Research shows metals toxicities of e-cig vapor are comparable to everyday air

The general public has a great many misconceptions surrounding smoking, vaping, and nicotine.  Statistics vary, but many reports indicate that anywhere between 50-75 percent of the public mistakenly believe that electronic cigarettes are just as deadly as combustible tobacco products.  Meanwhile, scientists from two major American universities have released a vaping study which attempts to clarify many of these false beliefs involving the metallic toxicity differences between smoking and vaping.

The study is entitled Trace Metals Derived from Electronic Cigarette (ECIG) Generated Aerosol: Potential Problem of ECIG Devices That Contain Nickel (Frontiers in Physiology). Led by Dr. Dominic L. Palazzolo, the research team is comprised of members of academia from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS and Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN.  After months of dedicated study, these researchers determined that e-cig vapor contains about the same level of trace metals as that of normal, everyday air.

Overview of the vaping study

The project abstract was rather simple.  The scientists essentially pumped e-cig vapor and the smoke from combustible cigarettes into specially constructed but separate chambers that would measure the toxicity levels of various trace metals including the following.

 “To mimic this trapping, peristaltic pumps were used to generate and transport aerosol onto mixed cellulose ester (MCE) membranes where aluminum (Al), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn) were subsequently captured and quantified.”

The researchers were already well-aware of several previously published reports claiming that e-cig vapor contains high metallic content and is therefore hazardous to the health of the vapor.  Throughout the course of the Palazzolo study, the researchers would identify and quantify the corresponding levels of metallic toxicities, but strangely, the levels would often vary.

Sometimes they would match the exorbitantly high levels of previously published studies, and sometimes the levels would be significantly lower.  Why were there such wide swings in toxicities?

Related Article:   Switch to vaping? Study shows cigarette smoke stays trapped indoors for decades

Through a series of exhaustive tests, they ultimately determined that these variances occur due to several mitigating factors, such as the heating temperatures of the vaping device itself.  However, they further determined that when e-cigs are used properly and per the recommended vaping practices provided by the manufacturer, the levels of trace metals were not significantly different than those associated with ambient air.

“In general, the findings of this study suggest that the concentrations of most trace metals extracted from cigarette smoke exceed the concentrations of trace metals extracted from ECIG-generated aerosol. While confident of these findings, it must be emphasized that these results are specific to the single ECIG device/E-liquid combination used. Nevertheless, a possibility for significant trace metal inhalation exists depending on the brand of ECIG device used. The present study illustrates this point. Given that Ni in the E-liquid is nearly undetectable, the source of Ni in the aerosol must be the ECIG device. From this study, it is unlikely that the ECIG-generated aerosol contains enough of the other trace metals to induce significant pathology.”

The researchers identified some possible causes of the higher toxicity levels published in prior research studies.  For example, they discovered that many past studies used vaping temperatures that were excessively high and that would likely result in a dry hit effect that would be very downright excruciating for the vaper.

Furthermore, these higher temperatures would essentially cause the metal coils, tanks, and other components of the vaping device to essentially burn away incrementally, thus increasing the trace metals toxicities levels in the resulting e-cig vapor.   

While several prior research studies claim that e-cig vapor is highly saturated with trace metals, the Palazzolo team refrains from accusations of intentional falsification of data by the former studies’ co-authors.  Instead, they warn the scientific and academic communities to be more careful in their research protocols before publishing information that may alarm and discourage the general public regarding the many health benefits of vaping. 

Related Article:  Switching to vaping can add 20 years of life to patients with severe mental illness

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Who is Ned Sharpless, the soon-to-be Acting Commissioner of the FDA?

Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s March 5 announcement that he is resigning his post as FDA Commissioner leaves a considerable hole in the Trump Administration that cannot go unfilled.  Ned Sharpless will be stepping into this position temporarily until such time that the president chooses a permanent replacement.  But who is Ned Sharpless, and what are his views on vaping?

The March 13 appointment of the current Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland, is said to have a deep scientific background and strong leadership skills.  Among his many accomplishments, Sharpless has a reputation for granting easier access of NCI funds for research grants particularly in the medical fields involving pediatric cancer patients. 

FDA’s Sharpless has strong background in cancer research

Although Sharpless does not have a professional background in industry regulation and oversight, he has been instrumental in starting two biotech companies in the past.  Gottlieb personally recommended Sharpless as his replacement, which may be at least partially why he won the temporary post so quickly.

So, it makes sense that, according to the New York Times, Sharpless also plans to maintain Gottlieb’s vision regarding regulatory actions of the vaping industry.

“Dr. Gottlieb’s boldest action has been his crackdown on youth vaping, for which he blamed the e-cigarette industry. Dr. Sharpless has already signaled support for the move.”
“In a statement issued on Tuesday, Dr. Sharpless said, ‘It will be an honor to advance the F.D.A.’s critical public health mission.’”

However, it remains unclear as to whether an Acting FDA Commissioner has the power and authority to continue making sweeping and often controversial changes related to the tobacco and e-cigarette industries.  A presidential temporarily appointment may not enough to gain the true power.  A Senate confirmation process is typically required.

Related Article:  On his way out the door, departing FDA Chief slaps vaping with harsher regs

Over the past two years, Gottlieb has pursued the tightening of restrictions on the sales of flavored vapes while threatening to ban all menthol-flavored tobacco products.  He’s even entertained the concept of introducing regulatory requirements that would significantly reduce nicotine levels of conventional tobacco products. 

BuzzFeed calls Sharpless a “cancer scientist,” but the news outlet also predicts that the Acting Commissioner may not hold his position for very long.  His current job as NCI Director is also being filled temporarily by its Deputy Director Doug Lowry, which implies that all the critical  players involved are viewing this move as an interim remedy rather than a long-term solution.

Related Article:  Revealed: FDA’s Gottlieb tells WH of secret plan to kill flavored vapes

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New study suggests loosening (not tightening) vaping regulations benefits public health

“Our results suggest that optimal strategies will also be influenced by targeted smoking cessation advice, regulations around chemical constituents of these products, and marketing and age limits to prevent youth uptake of vaping.”

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New study suggests loosening (not tightening) vaping regulations benefits public health

A new report from Australian and New Zealand researchers strongly suggests that loosening rather than tightening federal regulations on vaping products can benefit public health.  The study seemingly flies in direct contradiction to U.S. regulatory actions consistently being unleashed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Just last week, FDA Chief Gottlieb proposed another aggressive crackdown on the sales of favored vapes through conventional brick-and-mortar retailers which could go into effect within months.

Vaping regulations vary greatly from country to country.  Australia, in particular, has had a terrible time implementing regulatory guidelines that actually stick.  Underground or black market products – which are non-regulated and extremely unsafe for the consumer – are always a substantial threat. Meanwhile, its mother country Great Britain seems to have embraced the vaping phenomenon as both a tobacco harm reduction tool and a smoking cessation aid. 

Related Article:   UK vaping study indicates vaping is a roadblock to smoking, not a gateway

The Australian government wants to be 100 percent smoke-free by the year 2025, and so far they are moderately successful in meeting their individual milestones.  Declines in national smoking rates are noteworthy, but these statistics also tend to fluctuate from region to region.

The Aussie government refuses to be like Thailand and ban vapor products outright, preferring to loosen their regulations instead much like their neighbor New Zealand who has experienced measurable declines in national smoking rates as a consequence.

The question is:  Will loosening vaping restrictions help or hurt Australia’s ability to achieve a smoke-free nation within the next six year?

The Australian/New Zealand study soon to be published in Epidemiology (preview in NCBI) is entitled Potential country-level health and cost impacts of legalizing domestic sale of vaporized nicotine products.  The report was conducted by scientists from the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland. 

The researchers used a multi-state model of analysis involving 16 different tobacco-related diseases while evaluating the consumer habits of former, current, and never smokers engaging in e-cigarette experimentation.  They wanted to determine if easier access to vapor products impacts public health and healthcare costs either positively or negatively.  In Australia, acquiring these products is a very laborious and complex process even compared to the United States.

Related Article:   Experts refute Tasmanian vaping study equating smoking and vaping

The researchers compared their Australian analysis to similar data supplied by public health officials in New Zealand where access to vaping materials is far easier and the smoking and smoking-related disease rates are similar.  After their comparative evaluations, the researchers came to the following conclusions.

“This modeling suggested that a fairly permissive regulatory environment around vaporized nicotine products achieves net health gain and cost-savings, albeit with wide uncertainty. Our results suggest that optimal strategies will also be influenced by targeted smoking cessation advice, regulations around chemical constituents of these products, and marketing and age limits to prevent youth uptake of vaping.”

Even though the bi-national group of researchers recommends loosening vaping regulations, they still support restrictions on underage vaping and government regulation of the chemicals used in vapor products.  However, they also strongly recommend that newbie vapers receive proper counseling on how to use vapor products properly to successfully quit smoking through vaping. In a statement to Voxy, co-author Professor Nick Wilson made the following statement.

“These devices should ideally be sold where expert advice is available, such as specialist vape shops or from pharmacies – which can also give support on quitting smoking.”

The co-authors also firmly believe that the scientific evidence which indicates that vaping is approximately 95 percent less harmful than smoking is virtually unquestionable.  The 2015 report published by Public Health England making this claim still holds a lot of weight in the Aussie scientific community.

Related Article:   Teen vaping? New UK e-cig study shows 66 percent of vapers are over 40

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