EU Called Out For Pushing E-Cig Taxes Despite Official Government Report Showing They Aren’t a Gateway and They Help Smokers Quit
An article on the news aggregator Breitbart.com shines some light on the current plan the EU is pushing forward to tax electronic cigarettes across the EU at the same rate as tobacco cigarettes. That’d be 57% right now and it would be a terrible idea according to many public health and tobacco addiction experts. In general, efforts to “sin tax” e-cigs to protect the public appear poorly conceived.
Perhaps the most damning piece of the puzzle is a government report over there that found only 1 in 700 vapers were not current or ex-smokers. As well, it suggests — as most of the research done suggests — that electronic cigarettes and vapor devices help people quit or reduce smoking more than any other “approved” product on the market. For instance, a small study found comparable quit rates between e-cig users and nicotine patch user, but of those that continued smoking, e-cig users regularly managed to cut their smoking by 50% or more.
Beyond the topic of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices is a debate over whether sin taxes actually work. Most more recent studies suggest that they do not. Instead, they encourage circumvention of said taxes and purchasing of lower quality products — all while not actually discouraging use of said products.
All this evidence is piling up against efforts to tax or regulate e-cigs and vapor devices off the market.
You can ready the full article at Breitbart right here.
It’s possible that said tax won’t actually be an issue anytime soon. An insider suggested that plans to tax e-cigs have been put on the back burner while other, more important issues get tackled. This could be just a distraction however. According to the Breitbart article, bureaucrats in Brussels have asked tax experts throughout the EU for input on the best way to achieve fiscal equal treatment between tobacco and electronic cigarettes. It sounds like they don’t even want to create a new category for e-cigs. Instead, they’re hoping to simply loop e-cigs in with all tobacco. Expert call this kind of tactic misleading because it suggests comparable harm between tobacco and electronic cigarettes when the later is 99% less harmful than the former.
In any case, EU-wide e-cig taxes might be quite a ways off. There is certainly support from certain shortsighted public health groups, over-zealous anti-smoking groups, greedy pharmaceuticals, and even tobacco companies. However, the growing industry and — particularly — the community that has already benefited from e-cigs and vapor devices aren’t likely to give up without a fight. With mounting evidence that the products could be the death knell of smoking and more and more experts beginning to support them, there is a growing arsenal against efforts to treat e-cigs and vapor products like anything tobacco.
Insider on Proposed 57% EU E-Cig Tax: “There are no plans at present on the commission side to tax ecigarettes…”
The European Union seems unclear on how it would like to proceed when it comes to tackling the topic of electronic cigarettes. Public health experts around the world are debating over their harm and the opportunity they might provide regarding tobacco control. Meanwhile, many political groups seem dead set on implementing policy before they know what appropriate and beneficial policy would be.
The EU seems no different. They are currently debating whether to require countries to place a 57% excise tax on all electronic cigarettes (though that debate may be closed for now). This would treat them the same as tobacco cigarettes and would be implemented explicitly to fight e-cig use throughout the EU.
The problem is that there is no evidence that a “sin tax” on e-cigs would help anyone. And there is a lot of evidence that it may ultimately be a terrible decision for public health interests.
First, taxing e-cigs at the same rate as tobacco cigarettes suggests that the two are essentially the same. That certainly couldn’t be further from the truth. Current evidence shows electronic cigarettes to be about 99% less harmful that tobacco cigarettes and to pose no measurable secondhand harm. At the same time, misleading the general public about this fact may lead to individuals choosing tobacco cigarettes over the electronic variety when they might go the other way. This would either prevent reductions in harms to public health from continuing or — in the worst case — increase overall harm to public health as individuals that did move to e-cigs go back to smoking.
There has also been extensive debate over whether sin taxes actually work. Many experts argue that the don’t prevent enough of a behavior to be worth their drawbacks. Beyond that, they often have a more detrimental effect on poor individuals and communities which can’t afford alternatives, lack education necessary to prevent or kick the sinning habits, and can rarely afford to have even less money in their pocket.
Hopefully the European Union goes a different way. According to an insider, the commission seems to have passed on the idea in favor of more pressing matters. But they did say the issue would be looked at again if member states decide it was a priority. In their words: “There are no plans at present on the commission side to tax ecigarettes, but we are prepared to look at the issue in greater detail if this were to be considered a priority by EU member states.”
You can read the full story here.
Canada was one of the first countries to lay down some rules about the sale and use of electronic cigarettes. Very early on, Health Canada determined that electronic cigarettes marketed with health claims or containing more than 4 milligrams of nicotine were illegal. As well, Canada banned selling e-cigs to minors. For the most part, sellers stuck to this rule, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Health Canada never really enforced its ruling on e-cigs. That’s probably an oversimplification of the e-cig political landscape there, but this article isn’t meant to tackle the entire industry as it is regulated there.
Recently though, it seems Health Canada is stepping up efforts to catch sellers that allow minors to purchase e-cigs and vaping products. They’re spending some $350,000 to stake out and bait some 4,000 stores across Canada with “typical customers” who happen to be underage. This is no small effort, and odds are that if you sell e-cigs in Canada, you might be tested in the near future.
Certainly anti-smoking groups are applauding the effort. I’m not going to complain about anything that punishes sellers for hawking products to minors which have no business purchasing said products under normal circumstances. Or at least, I’m not going to complain about it as long as Health Canada spends more making sure sellers aren’t letting teens purchase tobacco cigarettes. Although I can’t find anything that says that is the case, I would certainly like to believe it.
Unlike many other anti-e-cig efforts focused on teen use, this is one that aims to prevent teens from getting the products without impeding free adults from getting e-cigs for themselves. More efforts like this need to happen. If anti-smoking groups absolutely need to see a fight against e-cig use and purchase by teens, this is a much better option that proposals that would ban all flavors, treat e-cigs as medical products, or remove them from the market entirely.
As unpopular as it might be, I’m not actually opposed to teens using electronic cigarettes when said use replaces the smoking they would normally be doing. And that’s exactly what seems to be happening. Since e-cigs hit the Canadian market, smoking rates among 15 to 19 year olds have dropped to 11% — the lowest in recorded history. Not only that, but preliminary evidence suggests that even electronic cigarettes containing nicotine aren’t nearly as addictive as tobacco cigarettes — and so individuals that start using them without ever smoking don’t actually seem to have a hard time quitting.
So far in the US, there have been some similar efforts to catch sellers in the act of selling to kids and teens, but these aren’t broad sweeping campaigns like Health Canada’s new effort. You can read more about the effort right here.
A man named Paul Chambers posted a video on Youtube back in November that showed him vaping. This is not too unusual these days as vaping have become a common topic of conversation and media. The difference here was why he was using electronic cigarettes — and it might just change the entire conversation about vaping and flavors.
Due to medical complications, Chambers is on a feeding tube and has been for two years. In that time, he has not been allowed to eat or drink for fear that anything consumed might go into his lungs. Chambers even has to be careful of his own saliva. If he wanted to experience flavor, say from a piece of candy, he’d have to suck on it and make sure not to swallow it. All the while, he’d have to lean forward over something that could catch his saliva as he enjoyed (loosely using the term there) the flavor of the candy. This is all a because Chambers has Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome.
However, in the video, Paul describes vaping and the world of flavor it has brought back to him. In short, flavored e-liquid affords Chambers the ability to experience flavor without the risk of inhaling his own saliva or choking.
You can watch the video right here.
This simple video brings an entirely new argument to the debate over electronic cigarette and vaping flavors. E-liquids without flavor are often argued to exist solely to attract non-smokers and teens who view them as harmless. In reality, they generally exist so ex-smokers can eventually cut nicotine entirely out of their lives (an research suggests that they are successful at doing exactly that).
However, this now means that individuals who otherwise cannot experience flavor — particularly those with an inability to handle food and drink — can do so. Suddenly, this becomes an argument for or against their quality of life. An while that is a very small demographic to protect, their quality of life is just as important as that of anyone else (arguably more). If you went two years without the ability to taste chocolate, mint, popcorn, coffee, or anything else, wouldn’t you do anything to get the chance to taste that stuff again? Imagine if it had been 5 years, a decade, or your whole life?
We are still only scratching the surface of the opportunity electronic cigarettes and vaping devices pose for the future. What if replacing conventional cigarettes is another part of a litany of benefits they bring to our world.
One can only imagine.
The Ministry of Health in Cairo, Egypt has determined that a decision made by its Technical Committee of Drugs in 2011 means that electronic cigarettes should be completely banned in the country. Presumably, the ministry’s Central Administration Department of Pharmaceutical Affairs determined that because their safety has yet to be proven, they are not legally marketable goods.
There’s not a lot of information available at the moment. A brief article ran in the Cairo Post explaining the decision.
It seems that the Ministry of Health is making the argument that due to other rules, e-cigs are simply banned. That is, that there is no need to propose a ban and get it passed… it simply is already the case. They’re basing this decision on a decision made in 2011 that potentially toxic or harmful products cannot be imported or traded in the Egyptian market.
It’s surprising then that smoking in Egypt is not only legal, but extremely prevalent — with roughly 20 percent of the nation using tobacco products. And those that do smoke there smoke quite a lot. Egypt is ranked as one of the top ten per capita consumers of tobacco in the world.
Whether this decision will actually stand up to public, political, and legal scrutiny will yet be seen. While the Ministry of Health is attempting to argue that e-cigs are simply banned as a byproduct of a previously passed and supported measure, actually enacting such measures can be a bit weedy.
According to officials, the decision to ban e-cigs came about because there was no study that proves the safety of the e-cigarettes. I guess they just happened to miss any of the more than 100 studies into the harm of e-cigs that show them to be not very harmful at all. It will be interesting to see if this decision actually stands and manages to get enforced.
It’s rare that we get results to a study that aren’t entirely obvious and of minimal use. Already, hundreds of studies have looked at the effects of using electronic cigarettes and vapor devices. What most of them ultimately determine is that e-cigs to cause some harm to their users, but far less than that of tobacco cigarettes. And while many researchers avoid comparing them to tobacco cigarettes, the numbers generally show e-cigs cause around 99% less harm.
But a recent study actually looks at more than simply whether e-cigs cause harm and compared various types of e-cigs use. The most significant finding was that dripping (dropping small amounts of e-liquid directly onto coils) is more harmful than using filled tanks.
The study has a lot more to it. You can read the full study right here.
In the case of dripping, oxidants were found to occur at between 4 and 24 times the rate they would normally appear in regular cartridge or tank use (at least that’s my understanding of the study). This is the case because dry spots on the coil and access to open air allow the coil to get much hotter. This can result in more metal particulates mixing with the vapor before being inhaled by the user. As well, more rapid heating and vaporization of e-liquid can covert a larger percentage of it into more harmful substances (like formaldehyde for one).
While this does show a difference in harm, it is important to remember that the harm caused by electronic cigarettes (even under the worst of conditions) pales in comparison to use of tobacco cigarettes. Many experts say that even with high levels of impurities, e-cigs simply by not using smoke to deliver nicotine, can’t be more than 5% as harmful as cigarettes. Some experts have even compared the harm of e-cigs to that of coffee or french fries. According to them, the use of nicotine for an entire lifetime without significant harm to the user is possible.
Of course, this study too found significantly lower amounts of harmful constituents in e-cigs than in tobacco cigarettes. According to this study, constituents were found to be between 9 and 807 times lower in e-cigs than in tobacco cigarettes.
While the massive land grab for the still budding electronic cigarette and vaping industry market share continues, it’s easy to forget that vaping would still be here if the industry was not. Anti-vaping advocates would like the world to believe that it is no more than an industry designed to keep nicotine addicts ensnared.
Meanwhile, there exists a community that makes its lot in life to keep vaping alive — regardless of the goings on with the industry itself. They advocate for fair regulation and encourage current smokers to make the switch and ex-smoking vapers to stick to the change (a change that is very likely to save their lives).
It started with small online forums — E-Cigarette Forum being the most significant early player and one of the few that still remains strong. The electronic cigarette Reddit section is now one of the best places to keep up with news, products, trends, and community events around.
And of course there are going to be new entrants like Vapedom — a social network designed to host and facilitate communications between vapers. In less than a month, the network already has more than 2,200 members and plans to introduce mobile apps and reviewer partnerships. It’s anyone’s guess how efforts like this will turn out, but it seems vaping is fostering a strong connection between its community members.
In less than 5 years, an unknown technology has become a household name — and not entirely because companies made it happen. It was the community that got the products recognition in the first place. Do-it-yourselfers made e-liquids into more than just a nicotine fix.
And what’s promising about all this is that if electronic cigarettes were banned tomorrow (a terrible public health decision if ever there was one), the community would find ways (some legal, some not so much) to get them and share them. That’s what happens when you try to take something from individuals that has a net benefit and they truly believe there is no just reason to keep from them (just look at the legalized marijuana debate).
Like California, New York is considered a bellwether state. What happens there in new trends often trickles down to other states, regardless of whether it is good or bad. As it turns out, electronic cigarette and vapor industry regulation is no different. Although many states and cities have instituted their own bans and regulations already, there are thirteen bills in New York that could set the state for state-level regulation of the industry around the nation.
Here’s a list of the bills being proposed there:
- AB635 aims to prohibit sales of any quantity of e-liquid used to refill e-cigs (full text here).
- AB296 would label e-cigarette cartridges as “tobacco” for the purpose of taxation (full text here).
- SB702 is designed to compliment and reinforce AB 296 (full text here).
- SB7202 labels anything containing tobacco or nicotine as a “tobacco product” for the purpose of taxation unless approved by the FDA as smoking cessation product (full text here).
- A1496 prohibits use of vaporization products wherever smoking is prohibited, increases purchasing age of tobacco and electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21, and directs Dept. of Health to evaluate the health effects of electronic cigarettes on the public (Full text here).
- S684 use of verification software to scan and securely store purchasers’ photo ID for the purchase of tobacco products (which might include e-cigs) and alcoholic beverages if under age 25. As well, all products must be kept behind a container or locked container unless premises are restricted to people 18 years or older (full text here).
- A852 requires sellers of electronic cigarettes to register with the department of taxation and finance which would create a compliance registry (full text here).
- A237 increases the purchasing age for tobacco products (again, likely to include e-cigs) from eighteen to twenty-one (full text here).
- A2221 amends the public health law and the tax law to define tobacco products (possibly including e-cigs in the new definition) and would change some other restrictions on tobacco products sales and tax rates (full text here).
- A1743 requires companies selling tobacco products over the internet to first send a form to individuals to sign stating that such individual is eighteen years of age or older (full text here).
- AB2595 works to include electronic cigarettes within provisions of public health law (full text here).
- SB2202 requires retailers of electronic cigarettes to register with the department of health as tobacco sellers (full text here).
- NY 25149 forces shop owners to report informational returns quarterly (full text here).
Many of the bills include more provisions. Every single one seems to have one of two goals: either to tightly restrict vapor product sales under the guise of protecting teens and nonsmokers or to simply make selling the products effectively impossible with rules that pretend to be compromise with the industry. Any one of these bills could be quite devastating to the industry — and would likely be rapidly copy-pasted into other states’ laws.
Want to help? There’s two major ways you can contribute to the effort against these bills in New York. Information for both can be found at this Indiegogo project. Either, you can contribute funds to help the vaping community hire a lobbyist to assist in combating these bills (apparently New York state laws require a professional lobbyist in order to lobby) –or– you can use the information for any one of the bill sponsors to reach out, share your story, or argue for reason (more info for that can also be found at the National Vapers Club website).
Godspeed, Vapers of New York. All our futures may be in your hands.
Some teenagers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida captured a brown pelican in the an early morning in mid-January and brought it to a condominium where they tortured and suffocated the animal to death. Unfortunately, electronic cigarettes got a starring role in the story as at least one of the teens repeatedly blew e-cig vapor into the bird’s mouth and eyes before holding its beak shut (an act which eventually suffocated the animal).
You can read the full story right here.
According to experts, pelicans (at least brown pelicans) can’t breath when their mouth is shut because they lack nostrils. It seems unlikely that the teens knew that, but then, they’d still be guilty of torturing the poor animal. Presumably, the ringleader has been charged with a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act — though it seems animal cruelty should be pinned on all those involved. Use of the pesticide DDT in the 70’s made brown pelicans an endangered species — one of two pelican breeds protected by the act.
The appearance of electronic cigarettes in the story is quite unfortunate. Though by no means scientific study, for many individuals a story like this correlates the entire e-cig world with teens, cruelty, risky behavior, and deadly secondhand smoke. Many readers might not even recognize (or read far enough to realize) that e-cig vapor did not kill the animal at all. It was essentially strangled to death.
This is a really messed up story. I’d have much, much stronger words for it, but I have to keep commentary PG-13. The teens involved are all minors. Hopefully the entire experience was traumatic enough that the bystanders won’t stand by while something like that happens ever again. The “ringleader” on the other hand, might have a promising future in football.
Stories like this are why education and outreach for the industry are so important. Each time a story involving cruelty or stupidity with e-cig occurs, there will be individuals out there that correlate the two. A man without any experience with electronics makes a powerful mod that explodes and does serious harm, and people think that every e-cig is a modified pipe-bomb. A group of teens uses electronic cigarettes while being hoodlums, and people will think that e-cigs are only used by troubled youth. Police bust someone consuming illicit drugs with a vapor device, and people thing e-cigs exist only for illicit drug use.
These stories are the exception to the hundreds of thousands in which people who smoke manage to kick the habit when they couldn’t countless times before — and only with the help of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices. E-cigs are absolutely everywhere now. Is it any wonder that they’ve made it into the hands of individuals that happen to be jerks and idiots? No. Should nice and intelligent consumers be prevented from getting what is turning out to be a life-saving product for smokers because of the actions of a few? Absolutely not.
It’s for this reason that sharing your experience with e-cigs and vapor devices is more important that ever. I’m not saying you have to be that person that tells everyone you meet they epic of you versus smoking. I’m just saying that if every former or reduced smoker shared their story once (either through a blog, in comments to the FDA, or even in a letter to your local paper), we can show people that stories like this are the exception.
Really, I could go an entire lifetime without reading about something like this again.
Study: Electronic Cigarettes Appear Less Addictive Than Nicotine Gum (As Well As Tobacco Cigarettes)
A new study was published this week that showed dependence levels for users of electronic cigarettes, nicotine gums, and tobacco cigarettes. While evidence already exists that electronic cigarettes are less addictive than tobacco cigarettes (a theory this study supports), it is surprising to see evidence that nicotine-containing e-cigs are also less addictive than nicotine gum. This demolishes anti-e-cig efforts based solely on the addictiveness of nicotine and electronic cigarettes.
You can read the study’s abstract right here. The study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The study determined “dependance ratings” for individuals using electronic cigarettes, nicotine gum, tobacco cigarettes, and both tobacco and electronic cigarettes. While the results weren’t exactly surprising, they were extremely promising. Users of electronic cigarettes showed lower dependence on the devices than smokers showed for tobacco cigarettes and former smokers using nicotine gum did for the gum. This suggests that electronic cigarettes — even those containing nicotine — just aren’t that addictive.
Boston public health professor, tobacco addiction expert, and electronic cigarette advocate Michael Siegel provides a more in depth review of the study’s results. Primarily, he says that this study is further evidence that anti-smoking groups are flat out wrong when they claim that electronic cigarettes, by virtue of containing nicotine, must be as addictive as tobacco cigarettes.
What’s more, nicotine dependence among individuals that used both electronic cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes (those called “dual users”) was lower than in those that were just smokers. This suggests that electronic cigarettes really do help smokers break the hold smoking-addiction has on them. Again, this erodes arguments that electronic cigarettes should be heavily controlled or completely banned by virtue of being an addictive product. If they are less addictive than nicotine gum, then these arguments need to be made about nicotine gum as well — a product that anti-smoking groups support wholeheartedly.
A similar study comparing dependence on electronic cigarettes among vapers to dependence on coffee among heavy coffee drinkers might further show that nicotine devices are not as addictive as we think. Many experts now believe that nicotine is far, far less addictive when not consumed through the inhalation of smoke.
The Australian Capital Territory government’s Health arm released a proposal in November that aimed to regulate electronic cigarettes fairly harshly and in mostly the say ways Australia regulates tobacco. While the government was originally going to respond early this year, the proposal has raised such a ruckus that the government is postponing decision on the proposal until it can further review the complaints about it.
So far, the 242 major submissions were made in response to the new e-cig regulations. While some showed support for the new laws, it seems many others argued major bias on the part of ACT Health and regulators supporting the bill. Others still argued quite simply that there was no evidence that electronic cigarettes and vapor devices were due such hefty regulation.
It seems the drafted regulations made a few major assumptions in order to justify their existence. This included claiming no evidence that electronic cigarettes could help smokers kick the habit, assuming that the devices are extremely harmful to one’s health, and (most of all) arguing that their existence on the open market would re-normalize the use of tobacco cigarettes (particularly among teens). Many experts in the know don’t believe any of these statements to be true. In fact, most believe hefty regulations against vapor devices will only result in more people smoking (by reducing availability of a less harmful and less addictive alternative).
Quite surprisingly, some of the support of electronic cigarettes even came from the government organization The Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs Association ACT argued that the proposal did not pay enough attention to potential benefits of e-cigs and vapor devices. The group’s chief executive Carrier Fowlie called the underlying justifications of the harsh regulations “questionable.” ATODA still supported some restrictions on e-cigs, but most of these seemed aimed at keeping them out of kids’ hands without making it harder for adults to get a hold of them.
Beyond ATODA various manufacturing companies, small businesses, and financial groups appear to be fighting the new regs as well — most arguing that the unnecessarily hamper a brand new industry with no evidence that it deserve it. You can read full coverage of the regs right here.
Australia takes its anti-tobacco efforts very seriously. Despite the threat of action against them from international trade rights groups, the country was the first to pass plain packaging laws for tobacco essentially preventing companies from using their brands or building unique looks for their cigarettes. They also require large graphic warnings on all cigarette packages.
So it’s no wonder that the country is having some knee-jerk reactions to electronic cigarettes and vapor devices. However, it seems the country is dedicated to proper, appropriate action that has meaningful results rather than action for its own sake. Regulation of electronic cigarettes is proving itself an area where getting it right is better than getting it first.
Some of the leadership in Ireland are pushing for heftier restrictions on electronic cigarettes. A new bill proposed by two senators would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 along with banning their use in bars, restaurants, and workplaces. As well, the bill would place restrictions on the advertising and marketing of e-cigs similar to those on tobacco cigarettes.
Ireland has among the toughest anti-smoking laws in the world. Their public smoking bans apply not only to bars and restaurants, but also to any general workplace, healthcare and educational facilities, public transit, and any enclosed public space. As well, tobacco packages in Ireland are required to include graphic warnings. Ireland is also on track to be the second country in the world (after Australia) to adopt plain packaging laws for cigarettes.
So it’s not much surprise that the country is pushing fast for all-inclusive electronic cigarette legislation. Two senators, Averil Power and cancer specialist John Crown are behind the new bill. Even so, Crown admits that for some individuals that can’t quit smoking, “it can be better to to use e-cigarettes.”
He goes on to argue that there are a new and different set of risks associated with electronic cigarettes. Primarily, he argues that shoddy construction and materials can result users inhaling metal particulates and synthetic constituents known to cause complications. While this is true, it remains that many experts believe that the worst, most harmful electronic cigarette can be no more harmful than 5% of the harm of tobacco cigarettes. This is because 99% of the harm caused by tobacco cigarettes is caused by the smoke and no explicitly by the compounds in them.
Senator Power argued that the new regulations were necessary to inform users that electronic cigarettes are still harmful — even if less so than tobacco cigarettes. She went on to argue that “Bystanders, particularly children, deserve to be protected from the passive inhalation of e-cigarette vapour.” Clearly she is unaware that recent studies have found no discernible harm from secondhand electronic cigarette vapor.
A study from the Portland State University showed the existence of formaldehyde in electronic cigarette vapor when a high-voltage was used to produce the vapor (essentially, when overheating the device). Devices using low-voltage (more common among e-cig users) produced no measurable formaldehyde.
Media took this study immediately and began spinning it as proof that electronic cigarettes were as deadly — and likely more deadly — than conventional cigarettes. They based this on the fact that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and more formaldehyde must mean more cancer. However, this ignores two things: 1) that under normal circumstances, little to no formaldehyde is found in e-cig vapor, and 2) that other constituents in cigarette smoke cause varying levels of harm far greater than that of e-cig vapor.
Even the New England Journal of Medicine tweeted about the study stating that “Authors project higher cancer risk than smoking.”
But according to coverage from Joe Nocera at the New York Times, the researchers themselves were not happy with the way their research was spun.
According to one of the researchers: ““It is exceedingly frustrating to me that we are being associated with saying that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than cigarettes. That is a fact not in evidence.” He also explicitly disagreed with the characterization of the NEJM tweet.
Jacob Sullum — a voice of reason in the debate over electronic cigarettes — had already debunked the value of the study.
California state senator Mark Leno is pressing hard against the electronic cigarette industry, and it appears he believes the worst people are saying about vaping. As part of a push to ban indoor vaping and sales to minors, Leno said hundreds of thousands would die from e-cig use.
According to an article covering a new bill proposed in California, 121 American cities now ban e-cig and vapor device use in public spaces. Thus far, no place seeking or implementing these bans has provided compelling evidence that it was necessary. General arguments include protection from secondhand e-cig vapor, preventing smoking initiation through the “gateway” of vaping, and avoiding the loss of gains made in anti-smoking efforts.
However, studies suggest that there is no harm caused by secondhand vapor (which dissipates in 20 second rather than smoke’s 20 minutes). Market evidence also suggests that electronic cigarettes lead to less smoking and may actually prevent wouldbe smokers from starting. Lastly, it appears that in the absence of a real alternative, reduction of population smoking rates below 20% is nearly impossible.
Leno has been listening to all the naysayers though. His comments surrounding the need for the new bill are some of the most extreme I’ve seen.
“Whether you get people hooked on e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, it’s nicotine addiction and it kills,” said Leno. “We’re going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use just like we did from traditional tobacco use.”
There is so much wrong with this statement alone. Nicotine only kills in amounts so large that no smoker or electronic cigarette user could consume a lethal dose under normal circumstances. The liquid in electronic cigarettes has already been found to have toxicity less than that of dish soap.
As for the hundreds of thousands that will die at the hands of this those selling electronic cigarettes, the scoreboard currently marks in favor of e-cigs. One expert calculates that between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals have saved themselves from death by smoking already with the help of e-cigs and vapor products.
Education and information is a powerful tool in the debate over electronic cigarettes and vapor products. It appears Leno has neither.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a warning to commercial airlines advising that they prohibit passengers from leaving electronic cigarettes in their checked luggage. What is surprising about the advisory is that is suggest only allowing electronic cigarettes and vapor devices in carry-on luggage rather than advising a total ban on flying with the products.
The Transportation Security Administration has already weighed in on electronic cigarettes. According to their rules, e-cigs are allowed through security and on planes.
However, a few instances of smoldering e-cigs on planes has forced regulators to consider reviewing policy on the devices. The risk of fire is low, but not impossible. But surprisingly, the FAA didn’t go with a pure ban as some might have expected.
The statement from the FAA cited several incidents of fires started by electronic cigarettes in cargo holds. If the devices are in carry-on when something happens, the fire can be put out far more easily — and the issue is not yet common enough to warrant a total ban.
A similar agency under the United Nations issued a similar statement. All in all, it seems these groups recognize that individuals will fight to take their vaping devices with them. It’s also promising to see a group view a small number of instances without freaking out and raising all the alarms possible.
This is certainly good news for those vapors that do a lot of flying.
Taxing electronic cigarettes and vapor products is the latest way many state legislators are hoping to pull in some quick cash. While the industry continues to grow by double or more every year, policymakers are eying revenues with hope and envy. Many experts say that hefty taxes may only serve to send vapers back to smoking (or keep smokers from attempting to transition away from smoking in the first place). This seems unlikely to deter many politicians looking to claim they’re closing budget gaps, discouraging smokers from smoking, and protecting local youth with a single move.
Tax rates of up to 95% have been proposed (or passed) in some areas. Meanwhile, others are considering simply applying regular tobacco cigarette taxes to all e-cig and vapor products and accessories (which might be difficult given e-cigs aren’t sold in packs remotely similar to that of conventional cigarettes). Some propose these taxes simply as a revenue stream for their locales while others claim a sin tax is necessary to reduce smoking and protect the health of the public. Sin taxes are generally considered bad policy by political experts.
Many intelligent policy critics are calling these taxes exactly what they are — short-sighted money grabs with virtually no evidence that they are actually necessary. There does not yet exist any evidence that electronic cigarettes and vapor products cause a net detrimental effect to public health. In fact, preliminary evidence suggests that these products existing on the market result in reduced total smoking and reduced total harm from the consumption of nicotine.
That won’t likely stop these taxes from passing in some areas in the long term. While there are plenty of logical reasons for allowing a more free and open market for electronic cigarettes (end the smoking epidemic being one of them), many states will simply refuse to pass up the tax revenues. Tobacco is hardly the only area where states levy their own taxes. Spirits, Beer, and Wine is another. The state taxes on spirits alone range from as much as $18.23 a gallon all the way down to nothing depending on the state.
In the long run, many states will likely include some kind of tax on the products. Ultimately, electronic cigarettes and vapor products are a luxury/recreational product like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and marijuana. Silly or not, there is little defense against these passing if legislators are determined to make it happen.
However, these will not stop the industry. In fact, these taxes may only prove to legitimize the industry and could add complication to efforts to fight the products in the long run. In order to set a tax on these products, states must define what they are.
If states determine them to be tobacco products, then any e-cig lacking tobacco-originated nicotine may be exempt. For example, lighters are not taxed as tobacco products. But if e-cigs are given their own definition, then additional legislation based on them being treated as tobacco products (like smoking bans and advertising restrictions) become quite problematic. Thus far, this simple issue has slowed a great deal of regulation from getting passed.
But still, even if these taxes pass, the e-cig industry won’t cease because of them. Even at a 95% tax — doubling the cost of e-cigs and vapor products — the cost of vaping will generally be distinctly cheaper than that of smoking. Using only single-unit disposable e-cigs (the highest cost per puff in the industry) with the highest tax rate would still be cheaper than smoking in most states (though perhaps not by much). At the same time, the high cost of tobacco cigarettes hasn’t stopped people from smoking — so it seems unlikely it will stop people from vaping.
Even with hefty, well-designed taxes, many vapers will likely move to online, black market, or do-it-yourself solutions to fulfill their vaping habit. In the case of cigarettes, it’s not uncommon for individuals to drive across state lines to avoid higher tobacco taxes.
The point is that the industry isn’t going anywhere. And while vape shops might suffer from the higher taxes, I believe they will remain a viable source business opportunity for those dedicated for the community.
A study at Portland State University found significant levels of a “formaldehyde-releasing agent” which — according to researchers — effectively resulted in 5 times the formaldehyde content than that of tobacco cigarette smoke. Already the study is making the rounds through various debates about e-cig use and regulation.
However, it seems the study was not conducted under normal e-cig use conditions and these results represent a unique scenario not common to any that know how to use electronic cigarettes.
The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. But those findings are questionable at best.
Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a prominent researcher of electronic cigarettes, posted an explanation of what’s wrong with these results.
Mainly, he argues that without sufficient understanding of how electronic cigarettes function, the likelihood of a “dry hit” is high and will alter the results of any study into the vapor produced. Past studies of Farsalinos’s own work had actually been forced to throw out results because of this very issue.
Dry hits are when the heating element works too quickly or with too little liquid and burn the surrounding material rather than vaporizing the liquid. In this situation, the materials vaporized are not those meant to be — and often results in high concentrations of metal particulates, polymers, and, indeed, formaldehyde.
Some experts have even argued that the worst and most unhealthy vapor hit from an electronic cigarette will always pale in comparison to that of conventional tobacco cigarettes.
Marijuana legalization throughout Colorado occurred one year ago. Despite what many opponents had claimed would be the result though, the state seems to be doing fine. Not just fine, but $60 million richer due to pot taxes and without any apparent increase in crime. All things considered, this could be called a victory for legalization and may lead to many other states following suit.
Many in the business and community of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices prefer to avoid the topic of marijuana use. Many fear that a connection between e-cigs and illicit drugs (even those legal in some areas) would only contribute to further demonization of the products by their opponents.
But avoiding intelligent and logical discussion does nothing to help anyone. The parallels between the war on drugs (particularly marijuana) and the campaign against electronic cigarettes are virtually impossible to ignore. It’s no wonder one of the strongest voices against the war on drugs (Jacob Sullum) occasionally argues against the war on e-cigs.
When marijuana legalization is proposed, the arguments against are often very similar to those against supporting or allowing electronic cigarettes to be sold and marketed. The most common point: Protect the kids!
Well, after a year of legalization, reports suggest that legalization has been good for Colorado. Not only did the state pull in $60 million in taxes and thousands of jobs from the new industry, but it also seems nothing major has changed for law enforcement. Police in the state say police work hasn’t changed significantly since legalization occurred.
Similar benefits seem to be available for places that don’t completely kill the electronic cigarette industry in their neighborhood. Vape shops bring new jobs and taxes to areas and access to e-cigs cuts down on the public health cost of nicotine use in the area by replacing smoking with the far less harmful vaping.
No one would make the argument to regulators that marijuana legalization works, so leave e-cigs alone. But as the public and lawmakers become more acquainted with smart regulation of complex issues rather than all or none regulation, we might see a more effective and fair approach to e-cig regs.
Health authorities in Mexico decided a bit ago that rules banning non-tobacco products that resemble tobacco products in brand, design, or even sound, apply to electronic cigarettes. These rules originally focused on keeping things like cigarette candies from further encouraging kids and teens to view smoking as cool and unharmful. It is also likely these rules were designed to combat sale of products which promote illegal drug use.
But electronic cigarettes weren’t a part of the discussion when these rules were made — nor was the concept of a cigarette-like quitting aid on anyone’s mind. Since electronic cigarettes came to market, Mexican authorities have decided that they violate the law and have been fast to denounce the products and claim they show no evidence of success as smoking cessation products. But like in so many other places, people are purchasing e-cigs to that very end regardless of what authorities say.
Just this month, two shops selling electronic cigarettes in Mexico’s capital were closed down and some 9,455 e-cig units (e-cigs and accessories) were seized by authorities. This is a major step up in action from the roughly 2,200 units seized over the previous two years combined. This may be an indication that the government is going to push harder against the products from now on.
You can read about the seizure here.
It’s no surprise Mexico’s leadership is gung-ho about fighting smoking — even to the point of being counterproductive. The smoking rate there is rather high. Roughly 37% of males in the country smoke. Health authorities there have gone out of their way to tell the public that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes work to the end of cessation. They also raise warnings about “unknown” contents and harms.
Today seems like as good a day as any to think on smokers’ rights. The concept came about in the last few decades. Many argued that it grew mostly as a way to protect Big Tobacco profits and the taxes our national, state, and local governments enjoy because of them. Meanwhile, others argue that they are an essential part of allowing legal use of a product despite its addictive qualities.
Smoker’s Rights tend to come up most often with regards to the elderly and mentally disabled or mentally ill. Despite the high cost of medical care for even the most infirm of smokers, caretakers risk legal action if they deny access to cigarettes. Even individuals arguably incapable of making informed decisions about smoking (those with schizophrenia for instance) cannot be prevented from obtaining cigarettes.
There are plenty of arguments for this, but the most successful tends to be that for as long as a highly addictive substance is legal, those addicted to it have a right to access. The argument isn’t really used to the same end with other legal addictions like alcohol or caffeine because these products don’t benefit from these groups to the same degree as cigarettes.
In the United States for instance, the mentally ill account for 45% of all tobacco cigarette sales. Without smokers’ rights preventing well-meaning caretakers from forcing their patients to quit, a significant chunk of tobacco profits might disappear.
But electronic cigarettes bring a new opportunity to the debate on smokers’ rights. With them, caretakers might provide patients with the ability to consume nicotine without much of the harm (99% according to some experts) they would normally suffer.
Already, this is a trend that has been occurring in jails throughout the nation. Smokers’ rights have pushed jails to provide access to cigarettes for inmates — a shaky argument in the face of those that argue convicts have few rights. However, many jails have begun opting for the sale of electronic cigarettes to inmates in place of tobacco cigarettes.
While it may only be starting with jails, the same changes might begin occurring with homes for the elderly or care facilities for the mentally ill. Electronic cigarettes are similar enough to smoking that rights arguments may soon loose their slant towards tobacco cigarettes.
And while youth smoking is the foundation of much of the world’s smoking epidemic, smokers’ rights has done much to deeply ingrain smoking in our nation in a way that, until now, seemed irrevocable.
Sales of many smoking cessation products appear to have been on the decline since electronic cigarettes joined the market at large. Some studies and many consumers suggest that electronic cigarettes work better than “approved” methods of cessation (even though they can’t be marketed as such). Even for those smokers that don’t quit, e-cig use appears to regularly help them reduce their total smoking by half or more.
Meanwhile, many smokers have become pretty jaded about approved quitting methods. Studies show only a thin improvement in quit rate between cold turkey (9%) and products like nicotine gums, lozenges, patches, and various drugs (often 10-12% at best). However, more recent research suggests that smokers that quit almost always (99% of the time) return to smoking eventually. So these 10-12% quit rates only really apply at the 1 year mark. Beyond that, real success rate is far lower. Even quitting cold turkey has this problem.
This has led a lot of smokers to give up on giving up smoking. A great many are simply tired of spending hundreds or even thousands on all the various ways someone might manage to quit with little to no success. E-cigs sit in a wonderful limbo between quitting and smoking which allows smokers to replace the act with 99% less harm and without requiring a user to give up any of the accompanying habits or rituals. This very fact meant that by July of 2013, 25% of all smoking quit attempts in the UK were done with e-cigs. That percent is likely to be much higher now.
According to a report from Reuters, GlaxoSmithKline (the pharmaceutical giant behind a number of smoking cessation products including Nicorette, NicoDerm, and Zyban) has been suffering significant drops in their cessation product sales. The the report doesn’t say by how much, but it is enough that the company felt the need to comment on the changing market and why they aren’t attempting to get in on the booming e-cig industry. While that might appear to be a good idea for them, they seem content to view the industry as too controversial. In fact, they’ve been lobbying against the industry for some time now.
According to its chief executive, GSK considered getting into the industry for “a few days” but decided there wasn’t enough evidence of risk and benefit yet to “play” (as he put it). It’s possible they want the industry to sound like an illegitimate participant in an otherwise legitimate market. If GSK was really interested, they’d do the studies necessary themselves. However, it seems likely that they don’t want to participate in a market unless it is so hosed with regulation that only a small number of ultra-large companies can compete (a la the pharmaceutical industry at large).
It’s possible this statement from GSK was a necessary one to respond to investors asking why the company is passing on an industry that has been doubling in size annually for more than 5 years now. While they can’t be expected to be involved in everything, they should have a pretty good reason why they’re letting their cessation sales plummet.
Just before the turn of the new year, I had the pleasure of being a guest at Cherry Vape’s end of year and 5-year anniversary party. Cherry Vape was one of the earliest vapor products companies around, and I’ve known the owners for nearly two and a half years now. They got their start primarily making and selling custom drip tips and have since branched out into selling full devices and juices. Just this past year, they opened their first vape shop — CV Vape Den in Port Chester, NY.
In that time, they’ve quickly and clearly become a meaningful part of their local community. Even at the state level, they drew the attention of Senator George Latimer — who is an ally to the industry due in large part to the efforts of Cherry Vape and others in New York to educate state leadership. Latimer even brought a state certified certificate to commemorate the end of the company’s 5th year (picture below).
All in all, a wonderful crowd enjoyed a very pleasant night which few shops could (or would) offer at the end of the year. Even if a shop might do something like this, there are few that have the customer admiration and support to draw such a refreshing crowd. Imagine going to a holiday party at your local barber shop or hardware store (I’m sure it happens somewhere, but it’s certainly not the norm).
What all this points to is just how much vape shops can and are becoming a meaningful community staple. Those vape shops that do it right are more than just a small retail establishment — they are a welcoming social atmosphere where people can meet and hang out. Those shops that make their patrons both comfortable and well educated are likely to reap long-term benefits of both fierce customer loyalty and a smarter user community.
This is not an easy thing to create these days. The closest shop experience I can relate to these is that of game stores which offer tables for customers to play Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and other various games I would mention, but the average reader probably wouldn’t recognize. But these shops are exceedingly difficult make profitable. The overhead cost of a physical location pushes the price of games higher than that which can be purchased online. A game which costs $50 to $60 in a game shop often runs closer to $35 to $45 online.
Though similar issues may plague vape shops, the ability to sell product regularly and consistently to repeat customers will likely diminish this issue. And rather than tables and folding chairs (a la the game shops), many vape shops sport far more comfortable couches, cushioned seats, and the refreshing scent of various vaporized flavors.
Though smoking remains a social act in many ways, the days of purely social smoking are all but gone. Without the ability to do it indoors almost anywhere, smoking is relegated to quick runs outside (especially in cold months). Meanwhile, vape shops offer all the benefits of smoking — including the social aspects — without much of the social, financial, and medical drawbacks.
As much as e-cigs and vaping products are replacing smoking, vape shops may soon replace what’s left of smoking lounges, cigar clubs, and smoker-friendly bars.
More Troubles for Lorillard/Blu as It Now Must Fight University of Kentucky for Right to use “Blu Nation”
UPDATE: This dispute appears resolved. Blu will be allowed to use its Blu Nation trademark.
Back in May, it appears that Lorillard filed for a trademark of “Blu Nation” which it planned to use for its Blu electronic cigarette customer loyalty program. Now it seems the University of Kentucky is fighting the application as it claims the trademark will infringe on their “Big Blue Nation” trademark — which they’ve had since 2004.
The fight could be a tough one for both sides.
While UK’s trade mark has existed for longer, it is often very difficult to defend descriptive word trademarks. Big Blue Nation could apply to any large national group that uses blue as its signifying color. It’s be like owning a store called the Large Hat Store and then suing anyone that creates a Hat Store.
At the same time, Blu Nation is, one might argue, reasonably different in both spelling and use. They also apply to completely different campaigns — a primarily sports based fan phrase versus as fairly confined consumer loyalty program. Trademarks are allowed to overlap if they apply to different areas. So there can be a Bob’s Retail Outlet and a Bob’s Hair and Nail Salon at the same time. Want a real life example? How about Njoy — which is used by both an electronic cigarette brand and an adult toy company.
But the UK is focusing on the argument that the new trademark will dilute the value Big Blue Nation and possibly even tarnish it by associating the two together. This could be a successful argument if the arbitrators accept that relating electronic cigarette use to something does in fact “tarnish” its value. Thus far, there’s no evidence e-cigs deserve this kind of treatment — though Lorillard as a primarily tobacco cigarette company probably does.
Meanwhile, Lorillard may have a difficult fight as well. Often trademark fights are simply determined by who got there first. And no matter how neutral the arbiters might suggest they’re being, it may be difficult for them to side with a tobacco company over a university in any dispute without angering a great many educational and anti-smoking advocacy groups and citizens. Even a compromise might be spun as a win for Big Tobacco.
You can read more about the fight right here.
The Warrington Wolves is a rugby team based in Warrington, England. Some time ago, leadership (like that at many sports clubs) decided to ban electronic cigarette and vapor device use as part of their anti-smoking policy. But with the signing of a new sponsorship deal with e-cig company Truvape, the club rescinded its decision and is now both allowing vaping on the premises and is selling Wolves-branded electronic cigarettes in its shops.
Club representatives focused primarily on the health aspects of the decision rather than the financial upside for the club. In short, allowing smoking fans the option of e-cigs would cut down on the harm they do to themselves and any bystanding non-smoking fans.
According to the Wolves’ commercial manager, “We are firmly committed to helping our fans make informed choices, particularly when it comes to health and fitness. Obviously the best option is to never smoke at all, but as a percentage of our fans are already smokers, we are pleased to be able to encourage them to consider switching to alternatives…”
Though he admitted the original ban was set as a just in case precaution against the new industry, leadership at the club has since learned more and believe allowing the purchase and use of e-cigs is ultimately a good thing for their fans’ health. I’m sure Truvape made sure the club knew everything there was to know about the products before jumping into the deal. Meanwhile, it can’t hurt that reportedly more than 2 million people in the UK have switched to electronic cigarettes.
This is not the first club to allow vaping nor is it the first to place a ban and then rescind it. But now that marketing and advertising budgets for the industry are becoming more robust, it’s likely more changing like this will be made in the future.
Of course it’s easy to view this change skeptically and critically and assume it’s all about the money. Perhaps the Wolves leadership just have dollar signs for eyes. But even if this is the case, profit can be a great motivator to do the right thing — in this case, providing fans with a less harmful alternative to smoking. Meanwhile, the club is likely to breed less ill will among smoking fans as it shows there is a compromise alternative available.
A lot of states are starting to salivate at the thought of taxing the rapidly growing electronic cigarette and vapor products market. Some aim for a nearly 100% tax on the products. Often the argument is that the products should be taxed to reduce use smokers and prevent consumers from becoming new nicotine addicts. Meanwhile, most critics call these tax proposals nothing more than a shortsighted money grab.
The latest state to join in on the money grab appears to be Indiana. New legislation proposed there would not only treat e-cigs as tobacco cigarettes for the purposes of marketing and use bans and restrictions, but would also tax all wholesale transactions of the products by 24%. State Attorney General Greg Zoeller is backing the bill and has already told reporters that he hopes it will “stop the trend in its tracks.”
The bill is sponsored by State Reps. Edward Clere (R-New Albany) and Charlie Brown (D-Gary) — which is unusual. Often, hefty regs for e-cigs are a partisan topic — democrats for tight regs and republicans against. In this case, a democrat and a republican are working together on the bill. It seems likely they both expect to win points with constituents by claiming they’re saving kids and fighting the tobacco big bads.
You can read more about the bill here.
Most recently, Washington state leaders began pushing for a 95% tax on the market. Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont have all considered or are considering such a tax. Meanwhile, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina have all enact some type of tax aimed at electronic cigarettes, vapor products, or the nicotine sold for their use. So this is not an uncommon push.
The reasoning isn’t as sound as the backers of these bills might hope. Those looking to snuff out the industry are unlikely to do so with these taxes. Similar taxes on cigarettes haven’t stopped very many from smoking and often send smokers to other places — including the black market — for their fix. Historically, sin taxes and harsh regs against things otherwise up to free adults to use don’t go over very well.
At the same time, there isn’t really any evidence that the industry needs to be stopped. So far, market research and scientific studies show that an open market for electronic cigarettes results in a reduction in smoking and a significant decline in the harm caused by nicotine use. If anything, helping the e-cig market seems likely to dramatically reduce smoking — by helping smokers quit and keeping those that would begin smoking from doing so by offering a safer alternative.