Dr Colin Mendelsohn is a dedicated advocate for tobacco harm reduction, having devoted many years to the cause of promoting safer nicotine alternatives like vaping for those who struggle to quit smoking cigarettes.
Dr Mendelsohn’s investigative approach to evidence-based research has led him to hold many substantial roles in the field of tobacco harm reduction. He’s a Founding Chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and a past Vice President of the Australian Association of Smoking Cessation Professionals. Dr Mendelsohn also served on the NSW Health Advisory Committee on Electronic Cigarettes, and he’s currently on the Vaping Cessation Expert Panel for the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). In addition, he authored the book, Stop Smoking Start Vaping.
In his article about the New South Wales (NSW) Health campaign against vaping, Dr Mendelsohn says, “The NSW Health ‘Do you know what you’re vaping?’ campaign is alarmist and provides many misleading and inaccurate messages and is bound to flop.”Dr Mendelsohn has challenged many of the misleading and downright false claims made by the NSW Health campaign in a series of videos he’s calling “Vape Truths.”
Let’s outline a few of the points made by the NSW Health campaign and discuss Dr Mendelsohn’s rebuttals to these false and/or misleading claims.
Dr Mendelsohn Confronts Vape Myths
"Vaping has been linked to serious lung disease"
In response to this claim, Dr Mendelsohn says simply, “This is deliberately misleading.” Furthermore, he says, “Not a single case of serious lung disease has been linked to nicotine vaping.”
He explains that the most prominent and well-known lung disease associated with vaping is EVALI (E-cigarette and Vaping Associated Lung Injury), which saw an outbreak of cases in the US in 2019 and 2020 following a slew of black-market THC oil cartridges being sold containing vitamin E acetate. This cutting agent, found only in these illicit cartridges, caused the outbreak in the US. In fact, cases of EVALI in other parts of the world, including the UK, were traced back to these same cartridges. The EVALI cases were not caused by standard nicotine-containing vapes.
In addition, Dr Mendelsohn says, some studies have found worsening asthma, coughing, and lung irritation in non-smoking teens who took up vaping. Other studies found no effect, including a more recent study of over 21,000 American teens. The study identified “no independent association between e-cigarettes and functionally-important respiratory symptoms.”
Plus, we know that adult smokers who switch to vaping show marked improvements in lung symptoms, breathing quality, asthma, and emphysema, and they also report fewer respiratory infections overall.
And as a side note, the UK has recently seen several misinformed “Popcorn Lung” articles claiming that vaping can cause this severe and rare lung disease—when, in fact, not a single case of popcorn lung caused by vaping has ever been reported.
So, it’s safe to say that this point has been sufficiently disproven.
"Exposure to nicotine can impact memory, attention and learning"
Again, another false statement. In truth, Mendelsohn says “there is now good evidence that nicotine improves concentration and memory in non-smokers who use it.”
He adds that nicotine has other proven benefits for young users. It can improve ADHD, relieve stress, and help with weight control, and use of nicotine leads to the release of the pleasure hormone, dopamine.
"Regular nicotine use can also worsen stress and anxiety and can make you more susceptible to depressive symptoms"
This point, Dr Mendelsohn argues, is wholly false.
Young people who have depression and/or anxiety are more likely to try vaping, yes—but there is no evidence proving that vaping causes depression or anxiety.
In fact, Dr Mendelsohn says, “nicotine has a calming effect and improves mood, and many people use nicotine to reduce stress, improve mood, and help them cope with life.”
"Vapes can contain the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray"
Dr Mendelsohn says that this point is, in fact, true, yet it is emotionally motivated and greatly exaggerates the risk. He notes that toxic chemicals are found everywhere in the environment, including the 18 known carcinogens found in coffee. The more important question, rather, is whether the dose of these toxins is sufficient enough to cause harm.
Vapour from an e-cigarette contains a small number of chemicals—generally less than 100—at low doses, mostly at levels below occupational or environmental health standards. It’s possible that some risks may present in the future from these small doses, which is why it’s advised that non-smokers don’t take up vaping.
However, as has been echoed by the UK government, the risks of harm appear very small and should be kept in perspective compared to smoking. The risks should not be exaggerated in the way they are in the NSW Health campaign.
Dr Mendelsohn’s “Vape Truths” Series
Dr Mendelsohn has created a series of videos addressing various points in the NSW Health campaign, from the “Secret Ingredients” myth to cancer risks from vaping. You can find the whole series of informative videos on his website.
We’re thrilled to see yet another respected doctor speaking up among the leagues of vapers who have found their way away from the harms of smoking—especially given that his information goes directly against misinformation being spread by state officials.
Our voices grow louder, joined by those of medical professionals, scientists, and researchers worldwide.
Hopefully, as our knowledge grows and more studies and trials are conducted, we’ll see even more positive evidence proving what many vapers already know: that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, with the highest quit rate of any smoking cessation method.
- NSW Health’s misinformation campaign is bound to flop: https://colinmendelsohn.com.au/nsw-health/
- Dr Col’s Vape Truths: https://colinmendelsohn.com.au/dr-cols-vape-truths/