By Evelyn du Maurier
A recent study from Hong Kong has made vaping headlines with the claim that smoking an e-cigarette is “a million times worse than breathing Hong Kong air,” and has resulted in the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health to request a ban on e-cigarettes.
So what does this study actually say? Well, for starters, not much in the way of useful information, as stated by many leading e-cigarette research scientists. The study, which focused on e-cigarettes as opposed to vaping mods, has yet to reveal its methodology, which is used as a way to verify results within the scientific community.
Without knowing how the study was conducted, what the controls were, or any other results rather than the ridiculous claim of being a million times more polluted than Hong Kong’s air, it is difficult to certify the results, let alone recreate them for validation.
The results mentioned, aside from the pollution claim, is that PAHs, cancerous chemical compounds, were present in e-cigarettes, and in higher concentrations than in conventional cigarettes.
Sound fishy? It is. PAHs are activated through combustion, meaning that they become carcinogens when a combustible is present — like when lighting a cigarette. This claim doesn’t actually mean anything to vapers.
Why? Because e-cigarettes do not use combustion. Instead of using fire, e-cigarettes used controlled heat in order to warm the liquid, which turns into vaper, which the user then inhales.
Another claim is that e-cigarette companies do not put the nicotine level on their packaging, with e-cigarettes claiming to have Omg of nicotine still showing traces of nicotine. This claim may seem strange in the West, as companies conveniently display nicotine levels for their consumers. But apparently, these unnamed e-cigarettes, many of which are assumed to be made in the Asia region, do not follow the same standards.
The study also fails to create a control for e-cigarettes — that is, the scientists, lead by Dr Chung, failed to conduct a survey as to what is the daily average intake of a vaper. This means that the claims are based on arbitrary numbers, leading to no concrete evidence.
But back to the pollution. The claim listed above is summarily dismissed by a leading expert in e-cigarette research, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos. As a cardiologist and lead researcher, he endeavors to explain the claim as bogus.
Essentially, through research and a proper survey, Farsalinos was able to debunk the claim by proving that Hong Kong residents breathe in would result in about 960 ng, where as levels of exposure from smoking e-cigarettes (with a control of 3ml a day) would be anywhere from 9 - 1500 ng*. So basically, the result is this: smoking an e-cigarette causes 100 times less to 1/2 times more pollution in the lungs than Hong Kong Air.
The result of some research and digging? The claims are unequivocally false and should not be used as substantial evidence to back a ban on e-cigarettes, period. It can only be assumed that the scientific researchers made monumental mistakes in the documentation and procedure of their study. Another theory, one that is much more likely, is that the study was funded by Big Tobacco as a way to undermine the effectiveness of vaping and e-cigarettes for smokers who are quitting.
Why is this important? If this study has no basis in scientific reality, does it really matter? The answer is yes. Because if Hong Kong bans e-cigarettes, it will join 16 other territories and countries that have a similar ban, adding to the mix of misinformation and fear-mongering that Big Tobacco is using as a tactic to eliminate the vaping community. And as we all know, when fear sweeps worldwide, there can be devastating consequences — like not giving smokers a safe way to quit.
How do you feel about the Hong Kong study and it’s inability to explain its methodology and results? Does this study change the way you feel about vaping, or are you just as sceptical as the rest of the vaping public?
*Ng refers to nanograms, a scientific measurement.