Tuesday, 14 April 2015

New report from Norwegian Institute of Public Health causes more harm than health

Today the Norwegian Institute of Public Health of published a report called "Health risks associated with the use of electronic cigarettes". The report can be found here and there is also a summary in English.

Norwegian media has been publishing stories today claiming that "second-hand vaping poses health risks", giving the impression that e-cigarettes are as dangerous to bystanders as tobacco cigarettes, which of course is not at all what the report says. The report itself contains quite a few serious mistakes as well, but it concludes that risks associated with all other substances other than nicotine is negligible. It also concludes that cancer risks from nicotine itself, if any, is negligible. 

The biggest problem with the report is that it focuses a lot on potential health risks of nicotine, especially to bystanders. This is all based on a false assumption that the nicotine in second hand smoke poses a risk to bystanders in itself. One of the studies they base this on is this one, that concludes that people who live in smokers homes and e-cigarette users homes absorb statistically similar amounts of nicotine. Now I'm no expert so I'll just have to trust this even though it looks to me from the summary of the study that those in the smokers home gets twice the amount. But that is not the point. The point is that these amounts don't pose any danger to the people exposed to them. Dr. Farsalinos showed us this, with reference to the same study, with some simple maths here. (His numbers seem a bit different than those presented in the summary, but I assume he found more significant numbers in the actual study). The amount of nicotine absorbed by a "passive vaper" is 10 times lower than The European Food Safety Authority say will affect an average human weighing 75 kg (and of course you should not fill your home with vapor if you have babies... but that goes without saying). This also means that the same human being is also unaffected by the nicotine from passive smoking, and this is where the Norwegian Institute of Public Health misses the whole point and causes more public harm than health. Even if passive vapers absorb similar levels of nicotine to what passive smokers do that does not pose any health risks to them. The other particles that tobacco smoke exposes bystanders to is another story. As Dr. Farsalinos points out:
Such a levels is not only harmless but has absolutely no biological effect, even according to the strictest regulatory definitions.
When it comes to the amount of nicotine absorbed by the vapers themselves they also say that these levels are the same as for smokers, which is probably not far from the truth. However, the negative effects of nicotine is also debated. There are some proven, unwanted effects on fetuses which means you shouldn't use nicotine while pregnant but other than that there's not much to be afraid of. In fact there are a lot of positive effects of nicotine use as well (for healthy, non-pregnant people that is). Then there is the question whether nicotine in itself is addictive, to which most serious scientists today would answer no. I've written quite a bit about this earlier: Nicotine - a supersheep in wolf's clothing?

Another big problem with the report is that it is almost 100 pages long, and that a lot of it is used to describe potential problems with substances that are not present in amounts that will cause those problems. This only serves to scare people (or just scare them away from reading the report), which might not notice the last sentence of the paragraph that says this won't be a problem anyway. And apparently both the media and our minister of Health has fallen in this trap. The minister of health said today that he has up until now thought that e-cigarettes are virtually harmless but he is now worried by this report. This shows how much damage this report has already done. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health have caused more harm than health as I said, by writing conclusions that do not reflect the actual content of their report. The conclusion that comes forth is one that is based on a false assumption and an error in the report: Nicotine from passive vaping can cause harm. The contents of the report (even with this error) justifies a conclusion more in the line of this: E-cigarettes are orders of magnitude less harmful to both vapers and bystanders compared to cigarettes. I really hope (and I do believe) that SIRUS and Karl Erik Lund will turn up in the media shortly and minimize the damage. I do feel a bit sorry for them as this probably feels a bit like a punch in the face.

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4 comments :

  1. http://www.ecigarette-research.org/research/index.php/whats-new/whatsnew-2015/204-niph

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  2. You mentioned in your article, that you're not an expert, but at least you do some research before judging! And this is the problem - there are so many people out there who don't really read a survey's report and just believe what someone else interpreted. I am lucky that there are people who are responsible enough and are entitled to their own opinion.

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  3. I got my first electronic cigarette kit off of VistaVapors, and I think its the best kit.

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