MATT BLACK: E-cigarette vapor does not equal smoke

ST. PAUL -- In the debate about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), a misconception exists that there is little to no scientific evidence proving the safety of e-cigarettes to either user or bystander.

Matt Black
Matt Black

ST. PAUL - In the debate about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), a misconception exists that there is little to no scientific evidence proving the safety of e-cigarettes to either user or bystander.

But there are more than 100 published studies and clinical research papers ( available on e-cigarettes, and not one of these studies has found harmful levels of any chemical in e-cigarette vapor.

I believe those who perpetuate this type of rhetoric really mean to say: “There is no scientific evidence to support my opinion,” which is a different issue entirely.

A peer-reviewed study titled “Peering through the mist,” published in the January issue of BMC Public Health, concludes that e-cigarettes are not a public health risk. In this study, Igor Burstyn of Drexel University examined more than 9,000 different observations of e-cigarette liquid and vapor.

Burstyn found that the components that make up e-cigarette vapor are harmless to bystanders, and the trace levels of compounds found are well below the levels that the EPA has adopted as safe standards for indoor air quality.


Some opponents argue that there are harmful chemicals and toxins found in e-cigarette vapor. But in these arguments, the actual levels of those chemicals are never discussed. If they were, they would have to admit that e-cigarette toxicity is no more than the FDA-approved nicotine inhaler touted as virtually risk-free.

Burstyn, in his study, concluded that “concentrations from 150 puffs is about 10,000 times lower than the allowable daily intake according to CDC.”

Another common argument used against e-cigarettes is their supposed appeal to children. Flavors such as strawberry, blueberry waffle and others often are cited as appealing only to children.

But most people who quit smoking and switch to e-cigarettes find it easier to switch to a flavor that doesn’t remind them of cigarettes, which is why these flavors have become so popular with adults.

Furthermore, if we fault e-cigarettes because of their flavors and their supposed appeal to children, we need to take a step back and reevaluate a few other industries. One, in particular, would be the liquor industry. Children are marched down liquor store aisles full of colorful labels and bottles of vodkas that come in “kid-friendly” flavors such as strawberry, cake and fruit loops. Then, when their parents check out, the children are offered candy.

We let adults drink in bars and restaurants without fretting over how it may affect alcoholism in the future. And even though the CDC states, “Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth,” we rarely, if ever, question how alcohol flavors may appeal to children or what to do about the consumption of alcohol in public.

So, I think it’s important that we keep perspective when arguments such as this one are used.

I am neither a scientist nor a doctor. I can make only logical conclusions regarding safety based on the scientific findings of others and my personal experience.


I smoked a pack a day for 17 years - more than 125,000 cigarettes. I got to the point where my lungs ached. I had chronic bronchitis and got winded getting out of a chair. I was 31 years old.

The last cigarette that I had was the same day that I picked up my e-cigarette, which was on March 22, 2013. My bronchitis went away immediately, my lungs stopped aching, and I could breathe again.

And I am not alone. There are countless others who share similar experiences.

I find it hard to understand why any city, state or federal government body would want to regulate these devices in a way that would make them less appealing to people who are currently killing themselves, especially when the science doesn’t support many lawmakers’ opinions.

E-cigarette advocates understand the need for common-sense regulation. We fully support youth access restrictions. But we don’t support forcing business owners to adopt e-cigarette policies that contradict common sense and scientific fact, and thus hurt business, when the product in question is proven not to be a public health risk.

Black is president of Minnesota Vapers Advocacy, a group whose goal is to “inform and educate in order to protect the future of vaping and e-cigarette use in our state.”

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