Are ecigs safe? That question is a doozy and one that everyone seems to have an answer for. My barber thinks the answer is yes. “They’re certainly better than the death sticks I was puffin’ on” he answers in between snipping strands of my hair, tossed aside like fallen soldiers. My neighbor isn’t quite as sure, and he responds by asking “well is nicotine bad for you?” because he relates the two so closely and is skeptical. The cashier at my supermarket tells me the answer is “no man, those things be just as bad as these things here right” as he points to packets of cigarettes. Vaping is now everywhere and it seems like everyone is confused. But what about doctors? They should definitely be able to give us some insights on this issue, right?
It turns out doctors are often coming up with the same confused answer for the “are ecig safe” question. Amazingly, they seem to eat up the news reports like anyone else, and for some that means a clear disinclination to supporting vaping. Take Dr. Nina Radcliff for example. Dr. Radcliff has forged herself into being somewhat of a media darling, well as doctors go. The young, articulate, and good-looking doctor graduated from UCLA medical school and finished her residency less than a decade ago. That hasn’t stopped her from vaulting toward the top of Fox News’ go-to list for physicians that can be interviewed and answer the hard questions for their viewers.
Great, right? A younger doctor would surely be more receptive to new technologies that have been shown to significantly impact smoking rates (a major focus of many large health organizations). She should be able to cut through the malarkey that vaping opponents have taken up as part of their talking points. Tell us Dr. Radcliff, are ecigs safe? “Safer does not mean safe. Less dangerous does not mean not dangerous,” she writes in the Washington Post. Okay, we guess that’s fair. After all, the verdict on electronic cigarettes hasn’t completely been written yet, even if it clearly points in a positive direction. But that’s where Dr. Radcliff stops treading lightly.
She segues from there directly into the “is nicotine bad for you” aspect of ecigs and here she gives us some scary stuff. Radcliff writes that ecigs “do contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive compound with effects on the body: increases heart rate and blood pressure; and constricts blood vessels, thereby, decreasing the amount of oxygen delivered to the heart and brain.” She then goes on to suggest that all this can result in a heart attack or stroke.
Is Nicotine Bad For You? Really, Now?
But while nicotine does affect the body in this way temporarily, it does so in the same way that the caffeine in your coffee does. It ramps you up (and makes you happy, essentially), and then goes away.
If we were to at look at all of nicotine’s attributes, we would see that recent studies show the positive aspects of it too. It can help with concentration and memory. It can even be affective in treating some patients with Alzheimer’s. So the “is nicotine bad for you” question doesn’t have such a clear cut answer, certainly not the type of one that Dr. Radcliff gives us.
And that’s the tamer part of the confused accusations she tosses our way. In the very next paragraph, she writes, “Research is also showing that electronic cigarettes contain 15 times more formaldehyde (an agent used in embalming dead bodies) than traditional cigarettes, nitrosamines a known cancer-causing agent, propylene glycol (a solvent that is used in soaps and antiperspirants), and other potentially toxic chemicals, including chromium and tin.”
Woah! That old dredged up formaldehyde claim is right back in our faces. It has already been shown to be a ridiculous claim, yet here it is again from a “respectable” source. Has Nina simply been eating up those misleading research claims like any regular Joe (or Joanne) might if it was fed to them by the nightly news? Surely she could take the time to look into the data herself and see the fallacies of that argument, because they are so abundantly obvious. Apparently being on TV doesn’t mean she wants to form her own original opinion on an issue that is talked about so much these days: are ecigs safe?
Dr. Radcliff is quickly making herself into a lightning rod for vaping activists who are sick of hearing regurgitated and skewed data being used as talking points. She took this even further in the below video segment on Fox News, where thankfully host Greg Gutfeld stood up for vapers everywhere even as the doctor stood her own ground with those typical baseless talking points.
We really expected more from a doctor on national television, but maybe that was our first mistake.
It seems that doctors can be just as confused as everyone else and easily misled by all of these erroneous or improperly framed “research” reports. It’s splitting the medical community into those for and against, while those in the middle take a more “lets wait and see approach” to the new technology. Thankfully there are outspoken and well informed medical researchers who can shed their light on this question.
Vaping Has Its Own Advocates At Least
And they do. One is Michael Eriksen, Sc.D. who serves as Dean of the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. Just a few months ago he was spotted on the popular site Reddit offering himself up as the expert that he is, given that he studies electronic cigarette usage as well as tobacco usage in general.
I wouldn’t call him a vaping advocate per se, but you can see in his responses that he simply tells things how they are. This is what a good researcher does, letting the data speak for itself rather than framing it to help back up whatever pre-determined claim they had going into the research.
We need more people like him in the news to combat the all-too-simplistic arguments from people like Dr. Nina Radcliff. But that isn’t exciting, is it? You will certainly get more people to listen to you if you scare them about things that could affect their kids (the old “think about the children!” angle). People would tune in then, not if you are just going to give them a bunch of dry facts.
Thankfully there are a lot of doctors out there who do see the value in electronic cigarettes and what it could do for their clients. A study last year showed that 2 out of ever 3 doctors believe that vaping products could be a helpful tool for those looking to make the switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes. 35% had already recommended ecigarettes to patients of theirs. This means that some doctors aren’t caught up in all of this misinformation and confusion. They simply know ecigs are a good option for most smokers and they tell them that.
We guess the moral of this story is that doctors are people and all the hype and scare tactics that are out there can affect them too. We tend to take the word of our doctor as the official one, the best thing for us. But that isn’t always the case. Make sure if you talk to yours about electronic cigarettes that you press him or her for more information behind their opinions. Do your own research and make yourself a knowledgeable patient. Because while the “are ecigs safe” question may not have a straightforward answer, you can help eliminate the confusion and even change some minds. By giving vaping a better name, you’ll never know who that will help in the long run. And that’s the point of this entire vaping enterprise, isn’t it?