Boston Siegel’s 2010 E-Cig Report

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Electronic cigarettes got their start in the Chinese market back in 2004.  By 2009, they had made their way into several international markets and launched a veritable storm of controversy.   Mostly, anti-smoking groups and regulatory agencies had a hard time distinguishing between e-cigs and the cigarettes they had grown to distrust over decades.

As of 2010, electronic cigarettes were still very new to the US market and the poor quality of many imports from China had not made a good impression on much of the fledgling market.  Still, a number of companies, groups, and institutions worldwide had started their own research efforts into figuring out what the deal was with e-cigs.  One Boston University School of Public Health professor–assisted by a Berkeley political science grad student–drew conclusions from the results of a pile of e-cig studies.

That professor would ultimately become one of the electronic cigarette industry’s strongest (and often loudest) advocates, Michael Siegel. “It was largely after doing this research that I came to the conclusion that e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco cigarettes and that they at least hold promise for smoking cessation,” says Siegel.

The report (which you can read here) covers many of the more significant aspects of electronic cigarettes. Perhaps the two most exciting and profound tidbits in the article at the time were that electronic cigarettes did appear to be far safer than conventional cigarettes and they exhibited a capacity to suppress smoking cravings. This is the sweet spot for smoking cessation — providing the benefits of nicotine without the substantial health problems associate with smoking and still making users feel like their need to smoke had been satisfied.

The Results

The report drew on the results and commentary of studies looking at electronic cigarettes.  It then discussed four primary topic areas: the safety of e-cig use, their effectiveness in smoking cessation, common arguments against harm reduction, and common arguments to arise about e-cigs in particular.

In the realm of safety, 16 studies had extensively categorized the compounds that existed in electronic cigarette liquid and vapor.  According to the report, just from those studies, our knowledge of the chemical constituents of electronic cigarettes far surpassed that of tobacco smoke (which is known to contain somewhere around 10,000 to 100,000 chemicals).  The chemicals that were found in e-cig vapor were either non-toxic, non-carcinogenics or occurred at several magnitudes below that of cigarette smoke.  Even the amount of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) found in e-cigs compared roughly to the amount found in a nicotine patch (again, several orders of magnitude below conventional cigarettes).

At the time of the report, there was little on the topic of e-cig use for smoking cessation.  There were 2 studies however that suggested e-cigs could be used to this end and be successful.  The first found that electronic cigarettes managed to deliver nicotine more rapidly than a nicotine inhaler and produced fewer minor side effects.  The other found that cigarette cravings could be reduced significantly by the use of an electronic cigarette.  So, according to these studies, smokers could nip the craving and still get the nicotine their body wanted.

Harm reduction is still a controversial territory for smoking cessation.  It basically means offering a less harmful alternative to an otherwise destructive behavior.  The problem is that many abstinence-only groups feel harm reduction is just another way to make said behavior more acceptable and prominent.  Much of this formed from long-cultivated mistrust in the tobacco industry.  When electronic cigarettes came along, the harm reduction landscape was shaken with a product that didn’t fit previous arguments.

The report ultimately makes an argument for a reassessment of harm reduction as an answer to the national smoking problem. “In light of this evidence, it is unfortunate that in the United States, [a whole bunch of anti-smoking organizations] have all issued statements supporting FDA efforts to take [electronic cigarettes] off the US market.”

This line from close to the end of the report so well outlines that issue that this writer won’t attempt to paraphrase: “With entrenched skepticism toward harm reduction now manifested as deep cynicism about electronic cigarettes – a distinct product that actually does reduce risk and threatens cigarette makers – the tobacco industry is ironically benefiting from its own past duplicity.”

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  1. Sepsis says

    I definitely enjoy reading the report and glad you shared it. It is definitely a shame so many groups push against them, when so many people are having such good luck with them, and there is little to no evidence against them. Shame Shame.

  2. Donald Hammond says

    Good to see someone backing the industry.

  3. John says

    Totally agree with what you said Sepsis!!! I think half the reason people don’t like them is because half of them (mods and egos) look scarier than they actually are.

  4. MorrinB says

    The quit or die strategy does nothing to help anyone, harm reduction is the way to go. Excellent article!

  5. Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) says

    What people need to realize is not everyone can quit and the only way to go for them is harm reduction. I know for me I tried quitting many times . Just couldn’t do it. If it weren’t for the vaping alternative i would still be killing myself with cigarettes. It is so easy for non smokers to critisize

  6. lpennell says

    Excellent Article

  7. robovape says

    i can’t talk about harm reduction without offending someone, mostly everyone for that matter, one way or another i set people off send them on a rant, so i just won’t, i’ve tried that road… it’s controversial for a reason and it’s f’in’ HOT… it is great that Siegel sorted through all of these findings and sorted out the meat and meaning of the various studies and brought some of the benefits of vaping to light in a professional, scientific manner…

  8. slap_maxwell says

    “The problem is that many abstinence-only groups feel harm reduction is just another way to make said behavior more acceptable and prominent.”

    Exactly. These busy-bodies cannot stand that people just won’t blindly follow their edicts and go along with what THEY want people to do (or not do). Needless smoking-related deaths will be on *their* hands….

  9. Amanda says

    Very good to see support

  10. Steve Mitchell says

    I am relieved to know we have a strong person in our corner as e-cigs have worked wonders for me.

  11. Sabrina Mitchell says

    nice story

  12. saboinia says

    good article, and i agree if it were not for vaping id be killing myself with ciggies it is easy for non smokers to critisize but it is easier for ex smokers who quit w/o e ciggys to do it as well,

  13. Mike says


  14. che170 says

    I agree that not everyone can quit! It was either vaping or going back to smoking cigarettes! When I get stressed, I grab for a smoke. Well now I grab for a vape! Much better and DOCTOR approved. at least MY doctor! Great article.

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  16. RCO67 says

    Just got around to reading this . Interesting. Thanks for posting it.

  17. James says

    I had a 2 pack a day habit and tried everything my doctor could come up with to quit smoking. Nothing worked. I happened across a little pack of e-cigs and bought them for about $4. I haven’t look back. I did a lot of research on the mechanics of various e-cig units settled on a unit that suited my needs. I also looked into the make up of e-juice. Much to my surprise I was already ingesting the 3 main ingredients everyday. One or more of these ingredients is in most of our food. 2 of which are FDA approve additives. They are Vegetable glycerin, Propylene glycol, and Nicotine. A great number of vapers eliminate the nicotine after a while. The Propylene glycol is a flavor delivery medium and the glycerin is a sweetener. Now do a Google on veggies that contain nicotine. You will be amazed at how much nicotine a non-smoker ingest everyday. Cigarettes have 10,000 to 100,000 chemicals in them and most are dangerous to one’s health. I will take the 3 chemicals with the slightest chance of risk to my health.

  18. Jim Bobbitt says

    I am an American living in the Philippines…. I have been vaping for 1 1/2 years. I had a 2 pack a day habit. I am a retired electronics engineer, 68 years old and have a lot of time on my hands. I have done much research on the pro’s and con’s of vaping. I have read much research done by so called scientists that have no idea what vaping is all about. They have no idea about the equipment or the liquid that is used. The statement that really makes me angry is “They haven’t been proven safe”. Dah…….Cigarettes ARE proven killers and they still sell them. There are 10000 to 1000000 chemicals in cigarettes. 4000+ of these are know toxins, 70+ of these are know to cause cancer. The only thing E Cigaretted and analog Cigarettes have in common is nicotine. Yes if believe there should be some sort of regulation. There should be regulation with E-Liquid because that is what has the nicotine in it. Then they argue about the nicotine health risks. Yes it does and that is one of the reasons people use this to quick smoking. “They” say there is not evidence that vaping helps you quick smoking. All they have to do is to read the many vaper forums and they can get an idea of how many people have quit smoking because of E Cigarettes. The 2009 FDA study showed that E Liquid contained poison(1 sample of 16 contained diethylene glycol). Maybe it did but many tests since then have found toxins. They should do another study now because these issues have been addressed by the companies that produce E liquid. Another thing that angers me is that with all of the talk that children will stand a greater chance of being exposed to nicotine because of all the different flavors. Not one of the anti E Cigarettes groups or organizations has mentioned anything about the tobacco companies latest product at getting people hooked on nicotine. They are little “flavored cigars”. They are made of tobacco. They have all the chemicals and toxins that regular cigarettes have. Their marketing is directed towards teenagers. Nicotine is a stimulant and found in eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers. tea etc…….. Nicotine is being researched as a means of fighting off Parkinson’s decease. the PG and VG are in most of the foods we ingest everyday. PG is used in many medical applications and in the ventilation system in many hospitals and clinics to decrease the spread of infection. PG is a germacide…….. but PG is in antifreeze and that’s poison. PG is in antifreeze, the toxic kind and the non-toxic kind…….The puffers used by people with lung disorders contain Pg. Ice cream contains both PG and VG, and on and on…. I have much much more information on the plus side than the negative side. This fact leads me to believe that the people and government agencies against E-Cigarettes are either just plain ignorant or in the tobacco companies pocket. What I am sure of is that vaping saved my life and I feel better than I have in years.

  19. Jim Bobbitt says

    Correction: The 2009 FDA study showed that E Liquid contained poison(1 sample of 16 contained diethylene glycol). Maybe it did but many tests since then have found NO toxins.

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