Austin, Minnesota Fails To Enact E-Cig Moratorium

March 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe city council of Austin, Minnesota failed to enact a moratorium against electronic cigarettes this week when it couldn’t get a unanimous vote in favor of the ordinance.  The moratorium would have immediately banned use of electronic cigarettes in public places and businesses within the city for one year.  That same act is likely to be voted on April 7th when, during its second reading, it will only need a majority in favor rather than unanimous vote to pass.

The final vote was four in favor and three against.  The ordinance was largely pushed by local pubic health experts claiming that no one knows what’s in electronic cigarettes.  They also claimed that e-cig companies can use cartoon characters and enticing flavors to ensnare kids.  A local tobacco treatment specialist there even claimed to have patients with burned throats, nicotine overdoses, and asthma attacks due to the products.

You can read more on the decision here.

MN_20823While four of the council members voted in favor of the ban, it seems to have been primarily as a way to play it safe — possessing almost no real information on the devices.  The other three seemed more interested in staying out of legislation that is better left to individuals meant to control public health policy.  In short, it sounds like they felt the issue was bigger than a single local-level government should be in deciding on so quickly (we would agree).

Meanwhile, the mayor reportedly made an argument that confounds even us.  From the article: “[Mayor Tom Stiehm] was afraid if the council didn’t unanimously pass the moratorium, it could send a message to area youth that it was OK to use e-cigarettes.”  So even voting against the bill because too little information was available was spun as a way to encourage local youth to use e-cigs.  We all know how much youth make decisions based on voting divides over local government ordinances.

Many expect the second reading of the ordinance to pass rather easily come April — as only a simple majority is required.  Despite already having a majority, it sounds like 2 or 3 members of the council are a bit shaky over the issue.  Another three weeks affords a lot of time to study up on the issue and we hope that they do.

The Electronic Cigarette Debate Is Currently Broken

March 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

scales-of-justice-pic-getty-images-141843826-183375There is a pretty significant imbalance in the debate over electronic cigarettes right now.  Not 5 years ago, we knew very little about the products and couldn’t argue much against prohibitionists that warned of extensive possible dangers.  Now, even with a litany of tools and information in our court, a campaign of ignorance keeps people from knowing what to believe about the devices.

Electronic cigarettes certainly seem to have the facts on their side.  Research into them continues to find that they can succeed as cessation devices, pose no risk to bystanders (and hardly any to the users themselves), and — perhaps most importantly — they have the ability to make smoking completely obsolete.  But none of that matters right now because tobacco prohibitionists can’t see them as anything other than a loophole in their war on smoking.

Electronic cigarettes have a lot of enemies.  Even tobacco companies stepping into the market seem content to allow and even encourage regulating e-cigs into oblivion so they can keep their control of the nicotine market.  No matter how much information and research comes to light, there appears to be a campaign to intentionally deceive the public by all factions involved — with the one exception of the industry itself which is ham-stringed by FDA codes and past court rulings on what these companies can say about their own products.

chantix smoking-gunTobacco prohibitionists in particular (mostly running under the guise of public health, cancer awareness, and family watchdog groups) continue to hit every local, state, national, and international discussion concerning electronic cigarettes.  With the facts pretty well set on the side of electronic cigarettes at this point, the effort seems pretty calculated with one goal in mind — add enough uncertainty to the debate to keep the facts from mattering.  They do this by saying that we don’t know enough, or that we can’t trust the tobacco industry (which is not synonymous with the e-cig industry), or that we aren’t sure how they will affect the children (often insinuating that e-cigs will cause youth to smoke).

And thus far, it’s working.  Electronic cigarette businesses can’t talk honestly about their products for fear that they will be called to task on any “health-related claims” they might make.  Many experts believed very early on that e-cigs posed 99% less harm than conventional cigarettes and research now supports that claim.  Smoke represents a substantial portion of the harm of cigarettes — the portion that causes the complications that eventually kill most smokers.  By getting rid of the smoke, e-cigs get rid of the problem and, according to some experts, are no more an issue than a cup of coffee or some french fries.

There is scientific evidence supporting this, but e-cig companies aren’t allowed to feature any of it — not even really, when advocating for fair legislation.  Consumers can make these claims, but they tend not to be listened too in governmental halls when held alongside presidents and directors of watchdog and public health organizations.

Meanwhile, there are no checks against the statements and arguments of those opposed to electronic cigarettes.  Wild claims are made regularly ranging from e-cigs might be more dangerous than smoking, to e-cigs cause kids to start smoking.  There is no research that (without significant misdirection), supports these claims.  The best e-cig opponents can do is take evidence showing correlation between e-cigs and harm or e-cigs and smoking and call it causation.

anti-smoking-600x318A recent example of this can be seen in a public spat between e-cig researcher Clive Bates and tobacco prohibitionist Stan Glantz over Glantz’s misleading use of Bates’s survey data.  Even data from the CDC was misrepresented by the CDC itself to make e-cigs seem scarier than they are.

The problem is that none of these groups have to be right to succeed in their goals.  They don’t need to make compelling, evidence-based arguments to see their side benefit.  All they have to do is instill the sense of uncertainty (make it sound like no one knows for sure) and argue for “best guess” or “safe bet” legislation.  This is how they get bills in place that treat e-cigs like conventional cigarettes despite being fundamentally different in every important way except cosmetic.

In all this, they even get to claim the moral high ground in the debate because while businesses are arguing for their livelihood, these tobacco prohibitionists are arguing for lives (even though in the long run anti-e-cig efforts could cost lives instead).

So we’ve fostered a political and scientific landscape in which it is all to easy to drown out sense and reason in favor of fear mongering and pandering.  If electronic cigarettes are 99% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, are they not due 99% less of the rules that are based on harm?  No, they say, looking like smokes is enough.  If that’s the case, then green Kool-aid should be regulated the same as anti-freeze.

la-me-pc-internet-tobacco-sales-20140113-001In short, the deck is stacked against electronic cigarettes where these individuals are concerned.  They can easily justify misleading the public if the ends are a safer, largely smoke-free world.  Problem is, they have no evidence that the ends are that world.  In all likelihood, the support of something that obsoletes smoking (the way that e-cigs do) is what would make that possible.

Unfortunately, many prohibitionists have spent decades fostering a hatred of all things smoking.  They see e-cigs as just another enemy on the battlefield, when the entire industry could be a great ally — even if Big Tobacco companies are directly involved.  But it’s difficult to get over that much venom for that long.  They even fight against what would be reasonable legislation (like age restriction bans) because they fear heftier controls will be harder to pass if the sensible stuff is already in place.

All this means that the public is not seeing a very balanced view of electronic cigarettes.  And confusion and distrust (largely due to past tobacco industry sins) tends to support the against side of things.  So politicians and regulators are pushing for “play it safe” legislation that keeps electronic cigarettes from causing harm — harm that there is already evidence doesn’t exist.  This is exactly what has already happened in Los Angeles and New York City where e-cigs are now being treating like smoking for the purposes of workplace and public smoking bans despite an absence of evidence that public vaping causes any harm to anyone.

largeThere is some hope though.  Some places are starting to see through the crap and realize that getting regulation right is far better than getting regulation first.  Utah legislators recently killed an anti-e-cig bill in favor of a year of study on the issue because those pushing the bill didn’t seem to know what they wanted and couldn’t justify what they were asking for.  And despite a significantly hefty anti-e-cig bill working its way through the Hawaiian government, a tax element was removed to soften the sting of the bill to the average e-cig user.

Despite all this, we still believe that reason will win out.  For now, the playing field may be unfair, the refs may not know the rules, and the other team is cheating like nothing else, but that won’t last.  Electronic cigarettes have one great thing on their side.  They work.  This day in age, if something works, people find out, they tell others, and they don’t accept juvenile efforts to control otherwise free adult activities.

We’ll continue to follow the world of e-cigs as it develops.  It’s certainly given us no lack of things to talk about.

Vape on, friends.

A Consumer Freedom Point Of View On E-Cigs

March 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

san-franciscoSarah Longwell is the communications director for the Center for Consumer Freedom — a nonprofit that defends consumer freedom when it comes to fast food, tobacco, alcohol, and more.  In short, they support allowing adults the luxury of making their own decisions about what they spend their money on.  Recently, Longwell contributed a piece to the San Franscisco Gate about the efforts being made against electronic cigarettes.

You can read Longwell’s contribution here.

Her piece E-cigarettes safe; no need for S.F. to ban them argues against e-cig bans.  No line in the whole of electronic cigarette opinion pieces seems to nail the issue like the following from Longwell:

Despite the uniqueness of this product, overzealous lawmakers are champing at the bit to ban e-cigarettes, egged on by career activists who see a public health threat wherever they look.

Well said. The piece is worth a read. Longwell shines a light on the biggest issue that the electronic cigarette debate represents. If legislators and activists can turn the arguments around and require businesses to prove the safety of their product to avoid bans — instead of regulators proving harm and justifying action — other technologies may also be stifled beyond reason.

This is an issue certainly worth thinking about.  The way regulators ultimately decide to control electronic cigarettes could very well determine how we welcome or reject new technologies in other fields.  For the first time in decades, we have a truly innovative response to the problem of smoking.  Will we reject it simply because we don’t fully understand it?

Hawaii Softens Anti-E-Cig Bill, Removes Tax

March 16, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Hawaiian_Monk_SealA new bill in Hawaii suggests fairly hefty restrictions on electronic cigarettes across the state, but it appears legislators are lightening the impact of the overall bill.  Although the bill may still hammer the new products pretty harshly, proposals involving increased tax rates on e-cigs are reported to have been removed.

The bill, SB2495, would require electronic cigarettes only be sold in places legally allowed to sell tobacco products — and it sounds like sellers would still need a separate licence from the Department of Health to sell e-cigs.  The bill would also restrict sale, marketing, and use of the electronic cigarettes as if they were tobacco products.  This include prohibiting use in public areas and workplaces.

But according to reports on the bill, legislators just decided to remove a tax element from it which would tax e-cigs just like tobacco and funnel that money to smoking cessation programs within the state.  More might have been taken out, but the only thing reports have been able to confirm is that the tax elements were removed and the restrictions on where use was allowed were not.

This could suggest that legislators are warming up to the idea of less restrictive approaches to electronic cigarettes and compromising with local vapers and businesses.  The bill still sounds wildly more involved that electronic cigarettes necessitate (given the extremely limited harm they appear to cause).  But this is another instance in which excessive bans and restriction are being pulled back.

Recently, excessive regulation proposals in Utah were dropped in favor of a year of studying the issue.  We need to see more like that.  But even the small steps like this in Hawaii are steps in the right direction.

Marlboro Gets Slammed For Marketing To Teens Overseas

March 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

o-REACH-THE-TOP-570While the U.S. has instituted pretty heavy restrictions on the where and how tobacco products can be markets, many countries aren’t as restrictive.  According to a new study from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Marlboro is taking advantage of marketing flexibility in more than 50 countries with its Be Marlboro campaign.  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers berated the company for obvious youth marketing.

You can check out the study right here.

A spokesperson for Phillip Morris (Marlboro’s umbrella company) stated simply that their marketing efforts are focused on adult smokers and meet the local regulations in all places where they exist.  But the ads certainly seem to spin towards a younger crowd.  In fact, it’s nearly impossible to market to 20-somethings (which is obviously the target) without accidentally appealing to teens.

What does this mean for e-cigs?

o-SONG-WRITE-570Electronic cigarettes are being spun by many tobacco prohibitionists as a way to get the tobacco marketing machine spun back up and re-targeted towards teens.  They like to claim that anti-tobacco campaigning has been on a winning streak and e-cigs provide a loophole around laws and regulations.  What they forget is that the tobacco marketing engine is still alive and well in other countries.  Tobacco companies will find ways to market their product.

It may actually help the e-cig industry to make it clear that tobacco marketing is alive and well.  E-cigs seem so capable of defeating tobacco cigarettes right now, but cause they can out-market their low-tech competitors.  Acting like tobacco marketing doesn’t exist only makes it easier to kill e-cig marketing.  Meanwhile, international campaigns like Be Marlboro, can continue to thrive in the absence of anyone “allowed” to compete for coolness factor.

Big tobacco advertisements for their e-cig options even seem to pull imagery and style from tobacco advertising to make the two seem like the same.

Hospital Blames 50-Year-Old’s Pneumonia On E-Cig Use, Second Case of Pneumonia Blamed on E-Cigs

March 14, 2014 by · 10 Comments 

cb0914080001A man admitted to a hospital in Spain for something else spontaneously came down with pneumonia while there.  The hospital is now blaming the patient’s electronic cigarette for the complication.  This appears to be the second time ever that electronic cigarette use has been blamed for a case of pneumonia.

You can check out the full story here.

According to the story, the patient was already treated and discharged for the bout of pneumonia.  There doesn’t appear to be any evidence or proof that e-cig use actually caused the complication though.  It sounds more like a guess or convenient coincidence than anything solid.  Given that hospital-acquired pneumonia is the second most common nosocomial (hospital-originating) infection, it seems far more likely the hospital in question just doesn’t want to take the blame for making a sick patient even sicker.

Still, it seems likely opponents of the devices will jump at the chance to claim they are dangerous and cause pneumonia in everyone that uses them.  The vice-president of the National Electronic Cigarette Association, Alejandro Rodriguez, wasn’t particularly delicate about the situation.  He was quoted as saying, ”How many people die every day from smoking? If in the 15 years that e-cigarettes have been around only two people in the world have caught light pneumonia from this product, we should say well done to it.”

pneumoniaHe has a point.  But we reserve judgement on whether the products are actually causing pneumonia.  It seems likely that if e-cigs did cause pneumonia — even if rather rarely — cases would be popping up a lot more often.  Claims like this are exactly why the industry needs as much research as it can get.  My father’s brother’s next door neighbor’s best friend used an e-cig once and got a cold, is hardly proof of anything.  And yet, these are the kind of stories that travel rather fast.

Take, for instance, the one other case of pneumonia attributed to electronic cigarettes.  A 42-year-old woman experienced respiratory problems for  about 7 months which coincided with her use of electronic cigarettes.  She also reportedly suffered from asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, schizoaffective disorder, and hypertension.  She was on a wide variety of medications including amlodipine, lovastatin, lisinopril, multiple vitamins, cycloben zaprine, citalopram, and multiple psychiatric medications.  She even claimed to have been exposed to fumigation chemicals for an infestation of bedbugs in her apartment building.  In all that, can a case of pneumonia really be attributed just to electronic cigarette use?  Perhaps e-cigs didn’t help the situation, but they could hardly be pointed to as the sole source.

Certainly given the lack of research into electronic cigarettes, it is possible that unexpected or unknown consequences of use exist.  However, experts still agree that nothing unknown about e-cigs could compete with the known harm caused by smoking.  We’ll keep an eye out for more on this possible connection.

Is Invisible Vapor The Next Big Thing?

March 12, 2014 by · 13 Comments 

20121105-invisible-manJAC Vapour, based in the UK, appears to be among the first, but certainly not the last to market an invisible vapor electronic cigarette vaporizing liquid (e-liquid).  The goal is to produce an e-liquid that makes “stealth vaping” even easier to do.  Whether or not it works has yet to be seen, but comments from the company on Reddit suggest a Youtube video proving it works will be coming soon.

How the video will show invisible vapor is anyone’s guess at this point.

JAC’s invisible vapor line is branded as Clear Steam and the company boasts that users will experience the flavor and throat hit offered by other e-liquids without the visible white cloud.  This won’t just make vaping easier to do in places where it’s not welcome, but will also likely negate much of the negative attention people give to anyone that uses a device that resembles smoking (even in places where it should be allowed).

It’s even possible the absence of a cloud of vapor will keep bystanders from convincing themselves that they smell an offensive odor and attribute it to e-cigs — or creating other instant negative effects on sight.  How many of us have heard someone say something to the effect of That person is smoking on the other side of the room and I already have a headache because of it?

As the company even mentions, some passers-by might simply assume your device isn’t working.  Maybe you could convince whiny bystanders that you just like to mimic the movements of smoking without the actual vapor — all the while secretly sucking down all the e-cig vapor you like.

Is this likely to be a significant part of the electronic cigarette industry?

Some individuals found it hard to believe that a zero nicotine e-liquid would even have a place in the industry.  Now, entire companies exist that cater only to the zero-nic crowd.  An entire community of vapers exists beyond the reach of nicotine — and blame those using nicotine for bringing the government’s gaze upon the products.  It seems just as likely that an invisible could option will carry with it a unique advantage for many electronic cigarette users.

StealthIn addition to the ability to better stealth vape (as some call it), some users may actually prefer a lack of visible cloud.  Maybe the just prefer the feeling without the visible feedback.

The perceived effects of secondhand smoke (and now vapor) can quite easily be attributed to a mental expectation to be affected.  It seems less likely that individuals will even notice e-cig use occurring around them without a cloud of vapor.  So individuals might just think the room was sprayed with a nice aroma of vanilla, coffee, tea, or something else depending on the e-liquid in question.

There is one possible drawback.  For many, the idea of an invisible vapor might sound a lot more insidious.  They might prefer something you can see to something you can’t.  This is certainly a byproduct of all the educational and awareness programs hammering in the dangers of carbon monoxide — the colorless and odorless gas, and thus the invisible killer.  Parent groups love to complain about the fact that kids can now use electronic cigarettes without smelling like smoke or leaving a haze in their immediate vicinity.  It seems likely that they’ll argue that companies are intentionally making it even easier for kids to get away with use if invisible vapor is available.

Invisible vapor e-liquid does seem to have one primary reason to exist — to get away with use when you shouldn’t be.  We certainly don’t think there’s a problem with electronic cigarette use (even in the presence of bystanders), but this is another point that gives munitions to e-cig prohibitionists.  How long will it take before we see that argument come along?

Budapest Court Rules E-Cig Cardridges Aren’t Pharmaceuticals

March 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

366953108_690720959b_oA private business owner in Budapest found himself in hot water when he was heavily fined for selling pharmaceutical products without a license.  The National Tax and Customs Authority confiscated electronic cigarette cartridges from the small business owner claiming that they fell under pharmaceutical regulation within Hungarian law.  This was last year.

But now, Budapest courts have ruled that electronic cigarette cartridges are not pharmaceuticals and that the business owner is due a refund of the fines he incurred and the return of his confiscated product.  The court ruled that businesses could sell e-cig cartridges without license from the National Pharmaceuticals Institute there.

Miklós Szócska, the State Secretary for Healthcare, was quick to say that he believes the ruling applies only to this individual case and does not set a precedent.  Clearly he hopes more can be done against electronic cigarettes and the businesses that sell them.

budapest_2186935bThere’s not much more information available on the ruling, but it is one of many promising developments world wide where electronic cigarettes are concerned.  When pushed into the courts anywhere in the world, government groups seem hard pressed to prove that electronic cigarettes and their components qualify as anything other than technology products.  Without introducing new bills and ordinances to change the definition of pharmaceutical or tobacco products, e-cigs don’t seem to fall easily within the reach of the groups that regulate them.

Even when these changes in definition happen, it’s hard to believe that the exact same frameworks will be easily applied to the products.  Many regulatory groups will likely have to overhaul their procedures or create new and separate regulatory architectures — which indicates all the more the need for a new approach to electronic cigarettes.

This Could Be Happening With Nicotine In E-Cigs — THC Edibles Not What They Advertise

March 10, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

edible_marijuanaThe Denver Post ran tests on a number of marijuana-infused edibles only to find that the THC-content (the active and important ingredient) was far from what was advertised for a number of products.  In one particular case, a company was caught with less than 5 milligrams of THC in a number of products advertised as having 100 milligrams.  This has raised concern that the THC-infused edibles market requires regulation.

You can read the full story right here.

While some edibles had nearly exactly what they claimed, one company, Dr. J’s, did beyond poorly.  Some of the products tested were found to have 1/300th of what was promised.  Dr. J’s CEO Tom Sterlacci claimed the testings must have been wrong and colleagues of his reportedly sent a letter threatening legal action against the recreational pot shop owner that was raising a fuss about it.  That pot shop owner claims to have received around 450 complaints about Dr. J’s products.

Maybe Dr. J’s isn’t ripping people off intentionally (though it seems a stretch).  Maybe a mixer swiped the THC part of the mix and Sterlacci didn’t know about it.  According to Sterlacci, testing of every batch wouldn’t be cost effective.  Either way, this is a clear indication that constant testing is necessary.  While chocolate without THC is hardly harmful, the concern is that companies may be ripping people off, those with medical reasons to use the products may not get what they need, and over-infused edibles might hammer someone harder than the label suggests.  One product labeled for 100 milligrams of THC came back as having 146.

20140309__edibles-chart~p1There is a similar problem happening in the electronic cigarettes industry.  In the absence of regulation, nicotine concentrations in electronic cigarettes is hardly definitive.  Some companies are doing it right — testing every batch, tracking levels, using lab tech processes for mixing — but some companies still mix their stuff in the kitchen sink.  While a witch hunt against small operations is hardly the goal, there has to be a balance between frugality and precision.

The situation isn’t exactly the same though.  THC is the expensive part of pot edibles.  So companies benefit greatly from cutting a little off the top.  Nicotine is not so significant a part of the cost of e-liquids.  So companies aren’t as encouraged to water down their stuff.  Still, if a bottle says it has 24 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter, it should have something darn close to that.  Although nicotine is not dramatically harmful, it is a stimulant that can shake people up if they get too much unexpectedly.  At the same time, too little might keep them from getting what they need to curb cravings to smoke (for those that chose to use e-cigs to that end).

The electronic cigarettes industry already has a group working to this end.  The American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA) is growing in support — though still not popular with some kitchen sink operations.  They’re working to make this kind of testing standard across the industry right now regardless of what government bureaucrats are working towards eventually doing.  Some may disagree with a particular piece of their standards, but the more the industry regulates itself, the harder it is for governmental groups to justify stepping in and messing everything up.

Still, the similarities exist and successful regulation of one may well suggest how best to regulate the other.

Utah E-Cig Bill Halted In Favor Of A Year Of Study

March 9, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

Utah_State_Capitol_seen_from_State_StreetCountless state- and local-level governments are deciding to restrict or even ban electronic cigarettes based solely on what they might or could do.  Often, laws against electronic cigarettes are made for no better reason than that they look like smoking and so should be treated like it.  Utah state regulators decided to go a different way, however, and it’s quite refreshing to see.

Following debate about the issue of electronic cigarettes, Utah’s Senate Business and Labor Committee voted unanimously to kill a bill.  They decided the issue was too complex and not well defined enough to make any mandates just yet.  According to Senator Curt Bramble, for instance, eight different versions of the bill have been proposed, each without resolving the last.  This is often a sign of legislation that requires more scrutiny before implementation.

It almost seems like opponents of electronic cigarettes were too venomous towards the devices.  Banning sale of the devices to minors wasn’t nearly enough — they wanted high taxes, special business licences, internet sales bans, tight marketing controls, extensive labeling and even to regulate manufacturing quality.  After debate, the committee decided more study was needed not only to justify implementing laws focused on the devices, but also to create an appropriate balance between protecting youth and not interfering with the rightss of adults and businesses.

You can read coverage of the situation here.

trojan-horseI’ve got to say, though, this is a good sign.  While even the two largest cities in the U.S. seem content to implement e-cig legislation with almost no research, there are places what want to get it right.  It took the U.S. nearly 50 years to get tobacco control right (some would argue we still haven’t).  Apparently in Utah, they prefer to get it done right rather than done first.

It seems many are starting to see through prohibitionists’ attempts to slam electronic cigarettes as hard as they can without legitimate reason to do so.  This time the effort might have bitten them back.  While they probably could have gotten a measure against e-cig sales to minors, they wanted way, way more.  So much more that what they were asking couldn’t be passed without a lot more justification.  Often, prohibitionists even call age restrictive bans “Trojan horse” legislation because if passed, it makes further bans difficult to justify.

Most e-cig advocacy efforts aren’t actually asking to avoid regulation.  All they want is for regulators to take some time and study the issue before it making laws.

The final decision was to study the issue for a year and then revisit legislation.  If things continue the way they have, a year is only going to give the pro-e-cig side more research and supporting evidence while the prohibitionist side only gets more holes poked in the arguments it makes.

Save Vape LA Rally March 8. Support It!

March 7, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

File photo of a UC Davis student protesting at an "Occupy UCD" rally in DavisFollowing a unanimous decision by the Los Angeles City Council, the #IMPROOF Movement has scheduled a rally to promote the issue.  The event looks like an awesome effort by a variety of e-cig community staples to be heard.  If you’re in the area, you should check it out.  It could be a landmark event for the industry.

The new ordinance qualifies electronic cigarettes as tobacco products and, if signed into law by the Mayor, will ban use of the products anywhere that smoking is also prohibited.  Concern within the community and the industry is that this action, which parrots a recent New York City decision, will start a chain reaction already on the verge of tipping across the nation.  If the two largest cities in the nation decide to treat electronic cigarettes in the same inappropriate way, it seems likely many other cities, towns, and states will fast track similar legislation.

The rally is an effort to be heard — and it might just be a lot of fun.  We certainly wish we could be there.  Details below.

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Learn more at www.improofmovement.com.

Los Angeles Falls To The Anti-E-Cig Movement

March 6, 2014 by · 4 Comments 

lanightThe Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously this week to treat electronic cigarettes as tobacco cigarettes.  This follows very closely with the decision in New York City to do the same.  While e-cig use is still allowed in dedicated vape shops, it is banned in all other places where smoking is prohibited within the city.

Those in favor of free use of electronic cigarettes argued that there is no evidence the products pose any threat to the health of those in the city.  Meanwhile, opponents claimed that e-cigs could make smoking socially acceptable again — despite years of “successful” tobacco control efforts.  Successful is in quotes because this is a very debatable qualification of tobacco control efforts.

So the council voted 14-0 in favor of e-cig bans.  Vaping is not allowed in many work places, public places, parks, and even beaches and 21-and-over establishments.

Falling Domino Pieces Arranged in a LineJonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, spoke against electronic cigarettes saying, “We don’t want to risk e-cigarettes undermining a half-century of successful tobacco control.”  This seems hardly like a strong enough argument for such expansive bans, but apparently it worked.

With New York and Los Angeles acting so strongly against e-cigs, it seems likely many other cities will push forward similar bans justified by the actions of the two largest cities in the nation.

One wonders if these bans would hold up in court if pressed.  With so little evidence that a ban is necessary, smokers might successfully argue that these city council efforts are making it harder to become an ex-smoker rather than easier — and without even a “greater good” to justify it.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute Seeks Subjects for E-Cig Study

March 5, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

DSCN1222A cancer research and treatment center in Buffalo, NY is looking for smokers, non-smokers, and ex-smokers for a new study on electronic cigarettes.  The study seeks to determine the impact of vapor and nicotine from e-cig use.  Those in the area should check it out.  In addition to helping further research into e-cigs, the institute is offering $50 to each participant.

The study is to be performed by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  Roswell Park has not been particularly in favor of electronic cigarettes.  A study from the institute released last November found that involuntary second-hand exposure to nicotine was possible with e-cigs.  The study then suggested that further study might confirm if this second-hand exposure could reinforce nicotine addiction and whether third-hand nicotine could occur as a result of e-cig use.

Secondhand-smokeThe previous study did not, however, determine if second-hand vapor from electronic cigarettes was enough to cause harm — only that it existed as a possible effect.  Even second-hand smoke from tobacco cigarettes has proven less dangerous than tobacco prohibitionists would like anyone to know.  The effects of standing in a cloud of cigarette smoke for 20 minutes are believed now to be negligible and cancer risk appears to only increase by a statistically significant amount in non-smokers that have lived with smokers for 30 years or more.

The new study to be performed will take saliva, mucus, blood, and urine samples to determine the delivery of nicotine by electronic cigarettes.  This might be a decidedly more useful bit of information, but we’ll see if Roswell Park implies that this can actually constitute or could lead to harm.  A local news team covers the announcement right here.

Either way, if you’re in the Buffalo, New York area, you can contact researchers at 716-845-4916.  You might be one of the 180 individuals they decide to use for the study.

FDA To Hold Listening Session April 5th, Rally The Troops!

March 4, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

fda-logo1The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will be holding a listening session next month in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego.  The event will happen from 6:00 to 8:30pm PST on April 5th.

According to the FDA, they’re looking for presentations on any topic relevant to science-based regulation of tobacco products.  They are, however, prioritizing 4 key areas.

  • Preventing youth tobacco initiation;
  • Encouraging adults who use tobacco to quit;
  • Reducing product harms and addictiveness; and
  • Developing a science base and continuing meaningful product regulation to reduce the toll of tobacco-related disease, disability, and death.

Although they avoided mentioning electronic cigarettes, it’s likely the devices will be a major topic for the session.

The FDA has yet to formally release or endorse an architecture for electronic cigarette regulation.  Despite claiming that it would announce regulatory plans as far back as October, the process appears to be getting held up.  The issue is far more complex than they might have initially thought.

With a listening session scheduled in one month, it seems unlikely they will announce regulation before that.  The possibility still looms however.  If the FDA announces a regulatory framework before that, it could claim that this listening session applies to the comment period for the new rules.

The time of the listening session is certainly suspect as it’s even occurring late for individuals on the west coast and on a Saturday.  Individuals on the east coast have to be willing to give up 2 and a half hours on a Saturday night from 9:00 to 11:30 pm.  That the session is in tandem with an American Association for Cancer Research — which appears to be against electronic cigarettes — further supports belief that the session might be tailored against e-cigs.

It is possible, however, that the FDA is finding electronic cigarettes more promising, sturdier, or simply far more difficult to legally regulate in the absence of more research and information.  Most arguments against the devices are based on may bes, could bes, and possible risks.  For example, some argue kids might use them as a gateway to smoking.  But almost no teens are found that use electronic cigarettes and then move to smoking.  Even those that do seem likely to have started smoking regardless of whether e-cigs were involved.  Without actual evidence that any of these claims are viable, the FDA might know that anything they put forward will have trouble sticking.

Still, this is another opportunity to have the story of electronic cigarettes heard.  Check back.  We’ll be covering the event when the time comes.

What Does Your E-Cig Say About You?

March 3, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

20130815-123438Research into electronic cigarettes is growing more and more extensive.  Using the utmost scientific guesstimation skills we have at our disposal, we’ve compiled this list of generalizations about e-cig users that we believe to be 100% probably maybe true about you based on the electronic cigarette you use most often.

The details here within are 100% mostly accurate and we stand behind them (because we don’t really stand with them).  If you think we’re wrong, maybe you’re just using the wrong e-cig.

Moving on.

Disposable-E-CigDisposable models are cigarette-like e-cigs that you toss after roughly a pack or two of comparable use.  Often these are purchases in convenience stores in a small single-unit pack for around $8 to $10.  Users of these models have trouble with commitment and are generally using the devices to cheat on real smokes.  But they aren’t ready for a full transition to e-cigs.  They aren’t as concerned with efficiency or financial frugality as these are the most expensive option for the use and experience.  Watch out… a disposable model user is likely to break your heart.

cartomizersSemi-disposables are cigarette-like e-cigs with interchangeable, disposable cartridges.  These are available in some convenient stores and even some retail outlets.  After purchasing a starter kit (around $20-$50), semi-disposable users can often purchase cartridge packs for a few bucks cutting the price per puff down significantly.  Semi-disposable users like to keep things simple.  They may buy into e-cigs as a replacement for smoking, but they don’t really want the hassle of manually refilling tanks or switching batteries that can come with more complex e-cigs.  Semi-disposable users are more reliable than disposable model users, but they can be a bit on the boring side.

ego ecigEgos are small battery units which often provide more power than cigarette-like units, a power button to offer manual control, and interchangeable, reusable tanks for ease of flavor swapping and refilling.  Egos are generally found in dedicated vape shops or ordered online (standard cost can be anywhere between $10 and $40 to get started).  Egos are rapidly becoming the standard among e-cig users that want the true e-cig experience without an expensive shiny, foot-long device that looks more like a sex toy than an e-cig.  Ego users are easy going.  They like to be flexible, they avoid unnecessary complication, and they are perhaps least likely to advocate aggressively for e-cigs compared to other users.  Ego users may have a variety of flavors at home, but when on the move, they generally keep with them only a single (or maybe two) choice flavors for the day.  Keep an eye out.  If an ego user crosses your path, through salt over your left shoulder to bring prosperity your way.

vape decor-4Mods and modding are broad terms generally associated with anything bigger than an ego.  They are designed more for experience than utility and offer customization options (like voltage and heat controls).  Price can range from as cheap as other e-cigs to hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  The world of mods is so diverse one should avoid generalizing about it.  All modders tend to be of a hobbyist mentality.  They are nerds for electronic cigarettes.  They practically exhibit their own language with words like amperage, resistance, cloud, and propylene glycol to vegetable glycerin ratio.  Modders enjoy the ability to precisely design the experience they want out of vaping and they take great pride in it.  However, their massive devices are only getting larger and eventually it is every modders fate to carry around a tank unit like that of a firefighter’s breathing apparatus.  In a few thousand years, a new species of human will likely evolve from modders that can only survive on synthetic vapor.

The community of e-cig users is vast.  Anyone of these groups might be the one for you, maybe none of them suits you.  But as long as you avoid certain combustible non-electric e-cigs (tobacco-filled e-cig analogues you might call them), you’re going to be much better off.

 

Tobacco Campanies are Suffering In Europe

March 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

anti-smoking-600x318Sales of total cigarettes dropped from 793.7 billion sticks in 2000 to 608.8 billion sticks in 2010.  That’s a 23% drop in 10 years.  This is worse than simply experiencing declining profits due to high taxes, increasing oil-fueled distribution costs, and slimming margins.  This is a drop in the number of customers available to the market as a whole, a drop in the amount of smoking remaining customers actually do.

This is almost certainly one of the main reasons tobacco companies are so gung-ho about stepping into the electronic cigarette field.  While it appears they may be attempting to lobby for harsh regulations against the products, this only means they’d have an easier time controlling the market and killing most competition.

You can read more about the declining market right here.

While it’s unlikely that electronic cigarettes may re-coop the losses Big Tobacco has been experiencing anytime soon, given a decade or two, big tobacco could be making the switch to a far healthier product than what they have now.  If tobacco companies eventually produce more e-cigs than tobacco, will laws about what they can and can’t do change?

Aggressive Marketing Is The One Thing That May Allow E-Cigs To Kill Smoking

February 28, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Summit-Studios-fin-Cultivator-5.img_assist_custom-480x314Senate Democrats introduced a bill this week with the singular purpose of preventing electronic cigarettes from being marketed to kids.  Few seem to agree on the issue in any corner of the fight.  Some feel the bill is little more than an attempt to hamstring an industry by using children to justify it.  Others feel safeguards against marketing that appeals to kids is entirely necessary for a product that shouldn’t be in their hands.    Others still feel this hardly does enough to kill an industry they feel is nothing more than a smoking loophole.

Even many individuals on the side of electronic cigarettes welcome this kind of legislation.  It helps business leaders stand proudly and claim We follow all the rules of marketing set forth to protect our kids.  Aren’t we great!

But this kind of legislation may only have one long-term effect — to dispel the miracle that is electronic cigarettes.

bat-comE-cigs could completely destroy the smoking market.  This could take ten years, fifty years, or 100.  But the point is that electronic cigarettes might be able to so profoundly replace the act of smoking that traditional cigarettes become non-existent (or at least the minority).  They can offer the experience, the nicotine, the manual rituals, and the social aspects of smoking — minus the tar.  To many with the patience and the know how to adopt them as a hobby, they can even offer a better experience than smoking.

But there is one thing that allows them to beat the pants off conventional cigarettes in a broader sense right now.  Marketing.  Electronic cigarettes, at least for now,  have the luxury of being able to broadcast themselves as cool to the world.  While this is grotesque and offensive to many that have been conditioned to hate all things smoking, it is the one x-factor that patches, lozenges, drugs, and even not smoking in the first place can’t do.  These things can’t offer a coolness factor — which is impossible when you’re branded as a therapy.  To smokers, these things are not liberating.  They are just a different kind of jail cell — one that constantly reminds them of the mistake they made in taking up smoking in the first place.

sexyadMany experts argue that the only way to truly stop the juggernaut that is the tobacco market is to find something to replace it.  Take for instance the horse and buggy analogy for e-cigs.  You could never convince colonial farmers to stop using horses and buggies to carry supplies because they were fundamental to the process.  Once someone is attached to a process or tool, it’s hard to give up.  There might be alternatives, like camels which spit or llamas which can be really mean, but nothing seems as reliable and sturdy as the horse and buggy.  Then come steam engines, cars, trucks, and railroads, and no one thinks twice about the horse and buggy (well, few do).

It’s the same situation with cigarettes.  People don’t easily quit smoking because the alternatives aren’t sufficient (thus the roughly 99% remission rate among ex-smokers).  So experts argue that rather than focusing on the thus far failed efforts to make everyone quit, energy should be put toward finding a better alternative.  Whether it looks like smoking or not shouldn’t be a concern if it sames lives.

Well now we have that option, but legislators and regulators are seeking to keep it from being promoted anywhere and everywhere.  I’m certainly not advocating for e-cig ads on Cartoon Network at 3pm, but I am all for slick ads showing up in print, television, and online anywhere that adult viewers will primarily be looking.  Marketing will also help electronic cigarettes become a product all their own — rather than something to do instead of smoking (an essential part of defeating tobacco).

SzyfQWithout aggressive marketing, electronic cigarettes remain a cessation option when they should be their own option.  If sex-infused advertising means that the next generation picks up e-cigs first and tobacco cigarettes never, then have at it.  We’d be saving literally half their lives!  Smoking kills half its users while experts believe a lifetime of e-cig use may actually have zero long-term health consequences.

So whip it out, show some curves, get juicy, and use whatever other innuendo you like.  The more we treat e-cigs like something entirely devoid of relation to smoking, the more they will be able to overshadow it.  We’ll never get support from nanny-state prudes that can’t handle a single sexual innuendo without calling it sexist.  But we might get support from everyone that’s tired of that particular minority.

Nicotine Concentration: The Wrong Way To Regulate E-Cigs

February 27, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

nicotine-intro-samThis week the European Union announced pretty harsh regulations for electronic cigarettes.  The worst of the new regs require graphic warnings similar to those of tobacco cigarettes, near universal advertising bans, nicotine concentration limits, and child proof packaging.

Much of the e-cig community already believe these regulations to be wildly inappropriate (and they’re probably right).  Many experts believe that electronic cigarettes may actually cause no long-term health effects, so forcing graphic warnings to be on packaging is misleading to consumers.  This is just one of a variety of counter-points to harsh regulation of electronic cigarettes.

But to focus in on one particular issue, we’re looking at the regulation of nicotine content in electronic cigarettes.  The new EU regulations put a limit on nicotine concentration in e-cigs of 20 milligrams per milliliter.  They justify this because that’s “similar to ordinary cigarettes.”  But there’s plenty wrong with this argument.

Here’s the main issues with targeting nicotine when regulating electronic cigarettes.

AntiSmokingCampaigns1Nicotine in traditional cigarettes is believed to be more potent, more addictive, and more quickly introduced to the bloodstream.  The additives and smoke which assist in delivery of nicotine to the blood system in conventional cigarettes have been perfected over decade.  In short, 20 milligrams of nicotine in an e-cig isn’t going to be nearly as effective or harmful as 20 milligrams of nicotine from tobacco cigarettes.

Nicotine is not the primary harm component of smoking.  Nicotine may be the part that’s addictive, but it’s the smoke that kills.  While cigarettes are regulated for the damage done primarily by the smoke they deliver, there is not appropriate research into the harm of nicotine from e-cigs to create appropriate regulations.  Any rules about nicotine content would be purely arbitrary (as the 20 milligrams limit is).

Basing rules on nicotine concentrations creates problems for zero-nicotine e-cigs.  If regulations act as if the harm from e-cigs comes exclusively from nicotine, then the market of solely zero-nicotine e-cigs becomes a problem.  First, like all products, nothing should exist in a regulatory void — no-nic e-cigs included.  At the same time, if no-nic e-cigs are forced to adhere to nicotine-focused rules (like extensive health warnings), then an essentially harmless product is forced to act as if they are far worse than they are.  This will create problems if there is ever to be a flavor vapor market having nothing to do with nicotine.

The EU’s regulations on electronic cigarettes are set to go into effect in 2016.

Class Action Suit Claims E-Cigs Cause Cancer, Targets Njoy

February 26, 2014 by · 4 Comments 

ku-xlargeCalifornian Eric McGovern has filed a class action lawsuit against electronic cigarette company Njoy claiming that it markets e-cigs as safe despite evidence that they cause cancer.  McGovern will probably have a difficult fight on his hands for a number of reasons.

The suit claims that Njoy markets its electronic cigarettes using deceptive tactics to convince the public that their products are harmless.  However, the suit argues, e-cigs contain many of the same carcinogenic compounds found in traditional cigarettes.  The suit also claims that although the company avoids making cessation claims to avoid regulation, many of its public statements and advertising materials heavily imply that their product can assist in smoking cessation efforts.

The lawsuit could end up being even more of a landmark case for the electronic cigarette industry than the original 2009 case against the FDA that determined that, absent health-related claims, e-cigs did not fall within the FDA’s jurisdiction for regulation and oversight.  This lawsuit could force courts to rule based on the evidence science has found of the harm electronic cigarettes might cause (so far, it looks like almost none).

blue-research-photoThere’s plenty of problems with this case already, the most fundamental of which being the claim that e-cigs contain many of the same carcinogenic compounds found in traditional cigarettes.  While there is evidence that some compounds found in e-cigs also occur in traditional cigarettes, the levels tend to be many fold below the level at which they occur in cigarettes.  As well, cigarette smoke is believed to contain 10,000 to 100,000 different constituents.  We’ve identified around 4,000 dangerous chemicals in cigarettes (70 of which are carcinogenic).  So to claim that “many of these” can also be found in e-cigs borders on misleading and flirts with being completely wrong.

More recent research has found that there are far fewer dangerous chemicals in electronic cigarettes, and those that do appear in them, occur at several orgers of magnitude lower than they appear in cigarettes.  Opponents of electronic cigarettes are intentionally exaggerating the risk to make e-cigs look bad.  Diethylene glycol, for example, was only found in a single product in 2009 at relatively low levels.  Since then, many opponents are quick to point to that study.  Not a single study since then has found DEG in an electronic cigarette.  Another example, formaldehyde appears in both electronic cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, but occurs at such low levels in e-cigs many experts argue that the second-hand and long-term impact of it is virtually nil.

njoy-courtney-love

Courtney Love stars in an ad for Njoy E-Cigs

Njoy is a very interesting target to choose as well.  While it is certainly among the biggest on the market (believed to be the biggest by many), it was a direct part of the 2009 decision that the FDA couldn’t regulate electronic cigarettes as they currently stand.  Njoy was party to the discussions of what constituted a health or cessation claim.  This means that they are unlikely to make a claim, fly an advertisement, or do anything that might put them over the line on health claims.

Like I said earlier, this could end up being the landmark case for electronic cigarettes.  Drawing the debate on the health impact of e-cigs into the courtroom forces a very serious look at the research that’s been done thus far.  While it might be easy enough to prove the existence of certain harmful constituents, prosecution will has have to prove that they occur as sufficient enough levels to cause harm.  Even further, proving that something actually causes cancer (enough so to claim damages) is a sticky area to tread into.

cigarettebuttsMcGovern may believe the argument far easier to make than it actually is.  In the minds of many individuals, electronic cigarette use still appear to be the same as smoking despite their differences.  Perhaps McGovern believes the same.  Perhaps he believes he’ll make a career out of taking down e-cigs the way other lawyers made a career out of taking down Big Tobacco.  Only he really knows.

Ultimately, this case or one like it was quite inevitable.  It’s results seem likely to take at least a year or two to sort out (minimum).  But it could set precedent for what constitutes reasonable advertising of electronic cigarettes and legally outline what scientific research has revealed about them.  Here’s hoping.

A full article on the lawsuit can be found here.

There’s Quite A Lot Wrong With This Tennessee DOH Warning About E-Cigs

February 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

trp-partners-tn-dept-healthJust this week, Tennessee’s Department of Health issued an extensive warning on electronic cigarettes which has remained prominently highlighted on its homepage.  The warning parrots much of the concerns we’ve heard before, but still ignores much of the progress that has been made in the debate over the devices.

Here’s a rundown of the main points they make and what’s right and (more commonly) what’s wrong with them.

There is inadequate scientific information about the effects of using current electronic nicotine delivery systems to assure the public about the impact to safety and health.

This line is true only for those that choose not to keep up with the science.  Many experts now say that there is absolutely no question about the relative harm of electronic cigarettes.  While questions certainly remain on the specifics, most research supports the belief that electronic cigarettes do not pose long-term health risks to users.  In fact, many concur that the simplicity of electronic cigarette vapor means we already know more about them than we do tobacco smoke which contains somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 constituents.

Coupled with the absence of state or federal regulation of manufacture, this information should prompt consumers to be cautious about using the devices as well as exposure to secondhand emissions.

This is the single most common and perhaps reasonable argument against electronic cigarettes at the moment.  It is true that regulation of the manufacturing of electronic cigarettes is still very absent from the market.  Companies could be putting nasty stuff in e-cigs (knowingly or unknowingly) and there is no system of checks in place to stop it.  While this is true, studies of electronic cigarettes are mostly finding that products contain what they say they contain and levels of impurities are far below national standards for other products.

A nicotine moleculeNicotine is a highly addictive chemical which can be toxic. It can affect the nervous and circulatory systems in both people and pets. Studies show most people who smoke want to quit, but are unable to end their nicotine addiction.

Many things are toxic when enough is administered to a subject.  Although far more addictive, nicotine is similar in harm level to caffeine.  As well, anecdotal and preliminary evidence suggests that addiction to nicotine is not as strong when it isn’t consumed through smoking as with many of the additive contained in cigarettes.  It turns out that without smoke, nicotine may be consumed for a lifetime without significant health risk.

Emissions from electronic nicotine delivery products are not only water vapor. They can contain nicotine and other chemicals such as formaldehyde, propylene glycol, acetaldehyde, acrolein and tobacco-specific nitrosamines.

True.  I do cringe a little bit when people refer to electronic cigarettes as just water vapor.  This is a dangerous claim as it makes it easy for opponents to point to it and say, “See!  They say it’s just water vapor, but it has chemicals with big scary names in it.”  The vapor from electronic cigarettes does contain constituents with big scary names.  Most occur at such low levels that they can’t do any long-term harm.  Propylene glycol tends is used as a base and is often pointed to as something to be concerned about because it can also be found in antifreeze.  But then, it also appears in ice cream, toothpaste, sunscreen and a litany of other products.

Electronic cigarettes and similar electronic nicotine delivery devices have not been adequately tested as tobacco cessation devices.

They have been tested — though certainly not to the extent necessary to make cessation claims.  But then, that’s why companies avoid making cessation claims.  What research has been done is showing a great deal of promise.  In short, electronic cigarettes may turn out to be a cessation miracle.  In the meantime, companies are focusing on the devices as leisure products.  If people choose to believe that the devices can work to that end, they’re welcome to try.

kids-poison-safetyParents should not allow children to play with electronic cigarettes or similar devices.

Is there really a place in someone’s mind where a parent is leaving electronic cigarettes out and encouraging little Timmy to play with them?  How irresponsible do we all think that vapers are?  I wish it wasn’t true, but that something like this has to be said makes more more sad than irritated — because despite our hopes, there is someone out there that needs to be told this.

Parents should be aware electronic cigarettes and similar electronic nicotine delivery devices are available in a variety of flavors that may be attractive to children, such as bubble gum, strawberry, chocolate, mint and others.

The flavors debate is a rather contentious one.  Yes, flavors like bubble gum, fruit punch, and banana pudding might be attractive to kids, but kids don’t have a monopoly on these flavors.  I know plenty of adults that vape e-cig flavors that kids may want to try.  So, yes, parents should probably be aware that e-cigs may appear attractive to kids.  However, the industry should not be criminalized or demonized for offering flavors to adults which may happen to appeal to kids.

teensmoking-1Best current evidence is that most adolescents who use electronic cigarettes also smoke traditional cigarettes. Because many adults are also dual-users (conventional and electronic cigarettes) there are significant unknowns about the cumulative health impact on individuals of any age using multiple nicotine delivery products.

Boy is there a lot wrong here.  First, current evidence looking at e-cig use among adolescents doesn’t actually track on-going use.  Most only looks at if an e-cig was ever used or if an e-cig was used at least once within the last month previous to the survey.  While there is a correlation between e-cig use and smoking, it suggests only that kids who already smoke or were likely to smoke anyway are more likely to try e-cigs.  In no case have researchers proven that e-cigs lead to smoking that wouldn’t have occurred in their absence.

Concerns about duel use are rapidly proving to be quite silly.  Research suggests that any amount of alternate nicotine consumption results in a reduction in smoking — and smoking itself is so deadly that any reduction in smoking almost immediately out-paces the harm caused by the alternate nicotine source.  Duel use sounds like a legitimate concern, but it falls flat in almost every theoretical scenario.

smoking_pregnant_womanPregnant women should avoid using these devices and children should not be exposed to them. The nicotine can impact fetal development, affecting the brain, nerves and circulatory systems. Pregnant women should know exposure to nicotine, in conventional or electronic cigarettes, may: cause a miscarriage, cause low birth weight, creating significant health challenges for their babies, affect the unborn baby’s blood flow, heart rate and breathing, or contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.

Yes.  Nicotine has been proven to impact fetal development and cause a variety of issues with developing children and birth.  In most cases, nicotine consumption and smoking are treated as synonymous for such research.  Have electronic cigarettes proven to do the same?  Absolutely not.  It seems very likely that electronic cigarettes containing no or very small amounts of nicotine may prove wildly successful in helping pregnant smokers get through the pregnancy without smoking.

While nicotine is a toxin, many women find that they simply can’t avoid smoking while pregnant due to the addiction.  And smoke is far more dangerous to pregnancy than nicotine.  Some doctors have even suggested that quitting cold turkey could shock the system of a smoker in such a way that would cause more harm than gradually quitting or reduced smoking (more on that here).

We can’t fault the Tennessee Department of Health for attempting to do its job.  Some of the points made were far more balanced than many e-cig community members are used to seeing.  Still, there’s more to the story than easily fits in a 2-page document focused more on raising alarms than educating the masses.

Excessive Rules Are Just Helping E-Cigs Look Cool To Kids

February 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

e-cigarettes-have-a-coolness-problemIt’s often said that when opposition resorts to the topic of kids to defend their position, it probably means they’re out of real arguments.  Regulators continue to debate over how electronic cigarettes should be regulated from sale to advertising.  But like tobacco cigarettes, regulation and counter-campaigning seems to be inadvertently making electronic cigarettes look ever cooler.

Take advertising in the United Kingdom.  A recent ad in the UK from British American Tobacco is getting flak now for making their product look way too cool.  The ad is so clearly a play for looking cool and attracting young smokers that it’s actually very hard to argue against prohibitionists in this case.  A pair of young statuesque 20-somethings (a guy and a girl) run through nightlife infused streets.  What message is that supposed to send other than e-cigs are cool?

But the ad follows current rules about electronic cigarette advertising in the UK.  Although nothing solid is in place, ad censors have decided that the product can’t be shown, health claims can’t be directly made, and almost nothing definitive can be said about the product.  This forces advertisers to use exactly the kind of slick image-based advertising that people are going to cry foul over.  Despite what they may think, this creates and air of mystery that wouldn’t otherwise exist.  If the commercial just showed the product and said something like “Check out the new Vype electronic cigarette,” the commercial wouldn’t be near as effective.

bat-comCompanies can try all they like to make their products look cool.  But frankly, it’s very difficult to stand out against the massive landscape of over-stimulating static.  If anything, news media, political debate, and public service announcements are only helping get awareness of electronic cigarettes to skyrocket in a way it couldn’t without their help.  The more negative publicity, the more teens might say ohhh… that looks kinda cool.

Similar things are happening in the United States.  Cities, states, universities, and high schools are going out of the way to highlight and possibly ban electronic cigarette use (particularly by teens).  You know what teens do when told not to try something?  They try it.  Schools, for instance, could simply classify e-cigs as disruptive and confiscate them like they would a portable video game device or a deck of cards.  But implementing large public announcements about policies on the devices, vague warnings, and even finger-wagging punishments, they inspire kids to curiosity rather than caution.

Teens-SmokingJust a couple years ago, market research found that teens mostly thought electronic cigarettes looked a little silly, weren’t that interesting, and, if they were going to consume nicotine, it’d be through smoking rather than vaping.  But now that regulators, public health organizations, parent groups, and anti-smoking fanatics are all out there pushing how bad e-cigs “probably might be,” kids can’t help but grow a curiosity for the devices.  And these kids mostly have unfettered access to the internet — which provides an opportunity to find arguments invalidating much of the bullshit.

Some officials actually believe that kids who start with electronic cigarette use are likely to move on to smoking.  They use this as an argument for fierce anti-e-cig legislation.  So far though, there’s no evidence of that.  In fact, it appears electronic cigarettes are much more likely to prevent kids from jumping to far more harmful cigarettes.  Regulations, campaigns, and decisions against electronic cigarettes remain largely based on maybes and could bes.

teens smoke

Kids are wise to this sort of fear mongering — especially by the time they hit their late teens.  The more they detect they’re being told a lie for their own good, the more they tend to go figure it out for themselves.  It hasn’t worked with cigarettes and it’s not going to work with e-cigs.  Yet again, excessive rules and counter programming only inspire interest in the devices rather than fear.  Providing kids with the facts though, may help them make informed decisions.  You’d be surprised how often treating kids like adults can remedy situations like this.

Breaking the rules is still very much a rite of passage for kids that want to be cool.  In my late elementary school years, I learned quickly that interrupting the teacher with jokes and flipping the bird when she wasn’t looking was a quick way to endear myself to the other kids in class.  The more e-cigs are made the taboo, the more kids will want to use them.  And despite what adults may think, they will look cool to other kids.

smoke-e-cigBetter to be honest about the devices.  Will they kill you?  The signs point to no.  Will they make you look cool?  That’s up to everyone but you.  Is there much point to them if you aren’t already a smoker?  Yes, but it may not be worth the complication and cost.

Better to burn your cash on fixin’ up Greased Lightning.

The Master Settlement Agreement and E-Cigs

February 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

1161489-1763So some regulators are suggesting that the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement should be modified to now included electronic cigarettes and the companies producing them.  This seems extraordinarily unlikely to happen, and if it does, it seems unlikely to hold up against any scrutiny in the courts.  Among other issues is that the agreement was created long before electronic cigarettes were ever a thing to be considered in tobacco legislation.

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement was signed in November of 1998 and essentially designated the terms of punishment for the four major tobacco companies in the US for their decades of subversive marketing to children and teens, hiding health data on the impacts of smoking, and more.  It fined them $206 billion to be paid over 25 years and outlined some major restrictions on tobacco marketing and industry lobbying.

Here’s how some of the details of the agreement might apply to electronic cigarettes if regulators attempted to apply its resolutions of the industry.

tobacco-chief-says-cigarettes-arent-addictiveE-Cig companies might incur fines for tobacco industry sins.  There’s still 11 years to go on payment of the $206 billion fine which the tobacco industry received for all the wrong it did and the profits it reaped in the time that it did it.  You couldn’t apply the master settlement to e-cig companies without asking them to foot part of the bill.  It works out to roughly $7.5 billion a year.  That might not be much for Big Tobacco, which is used to the cost and agreed to pay it, but it only makes competition with them that much more impossible.  This is yet another reason applying the agreement to e-cig companies wouldn’t fly with the courts.  E-cig companies didn’t exist when the agreement was forged, so they couldn’t have committed the sins that the fine is there to punish.

E-cig companies would be restricted in the trade organizations they could create and join and the activities of these organizations would be limited compared to others.  Another thing the master settlement did was to restrict the organizing and lobbying capability of the tobacco industry — so much so that the creation of the master settlement forced three tobacco-specific organizations to dissolve.  Yet again, applying the master settlement to e-cigs and the e-cig industry is only detrimental to the small guys (who then further lose their voice in regulatory matters), and doesn’t fit the original intent of the agreement.

Cigarettes are displayed in a store in New York

E-cigs are protected from class-action and aggregate lawsuits.  Despite most companies being very clear that electronic cigarettes are not harmless, people may eventually find a long-term effect of e-cig use and decide they deserve payback.  The master settlement may protect the industry from large scale lawsuits that could arise from this hypothetical situation.  It was created, in part, by the tobacco companies to admit fault and receive a punishment, but with limited long-term risk.  So it includes a provision that as long as the requirements of the settlement are met (mainly, payment of the massive fine), class-actions and other large form lawsuits can’t be brought against the companies involved.  While this may sound like a good thing, it may only mean that major tobacco companies (and maybe even some shady e-cig companies) can do whatever they want with the product without fear of major litigation against them.

Like so many other ideas regulators are suggesting for electronic cigarette regulation, this is another that attempts to shoehorn an entirely unique product into the space of another.  It seems wildly unlikely to happen, but it is yet another possible future that treats e-cigs as tobacco products and makes it that much easier for the biggest tobacco companies out there to dominate the market with almost no possibility of competition.

Company Jams MP3 Player and Bluetooth Headset Into E-Cig

February 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

ecigmp3A few companies have mentioned the possibility, but it appears Supersmoker will be the first to cram Bluetooth and MP3 player capability into an electronic cigarette.  It looks like the sort of thing you’d see in SkyMall Magazine.  It’s the sort of thing someone out there sees and says “Hey, what the hell, might as well talk to friends through my e-cig and listen to Sisters of Mercy while I vape.”

The device itself has a speaker capable of playing phone audio or music.  The commercial/tutorial for the device makes it sound like you have to solve a crytex to get your music to play.  And one can only imagine the quality of speaker capable of being crammed into and electronic cigarette.

The product is likely be be sold for around $100 to $150 (US).  Check out the commercial below.

This is not likely to be the silliest of things we’ll see crammed into electronic cigarettes.  But it’s definitely up there.

Louisiana Next In Line To Consider E-Cig Sales Ban For Minors

February 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

new-orleans-overview-french-quarter-scenery-fullLouisiana senator Rick Gallot (Democrat) has introduced a bill for consideration that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors throughout the state.  Gallot is aiming to have the bill reviewed during the next state legislative session which starts March 10th.

You can check out the release on the proposed bill right here.

Really, the proposed bill does little more than add electronic cigarettes to the list of products which are not allowed to be sold to minors.  It doesn’t look like the bill aims to classify electronic cigarettes as anything other than “alternative nicotine products.”  That keeps things far simpler than you might expect from lawmakers.

It’s very likely resistance to this bill will come from electronic cigarette opponents.  In the past, public health and anti-smoking groups have actively fought bills like this.  Why?  Because once the ban of sales to minors is in place, they worry that the public and regulators won’t view electronic cigarettes as something due a whole lot more attention.  Many opponents want electronic cigarettes almost entirely off the menu.  Accepting a victory now by letting age restrictive bans happen makes this a much more difficult goal to attain.

Two Britisih Policemen in Traditional Helmets on Crowd ControlMany opponents even suggest that electronic cigarettes only exist so that the tobacco industry may circumvent long establishing anti-tobacco legislation.  They conveniently forget that there are believed to now be more than 200 electronic cigarette companies out there — while Big Tobacco is only 3 — and that these companies made the industry what it is long before tobacco stepped in.

Blocking these measures is becoming much harder though as more and more states (27 so far) institute e-cig sales bans for minors — many without defining electronic cigarettes as tobacco products.

What Is The New Vype Commercial Trying To Say?

February 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

bat-comBritish American Tobacco is running an ad on British television for its new electronic cigarette, the Vype.  This has sparked some debate over the appropriateness of cigarette companies being able to advertise on television despite bans on it since 1965.  But the commercial itself has some interesting innuendo to it and even some potential problems with it — beyond the debate over whether e-cigs should be advertised on television.

You can check out the commercial right here.

I’m not against electronic cigarette advertising on TV. If ads for cars, real estate, alcohol, joining the military, violent video games, and coffee are acceptable, then so are electronic cigarette ads. Just because something is age restrictive, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be advertised on television.

Still, there should be some restrictions on what commercials can do and say and where they can appear. Certainly, no one thinks ads for alcohol should appear during after school cartoon shows. And generally, e-cig ads have not appeared anywhere you wouldn’t normally associate with adults.

Advertising electronic cigarettes in the UK is certainly not easy though. An E-Lites commercial took around 14 months of back and forth to get approved. Among other issues, advertising regulators have decided that electronic cigarettes can’t be shown in television commercials.  While regulators may think this is a good plan to keep the product’s image from embedding in the minds of consumers, the mystery of something not seen may be even more enticing.

The commercial from Vype adheres to this rule.  But there will certainly be concern about the use of young, attractive models in the commercials.  So far, typical electronic cigarette users tend to be middle-aged smokers looking to transition away from combustible tobacco.  Clearly this commercial is attempting to skew younger.  And although the commercial clearly says it’s for smokers, it could easily inspire teens to view it as cool.  While we’d rather teens use e-cigs than smoke (certainly if they would be smoking anyway), neither is ideal.

050808_soundbarrierBut the commercial has a much more powerful suggestion to it about the nature of electronic cigarette use and smoking.  The smoke radiating from the actors is in a sonic boom (image) — the effect associated with surpassing the speed of sound.  This suggests that the Vype allows smokers to surpass the smoke of smoking.  The visualization is practically of a cleansing of the smoke in the two actors’ bodies.  This looks to us like a not so subtle innuendo that e-cigs are much better for smokers.

British American Tobacco might not openly agree as that would treat dangerously close to a health-related claim that the company is unlikely to be able to back up right now.  Still, given the level of oversight on e-cig ads there, it surprising that so overt an innuendo and use of slick, cool imagery was allowed to pass.  This could say something much broader about the direction of the electronic cigarette industry.

As the public grows more comfortable with e-cigs and regulators grow more lenient on e-cig marketing and advertising practices, we may see a new wave of industry growth unlike anything we’ve seen thus far.

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