Dr. Laura Jean Bierut recently gave a presentation advocating for vaping, but critics have their concerns
For as long as vaping has been in the public eye, it’s been a common belief that vaping and smoking are more or less the same. These views are somewhat understandable from an outsider’s perspective, as they appear similar and e-liquids frequently contain, tobacco-entwined, nicotine. As more evidence supporting the safety of e-cigarettes compared with smoking has been published though, public health officials have still been reluctant to support the devices.
Regardless of the lack of support from many institutions such as the FDA and CDC, the research continues to point to the relative safety of vaping. At the same time, we are very well aware of the countless lives that are impacted every day by tobacco-related death and disease. As such, more and more respected doctors are changing their previously reluctant stance on vaping to encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes if they are unable or unwilling to quit outright. This is precisely what happened a few days ago when Dr. Laura Jean Bierut made a case for vaping to her peers.
Dr. Bierut’s Presentation
The 23rd Annual Perspectives in Thoracic Oncology meeting was held this past Friday and Saturday at the New York Marriott Marquis. It was there that renowned Professor of Psychiatry at the Washington University of St. Louis, Dr. Laura Jean Bierut gave a presentation about the efficacy of e-cigarettes as an alternative to combustible cigarettes. Her main point was to make it clear that it would be ideal for smokers to quit entirely, but if they’ve had trouble in the past, vaping is a legitimate safer alternative.
While she fell far short of calling vaping the best option for smokers looking to quit, she did clearly indicate support for the idea when she said “switching to e-cigarettes is a reasonable alternative for those who cannot or simply don’t want to quit.” But at the same time, she is subtly reinforcing a more significant issue within the vaping community. That being the idea vaping is merely another form of tobacco, just like chewing tobacco, cigars, or shisha.
The Larger Issue
While Dr. Bierut’s presentation does represent a step forward for acceptance of vaping among the health community, her phrasing still highlights are the more extensive issue of public perception. While there is a growing pile of evidence which clearly indicates vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, most people are still under the impression that vaping is just as, if not more dangerous than tobacco. In fact, polls have shown that as few as 13% of adults understand the relative risk of vaping and smoking.
But aside from the issue of relative safety, the bottom line is that vaping and smoking are two completely different processes. Smoking requires combustion which by its nature creates a whole litany of potentially harmful substances, regardless of what’s burned. Vaping, on the other hand, isn’t burning anything, so no tar is generated. This idea can be backed up by research which indicates the differences between the two. Research published by a team from San Diego State University tested the indoor air quality of smoking, non-smoking, and vaping homes and determined that while smoking dramatically reduces air quality, vaping houses had virtually identical levels to the non-smoking households. A study published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Journal may hold the key as to why. It showed that smoking particles linger in the air and eventually stick to our surroundings, including us. But vaping particles dissipate in only a few seconds, never attaching to the environment at all.
We should be happy and excited that another respected expert has come out in support of vaping as safer than smoking. But that being said, we do need to take things with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, it’s clear Dr. Bierut, and many of her colleagues are still under the false impression that vaping is just another form of smoking. Changing this perspective is a significant key in the continued fight for vaping rights. As mentioned, as little as 13% of adults understand how much safer vaping is than smoking. But making matters much worse is that around twice as many people seem to believe that vaping is just as, if not more, dangerous than tobacco. Taking full advantage of the extreme smoking cessation and harm reduction value of vaping starts with fighting the rampant misinformation that exists equating vaping with smoking. That is the best way we can continue to work toward a world free of the smoking epidemic.
Is it essential for vaping to be seen as separate from smoking? Do you think Dr. Bierut’s presentation will have a positive impact on vaping rights? How can we best teach people about the actual benefits of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.