Electronic cigarettes are a unique bit of technology. Their connection to tobacco cigarettes has made them a much hated product to tobacco prohibitionists and family health groups. But the more information that comes out about them, the more they appear to be a public health silver bullet against smoking.
There is very little evidence that electronic cigarettes actually deserve the negative publicity and harsh regulations so many groups are pushing towards them. Prohibitionists argue that e-cigs pose unknown health risks, may re-glamorize smoking to teens, and even that nicotine itself is deadly (it’s not in amounts you’d normally find it). There is lacking evidence for all of this.
Despite absence of quality standards and regulatory oversight of the industry, studies have yet to find significant levels of dangerous constituents in e-cig vapor. Even assuming rather dramatic levels of impurities, many researchers claim electronic cigarettes can’t be more than 2-5% as dangerous as conventional cigarettes. It also appears that e-cigs act more as a gateway away from smoking rather than a gateway to it. As well, e-cigs appear capable of preventing smoking initiation among teens by offering a cleaner and cheaper alternative.
And last (but not least), nicotine itself is not nearly as bad as many believe. It is not a carcinogen, and other than being addictive, some experts believe that (absent smoke), nicotine consumption is possible for a lifetime without significant health effects. It is in many ways similar to caffeine.
Here’s a few folks that have publicly supported the little devices that could.
Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of mostly financial news outlet Forbes Media, Steve Forbes, recently wrote a short statement as part of his Fact & Comment section for Forbes Magazine. In it, he argued that e-cig bans should go up in smoke.
Forbes argues that efforts to squash the new industry are misguided — targeting “small beer” by comparison to the smoking market at large. He even takes a shot at “nanny state ninnies” for their attempts to control an otherwise adult decision.
Radically conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh made statements in support of electronic cigarettes as far back as 2010. More recently, Limbaugh argued against democrat outrage over NBC Universal showing an electronic cigarette being used by Julia Louis-Dreyfus during the Golden Globes.
Limbaugh’s image is often showcased with him sporting a large cigar — so electronic cigarettes are certainly not outside his wheelhouse. Presumably, Limbaugh has been smoking since age 16 and talks regularly about efforts to quit.
Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl appeared on the David Letterman Show in 2010 and, among other topics, discussed her success at quitting smoking (a habit she picked up at age 25). The big hook was how she managed to do it — with electronic cigarettes.
Most e-cig community members have now seen the clip of both her and Letterman puffing away during the show, but it helps to remember just how surprising this was when it happened. E-cigs were still very new and in the wake of FDA intervention turned massive lawsuit, e-cig businesses and community members were still rather shy about making cessation claims. This was perhaps the first, massively public statement of support for the devices. In Letterman’s own words, “This oughta get it done.”
Legacy Foundation tobacco research director David Abrams was a major detractor of electronic cigarettes practically from when the first one appeared on the US market. He’s certainly not of the fame level of the previous 3 supporters, but the level of surprise for most upon seeing him turn to support the devices was astronomical. Abrams was a regular guest when programs needed someone to talk about electronic cigarettes. Very often he said little more than nothing is known about them, they appear risky, use what has been studied instead.
But more recently (starting around mid to late 2013), Abrams began calling electronic cigarettes a very promising and disruptive technology. Though he is still a staunch supporter of hefty regulations on the devices, many who saw him speak about e-cigs 2 years ago would never have expected a change of view.
One can only guess who might add themselves to this list.
Governer Steve Beshear of Kentucky recently announced a number of tax reform measures for the state to update what he calls “an archaic tax code that was designed for a 20th century economy.” Among other changes, Beshear is pushing for a $1 raise in tobacco cigarette taxes and the taxing of electronic cigarettes — though little is said beyond that the plan pushes for it to happen.
Beshear argues that heavier taxing of cigarettes and electronic cigarettes will contribute to a healthier workforce — heavily implying that electronic cigarettes are a health concern big enough for state-level intervention.
This sounds a lot like Beshear is attempting to make the state look more up to date on tobacco issues. This might sound more like progress if Kentucky wasn’t the second largest tobacco producing state and its current tax rate on cigarettes wasn’t 40th in the nation. In fact, bringing the state cigarette tax up to $1.60 a pack (where the tax will be after adding a dollar) still only puts the state just a hair inside a grade of C by the American Lung Association’s state tobacco control standards.
It’s hard to claim this as a major step forward when it hardly even catches up to the present for most tobacco control expectations. Throwing a tax on electronic cigarettes and claiming that they are a health hazard like conventional cigarettes only shows how unprogressive the state is being in its approach to tobacco control, tobacco harm reduction, and cessation assistance.
Louisville newspaper The Courier-Journal covered the governor’s announcement of the plan and you can watch it right here.
The residents of the state might not like these proposed changes — particularly increased taxes against cigarettes. Kentucky and North Carolina together produce around two-thirds of the nation’s tobacco. Depending on the figures you look at, Kentucky is around first or second in the nation for highest adult smoking rate which clocks in around 29% (and apparently far and away takes the title for smoking-related deaths).
Clearly, tobacco and smoking are not easy topics in the state.
It is admirable that Beshear is making steps towards updating Kentucky’s tax system. The state is certainly not known for progressive legislation and action — particularly when it comes to tobacco. However, in attempting to look progressive by tackling new technology (e-cigs), Beshear may actually be setting the state back in tobacco harm reduction.
Altria, the company formerly known as and now total owner of tobacco giant Philip Morris, has announced that it is acquiring electronic cigarette company Green Smoke. The acquisition is happening through Altria’s electronic cigarette subsidiary Nu Mark LLC. The purchase will ring in with a $110 million price tag (plus up to $20 million in bonus incentives for retained management).
Altria owns Philip Morris which is one of the three companies considered Big Tobacco in the US (alongside Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds). Philip Morris US owns the Marlboro,Virginia Slims, Parliament and other tobacco cigarette brands. Altria separated itself from Philip Morris in 2003 (though it still owns 100% of the brand) in order to create some distance between the core business unit and tobacco cigarettes.
Nu Mark was created by Altria to delve into the electronic cigarette market, but activity with Nu Mark has been rather limited and it appears the company felt it needed something more. The purchase of Green Smoke is the second major purchase of an electronic cigarette company by a major US-based tobacco company. The first was the purchase of Blu e-cigs by Lorillard in April of 2012 for around $135 million.
Green Smoke itself is one of the earlier e-cig companies to jump into the market and start growing rapidly. It started in 2008 and its sales for 2013 were in the neighborhood of $40 million.
Similar to statements around the purchase of Blu by Lorillard, Altria statements about the purchase of Green Smoke are focusing significantly on the complimentary culture of the new acquisition. Like Blu, Green Smoke has a distinct and easily recognizable product (it’s probably no coincidence that both companies are named after colors). Blu eluded to a cool and sleek product while Green Smoke suggested a cleaner and healthier alternative without saying as much outright.
The purchase is expected to complete in the second quarter of this year.
It had to happen eventually. A 2 minute song on electronic cigarettes has been recorded. The issues are far more complex than a 2 minute song with only a few verses can convey, but it’s a start.
The song comes from PandoDaily’s head of social media and experimental journalism, David Holmes. PandoDaily is a media outlet for news about technology with particular focus on Silicon Valley and start-up companies.
Check out the video right here.
There’s certainly more to be said on the topic. Maybe next someone can bang out a disco song about FDA proposed regulations or a laser punk song about their use as a smoking cessation nicotine replacement.
Electronic cigarettes have taken off in Ireland where it’s believed that 6 to 7 percent of all smokers there (around 50,000 individuals) have switched to them from smoking. This is just shy of 1.1% of the country’s total population (4.6 million).
These numbers were estimated by the production director of e-cig company Rossport Pharmaceutical.
Smoking has been fought quite heavily in Ireland for a long time. The country was actually the first in the world to institute an outright ban on smoking in workplaces. The country was also among the first to require graphic warnings on cigarette packs.
This means Ireland could be a place to lash back against e-cigs. On the other hand, it could be just the place to view electronic cigarettes as a promising tool to defeat smoking.
But electronic cigarettes are having similar issues there as they are in the U.S. and throughout much of Europe. The Irish Cancer Society said that it could not recommend e-cigs to consumers in the absence of regulation. Similarly, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland is looking for guidance from the Department of Health there on how to proceed in controlling electronic cigarette advertising. U.S.-based groups like the FDA, CDC, and FCC are trying to sort out similar issues.
The United Kingdom recently announced a tobacco products directive that would place harsh restrictions on electronic cigarettes. A group of 15 leading academics sent a letter to Health Commissioner Tony Borg arguing that the directive overstates the health risks of nicotine and lacks evidence that harsh e-cig restrictions are actually necessary.
The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) suggests a limit of 20 milligrams of nicotine in electronic cigarettes. This limit is based on belief that 60 milligrams of nicotine can be lethal. As well, the TPD proposed restrictions on sale locations and advertising to prevent a gateway effect from leading non-smokers (particularly those of a young age) to becoming smokers.
The letter argues against both these points. First, the believed lethality of 60 milligrams of nicotine is based on outdated information — presumably coming from a flawed study dating back to 1856 (that’s 158 years ago). Most modern cigarettes contain roughly 50 milligrams of nicotine and actual toxicity of nicotine is far lower than most studies would suggest.
Concerning the presumed gateway effect, most experts now argue that the kind of gateway effect people often warn against rarely exists. Evidence actually support the belief that electronic cigarettes provide a gateway away from smoking rather than to it. Some researchers even believe that electronic cigarettes existing on the market prevent people from smoking by offering a safer and cheaper alternative.
Letters and public statements like these are becoming far more common. More and more experts and politicians are appearing that support the open availability of electronic cigarettes rather than opposing it. Market research shows that the majority of the public believes electronic cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking and a successful cessation option for many smokers.
The Tobacco Products Directive is a landmark political battle. It will represent one of the first significant national-level electronic cigarette regulatory motions. Some countries have already made national-level decisions about e-cigs, but this would be the first non-knee jerk reaction national legislations against electronic cigarettes. This could be the first national-level e-cig debates in the world to get due discussion and consideration.
As such, it is clear that the academic community is not sitting idly by and letting regulators push through whatever they think feels right.
Resistance is not futile.
An electronic cigarette is believed to have sparked a fire in an apartment building in South Perth, Australia. Presumably, a charging electronic cigarette was the source of the fire which caused roughly $150,000 in damages.
This has already led to further claims that electronic cigarettes are rather dangerous. Opponents of the devices are pointing to the incident — which happened less than 2 days ago — as proof that e-cigs represent a serious danger beyond just the chemicals in them.
This is likely to be an incident that people point to for the next year or more when discussing electronic cigarettes with a bias against them. This is, however, one incident involving no deaths compared to the 1,000 people a year in the US alone killed by fires started by conventional cigarettes.
This story is already being pushed around far more than it would were the fire to be started from any other source. Electronic cigarettes are getting an undue amount of attention for anything that goes wrong with them. This was a far bigger fire than the small scorch marks and thus far mostly contained fires sparked by other e-cigs.
Given that the electronic cigarette industry tipped more than $1.7 billion in the US last year, and has been growing rapidly worldwide, thus far, the number of incidents has been rather small. This is going to be a stretching point for almost all anti-e-cig arguments.
There’s already been quite a lot of research into electronic cigarettes. Despite what opponents and politicians would have the public believe, we already know quite a lot about what’s in the devices — more, in fact, than we know about the contents of tobacco smoke. Now that the market has taken off and tipped $1.7 billion in the US in 2013, it seems likely even more research will be happening.
So far, research has found a lot of promising tidbits about electronic cigarettes. They’ve already proven themselves better than most smoking cessation options. Even when quit rates are the same between e-cigs and more traditional cessation treatments (like patches), those that don’t manage to quit entirely tend to cut down on their smoking much more significantly when using electronic cigarettes. As well, the few harmful constituents found in e-cig vapor occur at such low levels that instruments can often barely detect anything and it’s believed these constituents pose no long-term risk.
Based on some of the subtext we’ve read and whisperings we’ve heard, here’s three things we believe will eventually turn out of be true about electronic cigarettes.
They aren’t as addictive as tobacco cigarettes. The tobacco industry has had more than a century and a half to perfect the addictive qualities of tobacco cigarettes. It’s no secret that countless additives are included to fast track addiction to smoking. For instance, tobacco companies presumably added ammonia to their cigarettes to reduce the ability of a user’s lungs to keep nicotine out of their system.
So far, many surveys of electronic cigarette users are finding that the ability to cut e-cig use, nicotine content of e-cigs they do use, and even quit vaping entirely is much easier than with cigarettes. It even seems that individuals that didn’t smoke but who start using electronic cigarettes can quit using the devices whenever they want. Opponents of the devices complain that e-cigs risk turning users to a life-time of nicotine addiction. This may simply not be true — at least as long as the contents aren’t heavily altered by companies looking to improve the addictive quality of the devices.
There are some short-term negative health effects caused by e-cigs. Electronic cigarettes are not 100% harmless. That said, a few short-term side effects for a few particular people are not nearly as bad as a life-time decline into poor health and eventual death by smoke. We’ve noticed however that there are still a few small side effects for some users. The most common tends to be for people allergic to or possessing an intolerance for propylene glycol (a normally safe and common e-cig ingredient). Some individuals experience a reduced resistance to respiratory colds and sores in the throat and mouth.
It’s likely within the next 2 to 3 years, we’ll have a laundry list of possible side effect — almost all of which are based on the individual chemistry of the person and the e-cig cocktail in question. Still, these side effects are likely to be short-term, easily avoided, and mild in nature.
However, a nearly zero-risk electronic cigarette is in reach. With more research comes more knowledge of where what little risk does exist comes from — and how to avoid it. Experiments testing the totals of various harmful constituents of electronic cigarette vapor are finding that no e-cig is identical to any other. It seems for every e-cig that has a minuscule amount of one particular harmful constituent, there is another e-cig with absolutely none of that same constituent.
This suggests that with the right attention to detail on both the chemical make-up of e-liquid and electronic parts of the electronic cigarette, the average e-cig could go from 99% less harmful to 99.99% less harmful. It may not sound like much of a difference, but when considering a life-time of use might still occur (in place of actual smoking), this could be astronomical.
Knowledge is power.
In 2013, the European market for nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patches, lozenges, pills and such) dropped by 7%. This brought it below 100 million euros (about $135 million US) which fell below where the industry had been since 2010 and a smidgen below believed sales of electronic cigarettes for the year. No wonder pharmaceuticals companies are so worried about the electronic cigarette market.
There’s no official market research connecting the two, but it looks very likely that electronic cigarettes played a role in the decline of the nicotine replacement market. The massive growth of electronic cigarettes in Europe seems like it couldn’t happen without adversely affecting both tobacco cigarette and smoking cessation markets.
Pharmaceuticals companies have been involved in electronic cigarette debates since the products entered the scene. Even when not directly involved, many of the professional experts weighing in on the subject are often paid consultants of major companies like Glaxosmithkline and Johnson & Johnson. This often raises the question of whether these individuals have conflicts of interest that they are not announcing because they can reasonably argue that pharma and e-cigs don’t intersect (even though they really do).
Pharmaceuticals companies have been making a killing offering minimally successful cessation options to smokers for decades. The best they can offer is around a 3% better success rate than simply trying to quit cold turkey — and yet, long term studies are finding that around 99% of former smokers eventually return to smoking because the addiction never really goes away.
But then, the money has always been in helping people attempt to quit over and over rather than helping them actually quit. Many smokers report having spent tens of thousands of dollars in the last decade alone just attempting (unsuccessfully) to quit. If these people successfully quit their first try, that’s a lot of money that these companies wouldn’t be making.
Now electronic cigarettes have entered the scene and — without all the baggage of claiming to be a therapy — they offer a way to step away from smoking, still maintain the same habits, and cut the harm done by around 99%. A study even found that although quit rates between e-cig and nicotine patch users were essentially the same, individuals that used electronic cigarettes but didn’t quit smoking did manage to substantially cut their total tobacco cigarette consumption. This equates to a significant reduction in the harm smoking does to these individuals and makes electronic cigarettes arguably far better than nicotine patches.
As people get more wise to the cessation racket (as they have been) and more up to date on electronic cigarettes, it seems likely smokers will continue to choose e-cigs first and the traditional quit methods never.
Eric Lawson portrayed the Marlboro man in the late 70′s. This month (Jan. 10), he passed away from respiratory failure caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lawson was reported to have smoked since age 14 and it is believed that the cause of death is smoking related.
Given the sudden and intense battling over electronic cigarette ads and their status as a potential public health miracle, this could represent a moment of somber reflection for the community and industry. Lawson smoked for 58 years. In the time following his appearances as the Marlboro Man, he appeared in anti-smoking commercials and some segments on the effects of smoking.
Lawson in many ways represented the transition of many smokers across the 70′s on into the 90′s, 2000′s, and now — first from rugged manliness and charm, then to disappointing attempts to quit, and finally a slide downhill into health problems and, eventually, death.
Electronic cigarette ads only really started being a thing in the last 2 years. Opponents (often called prohibitionists) have regularly compared these ads to those of the Marlboro Man. They claim that these ads glamorize e-cig use (and thereby smoking) by showing celebrities using and endorsing them.
But this is a difficult argument to make in the face of the latest research — which suggests electronic cigarettes encourage less use of cigarettes, provide a gateway away from smoking, and provide the benefits of smoking without 99% of the harm traditional cigarettes bring. We haven’t been able to defeat smoking with counter-marketing, villainizing ad campaigns, and even hefty taxes and smoking bans. Maybe presenting a better product, and marketing it as well as smoking was marketed in the past is the silver bullet tobacco control needs.
The reality still stands that the majority of electronic cigarette users are middle-aged and older smokers looking for a way to quit. The Marlboro Man was of their time. His death by way of smoking-related complications might be a sobering reality for many long-term smokers.
Say an 18-year-old saw the Marlboro Man in 1978 (when Eric Lawson first appeared in the role) and began smoking. That individual today is 54 or 55. For many in this age group, smoking is the one thing that will prevent them from enjoying the next 20 or 30 years (if they have that much). The death of the Marlboro Man might be a kick in the seat that it’s time to make a change.
The American Lung Association recently released its State of Tobacco Control report for 2014. North Carolina hasn’t really ever received a decent grade in tobacco control from the organization. Still, that didn’t stop a local authority from blaming, among other things, the existence of electronic cigarettes for the bad grade.
David Willard, Northwest Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for the Appalachian District Health Department, blamed the smoking rate in one particular county as a leading culprit in the failing grade. Ashe county has an adult smoking rate of 24% — well above the national and state average. He went on to blame the high smoking rate in that county on the prevalence of electronic cigarettes.
According to Willard, “The real concern with these is that they come in all flavors, which appeals to youth. The electronic cigarette may also be seen as a gateway to begin smoking traditional cigarettes, since they still contain the addictive component of cigarettes (nicotine).”
The American Lung Association provides its methodology and reasoning for the scores. The big fat F’s North Carolina received were based largely on its own tobacco control efforts, not on the activities of its citizens. For instance, the state taxes cigarettes far below what most other states do (ranking 45th out of 51 for cigarette taxes). As well, government-funded quit programs and smoking regulations are lacking by comparison to other states. The grade actually doesn’t take smoking rate within each state in consideration — rather, a state’s efforts to curb smoking is all that matters.
Blaming electronic cigarettes for a high smoking rate is, for lack of a better term, silly. Even if electronic cigarettes did contribute to a rising smoking rate (and all evidence seems to indicate that the opposite is true), the rapid growth of electronic cigarettes wouldn’t have made a serious ding against North Carolina’s hefty smoking rate. If e-cigs were really to blame for smoking rates, most state would have noticed an up tick. Instead, declining smoking rates have actually begun declining more rapidly in recent years (since e-cigs entered the scene).
Not only does Willard give away that he doesn’t actually understand the scoring of the American Lung Association’s report, but he is also clearly reaching for reasons to blame external forces for his state’s pitiful grade. As is, the methodology pretty clearly explains the reasons a state would get such a poor score.
According to statements made by England’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies, the country will be banning all sales of electronic cigarettes to minors of age 18 and under. Davies says that although the health risks of electronic cigarettes are not yet known in full, we do know that they aren’t totally without harm. As such, their sale to minors is to be banned.
Davies claimed that variations in nicotine content and the production of toxic chemicals by e-cigs could make them “extremely damaging” to young people’s health. This is a pretty large leap in logic as some experts have actually said that a lifetime of nicotine use could be done without long-term damage in the right circumstances. Electronic cigarettes — by offering nicotine without smoke — reduce the damage of cigarette use by around 99%.
England plays a major role in decision making across the European Union. Although the EU has already indicated that it is taking a more progressive approach to electronic cigarettes — first by not classifying them as medical devices — their ultimate fate is not yet clear.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this.
A father in British Columbia is furious after his 11-year-old son was able to purchase an electronic cigarette from a kiosk in a local mall. Reportedly, the son purchased a blueberry flavored no-nicotine e-cig for $10.
Unlike previous circumstances like these, the individual that sold the product isn’t calling the sale an oversight — and is rather not bothered by the sale as it wasn’t illegal. According to an interview with the kiosk owner, Jasper Lee, the device doesn’t contain nicotine he sees no problem selling it to anyone who wants to buy one. He also suggests that other shops do the exact same.
“Every store is the same,” Lee said. “It’s not just me.”
This is undoubtedly going to be a point of contention for e-cig community members. Many get pretty hot under the collar when business owners and e-cig sellers do things that bring unnecessary attention to the sector — especially concerning kids. One company drew a bit of flak this past Christmas when it used Santa Claus to sell its electronic cigarettes.
Even shops “accidentally” selling electronic cigarettes to minors in places where it isn’t illegal tends to be frowned upon. The point is to avoid looking like the industry is doing all the same things the tobacco industry used to do. The industry doesn’t need to be giving its opponents even more excuses to claim it is targeting teens with its products.
It was inevitable really. Eventually, kids were going to start trying out electronic cigarettes. Some would even end up liking them. Even worse, some would be non-smokers that tried the products because they heard the devices were less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Ultimately, the world would have to decide whether protecting young would-be vapers is more important than saving the lives of old smokers.
Initial market surveys found that kids who tired electronic cigarette were overwhelmingly likely to already be smokers. Further looks at the numbers even found that kids unlikely to attempt smoking were also unlikely to attempt vaping (e-cig use). But then, that was before the products really hit the market. Now, police are raising alarms that kids are using e-cigs to consume marijuana, teachers are claiming that because they don’t see e-cigs in the class room that they must be there, and kids are posting videos of themselves using the products.
So the argument the community has largely been putting off is here. But then, there’s not much to the argument when you dig into it.
There’s a few problems with focusing on children as the focal point of anti-electronic cigarette efforts. The first is that despite all efforts to convince people otherwise, electronic cigarettes are not showing themselves to be a gateway to smoking. ”Gateway effect” has long been a boogie man in anti-drug efforts. The problem is that a gateway effect can work in many ways — and some of them can be profoundly good. In addition to providing a lower harm outlet for reckless behavior, gateway constituents can also provide an exit from behavior (sometimes more reliably than they provide an entrance).
The CDC announced recently that its tracking of teen tobacco use found a doubling of electronic cigarette trial from 2011 to 2012. Many news outlets, parent groups, and even political figures used these numbers to argue that electronic cigarettes were clearly ensnaring kids. However in the same time tobacco use actually fell. Research also finds that any amount of e-cig use correlates to a reduction in smoking. So while we may be against use of e-cigs be teens, if these products provide that outlet for rebellious behavior without so much of the harm, then by all means, support it. In short, e-cigs could actually be contributing to a reduction in teen smoking rather than reinforcing it — as some would argue.
The reality is that kids are going to use things that they are not meant to use. Teens go on joy rides, drink alcohol, smoke, look at porn, and more. We don’t prevent the sale of cars, alcohol, cigarettes, or porn simply because teens might get a hold of these things. The benefits of an open market tend to outweigh the concerns that reckless teenagers will be reckless teenagers.
Efforts to squash e-cig use among teens need to to weighed against the actual harm of the act. Nicotine — without the smoke — is an addictive substance that can otherwise be used for a lifetime without significant harm to an individual. Addiction itself is a weird thing to argue against. We don’t bat an eyelash at a lifetime of caffeine use because it has benefits and doesn’t cause long-term harm. Nicotine is the same way. When weighing this against the opportunity e-cigs offer smokers to cut the damage caused by the habit by around 99%, it’s hard to claim we should treat the industry the same as smoking.
Will electronic cigarettes potentially introduce teens to a lifetime of nicotine addiction? Quite possibly. Is that any different than what we do with sugar, salt, caffeine, and a laundry list of other constituents designed to make life a little better at the cost of an addiction? No.
Electronic cigarettes are being called the most promising innovation in public health to come along in decades. They offer an escape from smoking addiction while still offering the nicotine that causes it. They may well prove a product capable of replacing cigarettes with a 99% less harmful product from teens and smokers. They may even prove capable of providing the benefits of nicotine with zero long-term side effects.
Is it really worth destroying that opportunity because we don’t want kids using one product that may keep them from using a much worse one?
State and local level government efforts to ban electronic cigarette use in places where smoking is prohibited have been called “Nanny state” efforts. New York City and Chicago both just passes these kinds of provisions and other cities seem likely to do the same. Well New York and Chicago did it, they’ll say. Why don’t we?
There’s a few problems with this kind of legislation — and it isn’t simply that e-cigs don’t warrant this kind of action (though that too is the case). In addition to treating electronic cigarettes like they deserve severe regulations without the evidence to support the assertion, these efforts also assume regulators know what’s best in tobacco control. That’s a serious claim when even the FDA has yet to claim that they know what to do with e-cigs.
Smoking prohibitionists have taken to pushing the argument that no one knows what’s in electronic cigarettes. This is the argument politicians repeat countless times as evidence that controls need to be in place. The problem with this argument is that no other product on market is treated like it needs control just because we don’t know enough about it. What if every time a new v-neck sweater was introduced to the market we had to first determine that it didn’t restrict breathing in people wearing it? Sounds silly, but that’s basically what’s happening here.
Prohibitionists are making the “guilty until proven innocent” argument against e-cigs. According to the prohibitionist view, because they look like cigarettes, we must assume the worst and treat them accordingly. The other issue with this is that we do know a lot more about electronic cigarettes than our opponents would have us believe. In fact, we know more about them than we do the 10,000 to 100,000 constituents in conventional tobacco cigarette smoke.
Nanny state politics have long been detested — and have been a major factor in smoking legislation. While tobacco cigarettes have been a profoundly deadly product, many still believe it should be up to adults to decide what they do with their time and money. The excessive taxes levied against cigarettes are even viewed as a step too far as they financially harm smokers arguably more than they hurt the tobacco companies.
In the end, are these efforts designed to punish smokers or help them? Killing electronic cigarette markets isn’t going to help non-smokers continue not smoking. Instead, it will punish smokers that might have had a way out otherwise.
Similar to the debate over teen smoking, we have yet to find a silver bullet for smoking addiction. Excessive taxes, counter-marketing, age restrictions, and more all seem to help a little, but electronic cigarettes look like the first thing that could actually come along and replace cigarettes. They do this by offering much the same experience and effects with far less harm at a lower cost and (for now) more flexibility when it comes to use.
This is perhaps the first time ever that a product can out and out obsolete conventional cigarettes. Creating unnecessary legislation against these products just to feel like you’ve checked a box for “fight smoking this decade” isn’t helping anyone. Politicians may find soon enough that the public is not so easily convinced that e-cigs are such a bad thing.
To the community, vaping bans do look like nothing more than overreach for the sake of overreach. Without real evidence of harm, most politicians are relying on the arguments that there isn’t evidence that there isn’t harm. These might make for good city council level arguments, but they may find these provisions don’t hold up in the long term.
Following both New York City and Chicago deciding to ban use of electronic cigarettes anywhere that smoking is also banned, Forbes Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes has run a brief piece in support of the devices. He’s yet another in a long line of political commentors to slam what they call “nanny state” efforts to control the habits of the population.
New York City has been a particular culprit of nanny state rulings where controls were even placed on how big sugary drinks at could be.
Nanny state is a British-origin term often used for government overreach — particularly when it comes to protecting the public from things that should be within the public’s right to decide on for itself. Smoking has been a nanny state issue for decades. No one really knows at what point the government should prevent people from an otherwise voluntary act that has been found to kill roughly half its users.
Forbes refers to attacks on electronic cigarettes as “mindless” and notes that moves to ban them are almost entirely based on nothing more than that they look like conventional cigarettes. He also points out that prohibitionists focus on the lack of research into the devices. However, he argues that without evidence of harm, they should be left alone rather than regulated on a “guilty until proven innocent” slant.
Electronic cigarettes are a surprisingly partisan issue. Conservatives, despite often fighting against harm reduction methods for drug and sex issues, support e-cigs as a business freedom issue. Liberals tend to fight electronic cigarettes (despite normally supporting harm reduction strategies), because they can’t seem to bring themselves to support something that looks like smoking.
Despite all the anti-smoking campaigns, high taxes, public smoking bans, and awareness programming, roughly a fifth of youth start smoking and are hooked by the time they reach 18. The demonization of smoking is what gives it that rebel quality that appeals to teens. The more we tell teens they can’t smoke, the more they want to. Nine out of 10 smokers get hooked by the age of 21.
Smoking kills 443,000 people a year in the U.S. alone. Without radical new strategies, the war on smoking is struggling to get and keep smoking rates below 20%.
Then comes electronic cigarettes (or e-cigs or e-cigarettes for short). The small devices heat a nicotine solution into a vapor and deliver it to a user. The community calls the act vaping and members are called vapers.
Why take the otherwise uncomplicated act of smoking high tech? More than anything, it gets rid of the smoke – the source of 99% of the harm caused by cigarettes. Some experts believe that a lifetime of e-cigarette use is no more harmful than 2 months of smoking. Despite this dramatic reduction in harm, nicotine delivery from e-cig vapor is comparable to that of cigarette smoke — meaning smokers can get the effects and the “hit” without so much of the harm.
But there is a movement to demonize the products. Many anti-smoking groups view them as a loophole in the system – a smoking product that can be used in areas with active smoking bans and able to be sold to minors due to the quirk of not officially being tobacco products. The CDC raised alarms last year when it found a doubling of e-cig trial among teens from 2011 to 2012. That figure was passed around countless times as proof positive that e-cigs were attracting teens — the concern among smoking prohibitionists being that e-cigs were just as bad as the real thing or would lead teens to the real thing.
By and large, the electronic cigarette community and industry has come out against the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Many companies have age verification on their websites, retail vape shops often won’t even allow teens in their shops, and most of the community supports state-level efforts to legislatively ban the sale of electronic and alternative nicotine products to teens.
This stance is as much a moral issue for industry stakeholders as it is an effort to take ammunition away from anti-smoking proponents attempting to claim the industry advertises to and sells to minors. California representatives are even seeking total online sales bans against the products claiming that teens will buy them online.
It’s unlikely that the industry would ever publicly support the ability to sell electronic cigarettes to teens. The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association made statements arguing against an American Cancer Society Action Network’s stance that age verification bans on e-cigarette sales should wait until more information is available. The Action Network’s stance is actually believed to be a stalling technique because the organization wants total bans against the products rather than just age-based bans.
The issue that everyone is dancing around is a touchy subject and for good reason. About a fifth of youth still pick up smoking before they reach age 18. According to current numbers, half of them will die due to smoking related complications. Most will attempt to quit multiple times and even those that manage to quit in the short-term will return to smoking 99% of the time.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
“People could use nicotine without significant damage to their health for the rest of their lives if they wanted to,” said epidemiology expert John Britton in an interview with BBC Radio. “What kills them is the cigarette smoke.”
Electronic cigarettes may offer the rebellion without the risk. It’s the harm reduction option. Teens will do this dangerous but admittedly fun thing no matter what, so maybe we should give them the option to do it safely.
Does that sound familiar? The same argument is made about making contraception available to adolescents. Nearly half of youth have had or are having sex by age 17 – if you can’t prevent it, at least prevent it from ruining lives. And it helps. From 1991 to 2011, teen pregnancy rates dropped by about half. Does this solve the whole problem for everyone? No, but it handles a bigger piece than abstinence only and STD scare tactics will handle on their own.
Electronic cigarettes offer the same kind of risk reduction and management option. If kids are going to smoke anyway – particularly those that have started already – how about giving them something that won’t lead to an early grave. Electronic cigarettes are not without short term negative side effects, but research is finding that they appear to lack long-term harm.
Anti-smoking advocates would be appalled at the very suggestion of youth access to something that looks like smoking. Teens that got started would likely acquire a lifelong addiction to nicotine. However – absent smoke and excessive additives – a lifetime of nicotine use wouldn’t be all that bad. We do the same thing with caffeine.
Many anti-smoking advocates also claim that electronic cigarettes would only serve as a gateway to real smoking. The gateway theory (that use of one bad thing leads to worse things) has been a controversial one with many detractors. What the science looking into electronic cigarettes so far tells us is that the availability and use of electronic cigarettes reduces frequency of smoking and sates cravings to smoke.
To the point, a gateway effect can work in reverse too. A lesser harm alternative can actually prevent an individual from engaging in a more deadly habit. Smoking initiation numbers among teens had plateaued for a bit after years of decline. A renewed decline in smoking rates appears to be directly tied to the availability of e-cigs. In short, e-cigarette use appears more likely to prevent smoking initiation than encourage it.
The electronic cigarette community and industry are both too scared to discuss the topic. Interviews occasionally tread on the ground but often move on quickly.
Youth aside, abstinence-only and cessation therapy programs can’t seem to reduce population level smoking rates below 20%. The only strategy that has proven successful at getting smoking rates much below that is harm reduction.
When the World Health Organization set a goal of less than 20% daily smoking prevalence among adults by year 2000, the only country to make it was Sweden. The country did this by supporting use of moist snuff product called snus. This product has replaced smoking for many in the country and done so while doing only 1% of the harm. Experts now put smoking prevalence in Sweden is around 12%.
The nasty fact that smoking companies have thrived on for decades is that some people will continue using tobacco no matter what. Not all smokers are constantly trying and hoping to quit. Many are perfectly happy with the Faustian bargain they’ve struck, getting improved memory and responsiveness, weight loss, stress relief, and even a certain cool factor for what averages to 14 years less life expectancy.
Support for electronic cigarettes and harm reduction in anti-smoking efforts is growing among researchers and experts. Regulators and anti-smoking groups shouldn’t be fighting new methods that might get cigarettes out of smokers’ hands. They should be embracing them.
Recently, Gilbert Ross, head of the American Council on Science and Health, took a strong stance on electronic cigarettes. He declared that anyone looking to ban e-cigs was also looking to kill smokers. Essentially, electronic cigarettes are the first serious alternative to smoking to date. Patches, lozenges, drugs and more might provide some nicotine, treat some symptoms of smoking addiction, and more, but only electronic cigarettes offer essentially the same habit without the harm.
Teen smoking has been among the most impossible things to fight precisely because teens want to do it. Fighting teen smoking isn’t the same as snuffing out the spread of lice in school. Smoking provides benefits — it relieves stress, aids weight loss, and — lets be honest — still makes kids look cool to other kids. You can’t defeat something like that with counter marketing. You need a better, cheaper, safer, more widely available product that provides all the same benefits. Electronic cigarettes might be just that.
How do you save 443,000 lives a year? Any way you can.
The above is an update of a previous article published on EcigAdvanced.com.
A Message From AEMSA: The future of refillable e-liquid products – will the industry be proactive or just wait and see?
The following commentary was contributed by Lou Ritter, president of the American E-Liquid Manufacturing and Standards Association (AEMSA).
The electronic cigarette industry has come a long way in a very brief time. AEMSA was created to encourage, set an example, inspire, learn, educate and advocate. Prior to AEMSA, there were a few e-liquid manufacturers trying to be professional and diligent. Many others, however, were less focused on professional oriented good product stewardship.
Manufacturing consumables has a long history of regulation. Guidelines designed to focus on consumable products require ingredient-specific details, evidence-based science and much, much more. Almost every major new product to date has been introduced and brought to market by big industry. Electronic cigarettes had a much more grass-roots origin. Big companies were not at the forefront (they came later as the opportunity for growth became more clear). Smokers proved they not only wanted this harm reduction alternative, they incentivised the industry themselves.
As an unregulated product, anyone could mix and sell e-liquids directly to consumers, consumers had little to no information about the products they were buying, and label and content accuracy was not enforced in the slightest (as we have learned, there is MUCH more to e-liquid than just mixing the four primary ingredients). These realities were some of the primary motivators for the formation of AEMSA. We wanted to bring together e–liquid manufacturers who were looking to raise their own manufacturing practices, include ongoing professional and accredited laboratory testing, verifications, clean and professional dedicated mixing environments, traceability and more – all focused on good product stewardship for consumer protections and responsible manufacturing.
As far as we can tell, all electronic cigarette product innovations, improvements, independent research, and even self-regulation have been completely consumer driven. What other industry shows such proof positive dedication, commitment to enhancement and professional responsibility – especially towards harm reduction?
AEMSA did something unique. We formed and immediately began to research good manufacturing practices relating to consumable products. We also immediately sought out Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and a professional accredited nicotine lab. This allowed us to learn more about the chemistry of the ingredients, what makes a high quality (cleanest) nicotine, necessary quality controls, and much more. As we refined our Standards, we did something else unprecedented, we posted these Standards on our website for the world to see. We made our information freely available to consumers, manufacturers, distributors, and regulators alike.
The prevalence of mis- and dis-information in mainstream media, regulators at the municipal and state levels admitting right on the record “we do not know” (yet pushing forward with regulation efforts in spite of their self admitted ignorance), and the proven unsuccessful and inhumane attachments to the “quit or die” axiom were all additional indicators the world needed to learn the facts and truth about these most viable and urgently needed products offering verifiable Tobacco Harm Reduction.
AEMSA now has 24 active professional e-liquid manufacturing members, 3 highly-qualified and credentialed SMEs and 4 Consumer Advocates (CAs). Our SMEs are all highly credentialed, experienced and qualified. Dr. Farsalinos is one of the most well respected (industry global) medical researchers of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids. Enthalpy Analytical is an accredited laboratory with 20 years experience specializing in nicotine and is also a member of both CORESTA and Tobacco Information Service. Kurt Kistler, Ph.D. has over 30 years professorial experience in organic chemistry and has been a consumer and active safety advocate of these products for many years. All of our SMEs, CAs and Officers serve as unpaid volunteers. Our Standards remain the only publicly available e-liquid manufacturing standards in the world. These standards have been presented to the FDA, provided to the Office of Management and Budget (a division of the White House), presented before industry leading conferences and more. We see more and more e-liquid manufacturers coming to join AEMSA and embracing these Standards in their manufacturing operations.
While we do not actively market AEMSA, we believe our efforts are having positive impacts. We see some other professional manufacturers improving their own manufacturing operations with these practices clearly in mind. Some are making efforts to be transparent about their manufacturing practices. We respect these efforts and applaud any and all businesses doing likewise. Self-regulation is certainly laudable. However, verifications (through on-site scheduled and unscheduled inspections, random product testing, etc.) of evidentiary documentation, calibrated measuring equipment (with calibrations maintained), specific ingredients limitations, random product analysis, product traceability, etc. are necessary to help ensure all are consistently maintained. To date, AEMSA members have the only verified compliance in the world. Interestingly enough, we have already seen one instance where another organization attempted to plagiarize AEMSA Standards, copying them verbatim (even including a typographical error).
Along the way, we have learned these steps and standards are necessary. SME involvement is invaluable and absolutely paramount to this process. Ongoing research is also necessary to refine standards, continue to enhance consumer protections, and advocate effectively with proven and verifiable data. While we see some e-liquid manufactures making efforts in these directions, some is not enough. We believe these products should only be manufactured and bottled in verified and dedicated laboratory environments with careful attention to detail. We advocate for Reasonable, Realistic and Sustainable regulations that focus on consumer protections based on scientific facts – not assumptions.
Electronic cigarettes are offering the very first successful alternative to combusted and smoked tobacco. There are already countless powerful stories of profound quality of life changes for consumers; hundreds of thousands (if not literally millions) are now former smokers thanks to electronic cigarettes. Our society has failed to provide effective means to Tobacco Harm Reduction and electronic cigarettes are the first and only real light in what has thus far been a dark and deadly tunnel.
Big ciga-like manufacturers have less, if any, focus on refillable e-liquids. There are no “deep pockets” to fund studies so we must find ways to continue to fund ongoing research, innovations, etc. from within this mom & pop industry. If we want to maintain product availability, it will be up to us to educate the world, regulators, naysayers and even our direct opposition. These products are proven harm reduction alternatives that are changing lives all around the world. While snus is the only other product to fit that description, only electronic cigarettes also address the proven other habit factors (hand to mouth, inhalation/exhalation, etc.) having a statistical pattern of contributing to combustable smoking relapse.
AEMSA is setting the example and paving the way. The ball is in our court and it is up to us – the manufacturers, vendors, and consumers – to educate the world and prove these products not only deserve to be on the market but that removing them would only guarantee the harm of tobacco will continue unabated.
Lou Ritter is the president of the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA), has no financial involvement in the industry and serves as an unpaid volunteer. AEMSA maintains rigorous standards for e-liquid manufacturing processes and ingredients for its member companies. They are committed to providing consumers with confidence in e-liquid products through industry self-regulation and quality control.
Investment chief, financial markets coverage editor, and Forbes contributor Charles Sizemore has written a piece on whether electronic cigarettes can make up for the steadily declining sales of conventional tobacco cigarettes. In his view, it’s not happening anytime soon.
Sizemore sees a few issues with the belief that e-cigs will save Big Tobacco’s bottom line. Primarily, the entire electronic cigarette industry only accounts for around 1% of total tobacco sales. Wells Fargo put US sales of electronic cigarettes at around $1.7 billion in 2013. That’s significant for an industry that didn’t exist really exist more than 5 years ago, but it’s not much compared to the nearly $180 billion market valuation of the big 3 U.S. based tobacco companies combined.
Growth in the sector may be massive, but it’s not enough to convince Sizemore that tobacco stock will out perform the market in coming years. The best he can say is that if you already have them, they’re worth holding on to for the dividends (cash payout to stock owners) they pay out, but these aren’t worth buying in for at current prices.
Why does any of this matter? Two reasons. First, it means that the market still believes the tobacco market isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Sales and initiation rates for smoking may be on the decline, but it’s not time to abandon ship yet on these stocks according to Sizemore. Second, Sizemore still believes the stocks should trade at a discount because they are in what he calls a “terminal (albeit slow) decline.”
The electronic cigarette community may not be interested in what some financial gurus do to make their money — especially if it involves supporting major tobacco companies. However, keeping an eye on the thoughts of various market analysts and trends with stocks will tell us when the market at large has decided Big Tobacco is no longer a good place to have your money.
It might happen sooner than you think.
The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA) sent a letter to representatives of the European Union today outlining its support of several provisions aimed at controlling sale, distribution, and use of electronic cigarettes throughout the EU. This has upset a lot of e-cig industry business leaders and community members as the letter seems like a ploy to support regulations that gives a leg up to certain e-cig companies (members of TVECA) over others.
Europe-based e-cig advocate Clive Bates covered the letter in his blog right here. As well, CASAA supporter Carl Phillips covered the release of the letter here.
The letter certainly seems like a subversive effort to set up the marketplace in a particular way best suited for themselves, but even Bates finds it hard to believe TVECA can justify all the provisions they support. Most appear strictly bad for everyone — not even “less bad” for some.
This is not the first time TVECA actions have been called into question — or even viewed with outright confusion. Founder Ray Story has perpetually provided sound bites for years as a “representative of the industry,” but often his efforts have appeared to the community to be influenced by what will get his relatively small groups of member companies the best competitive advantage over others.
Already, some community members are calling for boycotts of TVECA member companies in response to the letter.
The problem with a letter like this is that it really does look like the industry as a whole of offering support for these regulations. Along with the letter came a short note claiming that it’s not just from TVECA, but from a coalition of e-cig industry associations across France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain. This sounds like a dubious claim. Perhaps TVECA actually has formed a coalition, or maybe it has at least one member company from each country and has created local associations from those very small slices to sound much bigger, or maybe they just made the whole thing up.
It seems likely a lot of people will be kicking the tires on that claim and we’ll know soon whether it’s legitimate. We’ll see what we can find too.
The first surgeon general’s report to warn of the dangers of smoking came out half a century ago in 1964. Since then, researchers have linked complications with nearly every organ in the human body to smoking. In that time more than 20 million premature deaths have been linked to smoking.
Here’s some of the major conclusions from the 2014 report and a bit of our own spin. This report is certainly not without its own spin too.
The century-long epidemic of cigarette smoking has caused an enormous avoidable public health tragedy. Since the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964 more than 20 million premature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking. As unfortunate as this is, this is probably not an exaggeration. Smoking remains the single largest “avoidable” cause of death on the planet. We say “avoidable” because with proper healthcare infrastructure, innovation, and support, almost any cause of death could be deemed “avoidable.” Unfortunately addiction is a much more powerful complication than modern science can reliably deal with.
The tobacco epidemic was initiated and has been sustained by the aggressive strategies of the tobacco industry, which has deliberately misled the public on the risks of smoking cigarettes. Although the olden days of tobacco advertising and marketing did prove to be of dubious character, in more recent years the tobacco companies have been a bit more honest about what they do and who they sell to. They go out of their way to say that non-smokers shouldn’t start the habit and that those that do smoke are far more likely to develop lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases. Big Tobacco stands behind one stern message: “There is no safe cigarette.” In many instances, Big Tobacco has conducted itself with more honesty in recent years than certain anti-smoking groups.
Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, cigarette smoking has been causally linked to diseases of nearly all organs of the body, to diminished health status, and to harm to the fetus. Even 50 years after the first Surgeon General’s report, research continues to newly identify diseases caused by smoking, including such common diseases as diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and colorectal cancer. Cigarette smoke is a very complicated mixture of somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 constituents. It is so complex that despite 5 decades of research, we know less about it than we do electronic cigarette vapor — which we’ve only studies across the last 5 years. Cigarette smoke is nasty stuff — and it is the single reason why giving people the ability to obtain nicotine through inhalation without the smoke is such a promising prospect for harm reduction.
Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke has been causally linked to cancer, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases, and to adverse effects on the health of infants and children. Again, cigarette smoke is nasty stuff. Research has found that cigarette smoke lingers for around 19-20 minutes before it dissipates. This is plenty of time for bystanders to inhale it and, over the long term, can have some adverse effects. Electronic cigarette vapor, however, begins dissipating at around 10-11 seconds. Even in that time, the magnitude of constituents in vapor is so low it poses no apparent threat.
Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, comprehensive tobacco control programs and policies have been proven effective for controlling tobacco use. Further gains can be made with the full, forceful, and sustained use of these measures. Anti-smoking campaigns have certainly had an impact, but data has suggested that the effects of these efforts have dramatically diminishing returns at around the 18-20% smoking rate. Basically, there’s a certain percentage of people that will smoke no matter how tough you make it on them. Sweden — for instance — was the only country to achieve the World Health Organization’s year 2000 goal of less than 20% daily smoking prevalence. The country did so by supporting a smokeless tobacco product called snus — with like electronic cigarettes is estimated to be around 99% less harmful than smoking simply because there’s no smoke. Basically, people need a more viable replacement for their cigarettes. Telling them it’s bad for them, secluding them to roped off smoking areas, and taxing the crap out of them only gets you so far.
You can check out the rest of the conclusions from page 7 and on of the report. You may well learn something about smoking that you didn’t already know.
A review of some 9,000 observations across a number of peer-reviewed and “grey” literature. The review concludes that continued surveillance of users’ health and research into means of keeping adverse effects to a minimum should be pursued. However, it also claims there is no evidence that vaping exposes users to contaminants that would warrant health concerns. As exposures for bystanders are orders of magnitude less, there’s no apparent threat to secondhand vapers.
The review was conducted by Igor Burstyn with Drexel University’s School of Public Health in Philadelphia. Burstyn gathered observations from official peer-reviewed studies and what’s often called “grey literature.” Grey literature is informally publish material but often still supportable — this can include technical reports, papers from committee, and white sheets to name a few. Burstyn compared worst case assumptions based on studies of electronic cigarettes to normal workplace exposure standards and threshold limit values. What he found was that electronic cigarettes fell well below these limits.
You can read the review in full here.
To clarify, threshold limit standards (TLSs) are set levels at which daily exposure to a particular chemical is deemed to have no long term adverse effects. As e-cigs fall below these levels, it is likely that long term use of electronic cigarettes has no long term side effects. And again, as the levels of exposure are magnitudes lower for bystanders, there appears to be no threat from secondhand vaping.
The final conclusion pretty mush says it all:
“By the standards of occupational hygiene, current data do not indicate that exposures to vapers from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern. There are no known toxicological synergies among compounds in the aerosol, and mixture of the contaminants does not pose a risk to health.”
Burstyn digs in a bit more with his key conclusions section revealing that tobacco-specific nitrosamines are present in trace quantities and pose no measurable risk for cancer. Similarly, presence of metal particulates and volatile organic compounds occur at trivial levels even for the users themselves. As well, concerns about contamination by unsafe levels of ethylene glycol or diethylene glycol are based on a single sample of an early-stage product and has yet to be replicated.
All in all, there’s been quite a lot of research into electronic cigarettes and it all bodes well for the products.
The American Council on Science and Health has been supportive of electronic cigarettes for some time now. The organization’s executive director, Dr. Gilbert Ross, has taken a strong stance on e-cigs claiming that if you want to ban e-cigs, then you want to kill smokers. Ross believes electronic cigarettes represent the first real opportunity to replace the habit of smoking with something far, far less harmful.
A new video produced by the organization explains nicotine and touches on why electronic cigarette are so promising. Check out the video below.
You might even spot a cameo by one of our favorite New York-based activists, Spike Babian.
A number of groups and public figures are up in arms because the Golden Globes showed individuals using electronic cigarettes during the show. Showing celebrities using electronic cigarettes, they say, glamorizes the act of smoking. This is a particular problem after decades of campaigning and work to remove the glamor from smoking.
The two major culprits caught on film vaping were Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld). Four Democatic senators wrote a letter to the Globes claiming that they celebrate entertainers who are an influence on young fans. As such, they advise never again (intentionally) displaying the image of an electronic cigarette during the Golden Globes.
This is about all they can muster as an argument. Let’s not pretend there’s a large contingent of teens out there staying up late to see what dress Julia Roberts is wearing and what TV won best drama. The Golden Globes’ primary demographic is women, age 18 to 54. Although celebrities that appear in movies targeted at teens may make an appearance, the show is not gear towards a young audience.
Let us not forget how poorly things went for the Oscars when they enlisted James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts in a not so veiled attempt to get a younger audience. The Globes aren’t really a family or kid-focused show. People complained likewise about the Super Bowl airing e-cig commercials and Saturday Night Live running a skit with an e-cig in it. The Super Bowl runs beer ads a-plenty, and SNL is an otherwise late-night show. Let’s not act like electronic cigarettes are appearing on episodes of Spongebob Squarepants and Sesame Street.
I’m not a particular fan of public shaming of celebrities that do things that a significant portion of the rest of the world does. Shaming celebrities for smoking is one thing, but shaming them for using an alternative or attempting to quit. That just seems silly. What are we afraid of kids seeing? That the ramifications of smoking are so bad an alternative is necessary just to manage to smoke less? Maybe we need kids to see the impact more rather than less.
In actuality, this just seems like some public figures padding their resumes with things that sound good on paper. I fought celebrity promotion of tobacco use to kids, they’ll say in their campaign ads. But really, how much does sending this letter actually do. If any real damages could be proved, the FCC or the FDA or the actual courts would be involved. Instead, this is simply a show of force to keep up the perception that these figures are doing a job.
California state assemblymember Roger Dickinson announced Monday his plans to push a bill that would outlaw the sale of electronic cigarettes online. Doing so, he argues, would keep them out of the hands of teens — and we’re sure the projected $24 million in increased tax revenue Dickinson says California will get is just an unfortunate consequence of protecting kids.
At a press conference, Dickinson focused mostly on the supposed ability of the bill to protect kids from electronic cigarettes. ”Internet sales of tobacco products, we know, pose a serious threat to the health and safety of children,” said Dickinson. ”Because there’s literally no verification of age when products of tobacco are purchased through the Internet.”
But do we really know internet sales of tobacco products poses any more of a threat than their open sale through brick and mortar shops anyway? And does Dickinson know that electronic cigarettes aren’t actually tobacco products — lacking actual tobacco and almost all (99%) of the harm of cigarettes?
This is an argument that was made countless times since the internet became a viable avenue of commerce. In 2010, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act) made online and mail order sales of tobacco cigarettes nearly impossible — particularly because they require stringent age verification at both purchase and delivery. It’s not a ban per se, but it makes it nearly impossible to do legally. Arguments for the act at the time basically focused on two things — tax dodgers and minors.
Internet and mail order operations were able to avoid state-level taxes. That tended to be the biggest supportable issue with them. That they found their way to the hands of minors was a little more difficult an argument to make. A study in 2000 found that 1.4% of high school smokers purchased their last pack online. Another survey in 2003 found online purchase of cigarettes by minors to be around 2.6%.
This seemed hardly like the source of the smoking epidemic among teens — and I would guess those teens that made purchases online got their start with cigs that came from brick and mortar shops.
Other than those figures, the best proponents of the ban could do was tell kids to buy cigarettes online and then call fie on the industry when it worked. Sites selling cigarettes did have an 18 and over wall. If someone makes a fraudulent purchase with a credit card, the law doesn’t normally blame the seller — unless it’s tobacco appearently.
Now the same arguments are being made about electronic cigarettes. Is there some possible scenario in which minors can buy electronic cigarettes despite living in one of the places where it’s illegal? Yes. But the same can be said of alcohol, porn, and drugs. Will this circumvent state level taxes? Yes. But this can be said of all internet commerce.
The reason the PACT act flew with the fiscally minded is because many states do impose a distinctly higher tax rate on tobacco products. So these states were losing taxes on external tobacco sales. As long as electronic cigarette sales are not taxed that way (though some state have already put e-cig taxes in place), this is a difficult argument to make as it strikes at the use of internet commerce in general — rather than just electronic cigarettes.
The reality on the youth tobacco front is that the majority of minors got their cigarettes from stores, friends, and family. A 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey found that 54.5% purchased their cigarettes directly from a store, from vending machines or by giving money to others to make their purchase. Almost a third borrowed their cigarettes from others, and 4.4% claimed they stole their cigarettes. So at a minimum, 90% of cigarettes in the hands of minors are obtained from stores and other smokers. The actual percentage of total youth smoking instances probably nears 100% originating from shops and legal smokers.
A 2012 nationwide Monitoring the Future survey found that 50.7% of eighth graders and 72.9% of tenth graders said it’s easy to get their hands on cigarettes. So after all this effort, teens that really want to smoke will get their hands on cigarettes. Say what you will about the ease of internet sales, for a teen, using cash, friends, and family is easier and less traceable and comes with a bit of street cred. And it’s still likely that any initiation would happen far from an internet purchase.
So now electronic cigarette sales online are the target because taxes and kids. Of course some companies — those with brick and mortar distribution — will likely support this. It won’t really hurt them, it will likely kill vast swaths of the competitive market, and they can publicly pat themselves on the back for claiming they took a bullet for the sake of the children.
Meanwhile, the anti-smoking groups won’t let up because they can’t stand the idea of electronic cigarettes existing without a tobacco control win against them. They are, to this world, a yappy chihuahua that has yet to successfully establish dominance. Even chihuahuas can have bite.