Rejoinder on e-cigs and smoking
SOME readers apparently didn’t get the message right about last week’s column discussing a recently published study on the high potential for cancer risk of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).
The study we discussed suggested that there’s mechanistic reason to postulate that those vaping 3 milliliter of e-cig liquids per day have around five times the risk to develop cancer compared to someone smoking one pack of cigarettes per day. A reader, Wendel de Castro, posted that we were recommending that it’s better to smoke tobacco than use e-cigs.
“Obviously you got paid by a yosi (cigarette) company to write about this. The tone of your article is obviously to discourage e-cig and encourage yosi. There are more and more e-cig stores these days as it gains prominence over yosi. That is the reason you took money to write this,” he said.
If I may borrow the word the new president-elect used to describe outlandish statements, such conclusion is “preposterous.” And I hope President Rody realizes that just like the conductor of a big symphony orchestra, he sets the tone and pitch to be religiously followed by all his musicians. His recent pronouncements about the media have apparently set the tone, and readers like Wendel de Castro is just playing to the set pitch. But that’s actually another story.
What we’re actually trying to convey to our readers is that all forms of smoking—whether it’s tobacco or e-cigs—has a significantly high potential to cause harm to the smoker and based on studies, to the people around him due to secondhand smoke.
We think that e-cigs should only be resorted to as a smoking-cessation tool, for a limited period; and should never be considered as a safe “alternative lifestyle” that can be used permanently by a tobacco smoker in lieu of cigarette smoking. That would be like the proverbial jump from the frying pan to the flame itself.
In this regard, the local regulatory agencies should ban all fruit- or candy-flavored e-cig vaping liquids, which are used as a marketing ploy, since this has deceived some into perceiving that e-cig is actually healthy—fruits being associated with healthy food. This can also entice the youth from taking on this vice.
This deception is similar to those manufacturing candy-shaped and multicolored ecstasy pills like the ones being sold in rave parties as in the recent “Closeup Forever Summer” tragedy. Many of our youth fall into the trap of believing they’re safe and healthy as an energy-boosting supplement to make them last a whole night of partying and merry-making.
The two victims who were rushed to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital from the Close-Up event had their blood pressures and heart rates shooting through the roof causing a massive heart attack and heart failure. Despite the efforts of the hospital emergency-room team headed by Dr. Roby Ruiz, the two youth’s multiorgan failure was beyond salvage, and they died a few hours later.
Smoking may not kill its victims as quickly and dramatically as ecstasy pills could, but the addicted smoker fails to realize that his/her smoking is “killing him/her softly,” as an old song goes.
When burned, cigarettes produce hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals. Just to name a few, the American Lung Association has listed the following and the usual places where these toxic chemicals are found:
• Nicotine—used as insecticide
• Acetone—found in nail polish remover
• Acetic acid—an ingredient in hair dye
• Ammonia—a common household cleaner
• Arsenic—used in rat poison
• Benzene—found in rubber cement
• Butane—used in lighter fluid
• Cadmium—active component in battery acid
• Carbon monoxide—released in car exhaust fumes
• Formaldehyde—embalming fluid
• Hexamine—found in barbecue lighter fluid
• Lead—used in batteries
• Naphthalene—an ingredient in mothballs
• Methanol—a main component in rocket fuel
• Tar—material for paving roads
• Toluene—used to manufacture paint
For e-cigs, at least two studies have already shown that the vaped liquid or aerosol contains more formaldehyde, a carcinogen with a strong potential to cause cancer.
Another reader said that the flavor ingredients used in e-cigs are safe because they have Fema-Gras status for use in food products. The Fema-Gras program evaluates the safety of foods and drinks which are eaten or drank, but not inhaled. So e-cig flavor ingredients cannot fall into the categories being evaluated by the Fema-Gras program.
The flavoring substances of e-cig liquids may be safe to eat or drink but not to inhale. And the study we cited from the New England Journal of Medicine raised a red flag about the formaldehyde-containing hemiacetals formed when some e-cig flavoring substances are vaped.
So for the record—lest there be any confusion on the message we’re trying to tell our readers—we advocate for a total avoidance of all forms of smoking, whether it’s tobacco or e-cigs. Just as we hurriedly rush out of a closed garage where a car engine is running to prevent ourselves from inhaling the harmful substances emitted by the car’s exhaust, we must also shun all sources of cancer-producing smoke, despite whatever perverted pleasure we may derive from it.
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