It's only fair to share…

Here is a statement of the obvious. The only thing that we should inhale into our lungs is air. Interestingly, an observational study could conclude that there is a 100% correlation between breathing air and death. Everyone who has died in the history of the planet has breathed air. This says more about statistical observational studies (the type relied on by dietician associations and big public health) than it does about breathing the air.

Despite this evident truth, people continue to inhale a variety of substances  with varying degrees of harm to themselves. The health consequences of smoking have been known for over 50 years yet people still smoke. In Australia smoking rates have not fallen since 2013 and this is despite the introduction of plain packaging and the words highest per stick cost of cigarettes.

In the USA,EU, Japan and UK smoking rates are falling. The difference is that vaping is supported in these jurisdictions as a way to reduce (please note – not eliminate) harm. New Zealand is going down the UK path and the smoking rates there will soon be falling far faster than in Australia.

Vaping is of course a big tobacco conspiracy – but I will come back to this later.

Vaping has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late.  The level of hysteria has been off the proverbial Richter scale. The deaths in the USA have been from illicit THC “cut” with vitamin E oil consumed from black market vape devices. To use an analogy – drinking cyanide from a lead cup does not make drinking water from a glass dangerous.

Yet this is the argument being run by opponents of vaping who have been given a free kick by much of the media.

The best analysis of the problems in the USA has been done by Leafly. In simple terms, vape devices are brought into the USA illegally from China. They do not conform to any manufacturing standards. In Los Angeles there is a big black market trade in THC. This is “diluted” to improve margins for dealers. Dilution with oil does not make the liquid less viscous and hence consumers do not suspect that their product has been diluted. This is where Vitamin E oil comes in.

Illicit market THC carts containing high levels of vitamin E oil, confiscated in New York. (Courtesy New York State Department of Health)

The next step is regional pen factories where the “finished product” is prepared for  local street sellers.  Additional contaminants from the regional labs include concentrated pesticides like myclobutanil, which turns into toxic hydrogen cyanide  when burned,  and residual solvents  such as butane, propane, pentane and hexane. All of these are known lung irritants.

You will notice that nicotine liquid is not part of this process. And neither are legally purchased vape devices. But that, unfortunately, has not stopped the ideologues who oppose smokers reducing harm.

Once more, let me reiterate, it is best not to smoke or vape. Ideally smokers should just quit. Realistically this does not always happen. Vaping, being at least 95% less harmful than smoking, is a better option than smoking. Vaping without nicotine is even better.

Many people are at varying points of that journey. With 19000 deaths each year in Australia (470,000 in the USA) from smoking related illness stopping smoking remains the single most useful thing smokers can do for their health.  The testimony from those who have switched to vaping demonstrates this.

There is much hand wringing in officialdom about trust in “experts and authorities” being lost. The response to the deaths in the USA shows why this trust is in decline. Rather than be honest and admit that these deaths are due to, or are a result of black market adulterated THC in illicit devices, use of legal vaping of nicotine liquid is being blamed as it suits the ideology.  It is like telling people not to drink water from glass because people died drinking cyanide from lead cups.

The real danger here is that smokers will continue to smoke rather than go to a less harmful alternative and that those who have switched will return to smoking. Every time another US state passes anti vaping legislation, the value of tobacco stocks rises on Wall Street. Making vaping less accessible increases the value and profits of tobacco stocks. If vaping is a big tobacco conspiracy, they are dreadful amateur conspirators.

And in a bizarre man bites dog twist, the ideologues in big public health are now helping sales of cigarettes.  It is a strange world we live in.