with nicotine rather than recommend an electronic cigarette with no nicotine. Last time I checked, they don’t give alcoholics beer so they will stop drinking.
We hope all public health organizations in Canada will base their opinions and recommendations on facts and science and not blindly tow the company line.