Following a summit organized largely through E-Cigarette Forum (ECF), James Dunworth at Ashtray Blog put together some cliff notes on the debate over whether electronic cigarettes should be classified as medicine. Dunworth does a rather nice job of keeping things balanced between the two sides — of which there are merits for both.
You can check out the article right here.
Dunworth gives more than just a few bullet points on each side too. He digs in enough to clarify the points and provide a much clearer understanding of the debate at hand.
Pieces like this are good for the industry. They provide the community with a much clearer understanding of what’s going on and equip them with the arguments they need to support their side.
This is even good for ourselves and our U.S.-based community members to have a look at. Many of the same arguments apply to the debate at hand with the U.S. Fo0d and Drug Administration.
It’s also common occurrence that U.S. policy takes notes from debates and decisions made in other countries (this happens more often than we might like to admit). The debate over medical classification of electronic cigarettes in London (and even the E.U.) is likely to infect decisions and the direction of policy in the U.S.
Dunworth presents the arguments without a lot of judgement and baggage. Some are harder to do that with than others. We’ll take a closer look at some of them soon.
It’s not always easy to explain electronic cigarettes to people unfamiliar with the new industry — or those even more disconnected from the tech, non-smokers. Countless members of the community have attempted to explain the technology in unique and accessible ways, but there’s one metaphor we’ve heard that seems to do quite the trick.
Imagine that tobacco cigarettes are a horse and buggy. They’re old, out-dated, dirty, the horses can be ornery and dangerous, but for whatever reason, nothing better has come along since they first appeared around the 9th century (cigarettes came about around then, not buggies).
But then suddenly comes along the modern automobile equivalent — electronic cigarettes. It takes a centuries old technology and spruces it up into a modern day version which many horse and buggy drivers wouldn’t think twice about switching to — they’d just do it. And once the switch is made, few look to switch back.
This is not far off from the circumstances of electronic cigarettes. It’s not often that a technology nearly 12 centuries old gets a modern remake nearly overnight. The advent of electronic cigarettes has and is happening over a little less than a decade. And the change in technology is less of a slight upgrade and more of a total overhaul.
The horse and buggy metaphor can be used to show the stark different between the two products, but it can also be used to argue two significant points about the new technology that aren’t always easy to tackle.
First, electronic cigarettes are rapidly proving themselves not to be a gateway to smoking. Many public health and anti-smoking family groups argue that they could be a gateway and the possibility alone warrants hefty regulations. But speaking on the horse and buggy metaphor, how many people would choose to go back to a horse and buggy after using a real car? Even further, how many people, after using a car for the first time, would be likely to move on to a horse and buggy and stick with it? Very few, if any.
Second, the horse and buggy metaphor illustrates the need for a new infrastructure, regulatory architecture, and general approach to the new technology. The age of cars requires new roads, new traffic laws, new methods of enforcement, and just about new everything else. The same systems that allowed mass use of horses and buggies won’t suffice for mass use of cars, trucks, and vans.
This helps convey the need for drastically newer, different, and appropriate regulation, enforcement, and safety measures. Electronic cigarettes are so far different and removed from conventional tobacco cigarettes that the same rules and systems simple can’t apply appropriately. It seems many regulators are beginning to come around to this idea.
It always helps to have a nice metaphor in your back pocket. We’ve heard e-cigs compared to coffee, french fries, illegal drugs, and more.
Have you heard any good one lately?
There’s quite a lot of finger pointing going on in the face of FDA regulation. Many community members and industry leaders want someone to blame for the fact that e-cigs are on the FDA’s radar. Others still are not shy about calling out individuals and companies for making the rest of the industry or community look bad.
Electronic cigarette shops will most likely need to up their game as opponents shine a spotlight on them looking for things to complain about. Often, these issues and mistakes fall on more than an individual shop — they are placed on the industry at large. So one sale of an e-cig to a minor by a single careless shop clerk turns into “The e-cig industry sells its products to children.”
But even those caught selling their products to minors tend to agree that they shouldn’t have (regardless of the legality of such). Another issue is a little more hazy — one that some shops are for and others are against. There are a lot of electronic cigarette shops mixing e-liquid on-site for customers. A customer requests a particular blend of flavor and nicotine concentration and someone in the shop mixes the liquid right there (sometimes even right in front of the customer).
Now this can be done with care, quality, and professionalism in mind. The concern, however, is how it looks and how appropriate it actually is to provide this kind of service on site. Like any issue, this is one with solid arguments on both sides.
The arguments against are mostly fairly obvious. It appears that most of the individuals performing these mixing duties have no formal training, certification, or education on what is necessary to keep the process clean, accurate, and efficient. Some have even said they know their mixes by smell. Even the simplest food preparation jobs usually require a brief training course in food safety. If the mixing is occurring right in front of the customer, then it seems unlikely the mixer is even washing his or her hands first.
Even assuming that all necessary precautions are taken and quality is ensured, it looks like something that should be more tightly regulated and controlled. Let us not forget that the liquid they mix does end up in someone’s lungs and that is a place no one wants a contaminated product. There is also concern that patrons could be getting a good bit more or a good bit less nicotine than they think that they are.
The arguments in support of on-site flavor mixing breakdown on two sides — for the business and for the customer. Small businesses benefit from the ability to mix their flavors on site because they don’t have to maintain a highly diverse stock of flavors matching all possible nicotine concentration. The ability to mix on-site affords small businesses a level of flexibility.
On the customer side of things, liquid mixing on-site offers a level of service and support some customers really love. Whether you’re asking for raspberry chocolate, heavy on the raspberry, or want a mint flavor that kicks your nose in the teeth, e-liquids aren’t the kind of thing that need to be perfect. Every customer wants something different.
Mixing service is a luxury at the moment. Without it, special requests, variety, and a distinctly higher level of interaction with the e-cig shop staff goes away. Let us not forget that e-liquid doesn’t contain the kind of highly active drugs and ingredients that would require precise measurement in mixing. We don’t require coffee shops to scientifically measure and distribute coffee based on caffeine concentrations. Why should we with e-cig shops and e-liquid?
Lastly, something many electronic cigarette users have come to realize — e-liquid has a shelf-life. It don’t turn the way milk or fruit does, but it certainly begins to fall apart, separate, or generally stale after a while. Again, this means mixing on-site offers a better product (something fresh that hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for weeks).
Regardless of what happens, many shops will still likely need to review their cleanliness and quality processes. If nothing else, mixing in a back room looks a little more official than doing it in front of customers.
What do you think? Should shops be allowed to mix on-site and in front of customers?
Regulators in Italy were pushing forward a set of rules that would outlaw use of electronic cigarettes just about everywhere — bars, theaters, restaurants, and much more. However, a surprise move struck said restrictions from the decree and only banned e-cig use in schools.
According to some of the most involved decision-makers, the change wasn’t an oversight at all. In fact, the change happened primarily because electronic cigarettes are “‘not smoking but vaporising.” It seems that after looking at the facts — and doubtlessly after talking to University of Catania expert Riccardo Polosa — regulators decided electronic cigarettes were not due the same treatment as tobacco cigarettes.
Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin even spoke out against European Union efforts to classify the devices as medicine. It certainly seems much of Italy is starting to see the light where electronic cigarettes are concerned.
And this could actually bode very well for American vapers. Regulators do not make decisions here without considering the movement happening in other places. Italy could be leading the way to a pro-electronic cigarette EU. A pro-electronic cigarette EU could lead to a pro-electronic cigarette FDA. We’ve certainly seen crazier things.
Just this past Sunday a Vaper ran the New York Marathon whilst vaping all along the way.
Electronic cigarette companies may be averse to discussing the possible health benefits of transitioning from smoking to vaping, but the customers tend to be a little less bashful on the subject. Most will waste hardly a moment explaining the product before launching into all the improvements cutting smoke out of their lives has had.
Research into ex-smoking vapers tends to report overall improvements in ability to smell and taste, capacity for exercise, endurance, breathing, and even sex drive. Meanwhile, common side effects of smoking tend to diminish. This includes smoker’s cough, urge-related stress, smokey odor, and more. This has given many e-cig users a second chance to live healthy and active lives.
Thus comes the active lifestyle or clean living vaper.
Smokers are told constantly about the health repercussions of the choice they make to smoke. Presumably, smoking-related complications eventually kill half of all smokers. Even those smokers that survive smoking’s effects feel the impact of the damage done to their lungs — making even a single flight of stairs a herculean effort for some. All this tends to endure years of attempts to quit sometimes burning up thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on the effort.
In face of what can feel like such a hopeless downward spiral into lung, heart, and even brain disease, it’s easy to lose ground in other areas of health-conscious living. This certainly isn’t the case for all smokers (I’m met plenty far more healthy than I), but it’s definitely a story most of us have seen or heard.
Then comes electronic cigarettes. There’s still quite a lot of debate on the subject of electronic cigarettes and their effects on users. But some 50 studies, countless personal stories from consumers, and preliminary expert review of the products suggest that they can replace tobacco cigarettes, cut out 99% of the damage, and still fulfill the addictive urges of their users. Again, many report massive and often almost immediate improvements in health and body function (again, not necessarily the case for everyone, but common enough to be of note).
For many, this change is so unexpected and so awe inspiring, that they become the kind of active people they never thought they could be. Some, having smoked for decades, never even though climbing a few flights of stairs was within their grasp.
The electronic cigarette market has its ultra-fanatic do-it-yourselfers, anti-nicotine cloud-devourers, casual bar-night disposables crowd, and many more subcultures. This is rapidly becoming a full-fledged part of the vaping world.
Criminal defense attorney and vapory lounge owner Jim Oliver made quite the statement by vaping throughout his run of the New York Marathon this past Sunday. Oliver ran the full 26.2 miles in about 5 hours, all the while vaping and answering questions about the habit.
Oliver is a partner at the law firm Durflinger Oliver & Associates in in Tacoma, Washington. He also owns and operates the Steampunk Vapory Lounge in the same city.
Oliver is part of a growing community of what you might call clean living or active lifestyle vapers. He’s a member of the Marathon Maniac Running Club and is considering the launch of a running vapers group, club, or what have you.
People like Jim are putting a unique face on the vaping community. He’s now run more than 30 marathons, but the New York Marathon was his first vape run. Response was so positive though that he’s going to make vaping during runs common practice.
Kudos to Jim on a great performance.
Two studies recently released on electronic cigarettes had fairly positive results. One looked into the habits and actions of electronic cigarette users while the other looked into the effect electronic cigarette vapor constituents had on heart cells.
The first study comes from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers joined with the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and followed electronic cigarette user behavior for a full year.
You can read about the study right here.
The short version is that electronic cigarette users that had managed to quit smoking had a very low rate of relapse back into smoking (around 6%). At the same time, electronic cigarette use appeared to contribute to a higher rate of smoking cessation. The researchers concluded that electronic cigarettes were likely to both assist with smoking cessation and ongoing use may prevent relapse back into smoking.
This is promising because even the best “approved” quit methods are now appearing to fail to prevent relapse. Some experts put the smoking relapse rate around 99% of ex-smokers. If electronic cigarettes can not only help people quit, be keep them away from smoking again, they may rapidly prove to be the best quit method on the market as more research is done.
The second study came from Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a common name in e-cig research and support based out of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece. The study looked at the cytotoxic properties (that is, the likelihood of causing cell death) of extracted cigarette smoke and electronic cigarette vapor on cultured cardiomyblasts (heart cells).
You can read about the study right here.
Researchers found that although electronic cigarette exhibit a small degree of cytotoxicity, it was only at relatively high concentrations and well below the standard ISO 10993-5 definition of cytotoxicity (a national standard used to determine whether something should by considered cytotoxic). All cigarette smoke samples were considered cytotoxic according to the same standard.
This is far from the first study to show electronic cigarette vapor to be miles away less dangerous than cigarette smoke. But this is the first we’ve seen to look specifically at the effects on heart cells. Overall, these bits of research are the kinds that can help determine that electronic cigarettes may not pose longterm danger without needing to wait 10 to 20 years to find out.
Extraordinary. Simply Extraordinary.
There’s a kind of mischievous smile that walks across my face when someone tickles my competitive bone. The right side of my face pulls my mouth into a smirk and my left eyebrow will often flick up with interest. There is an enthusiasm behind that smile that is difficult to describe.
Yesterday, I stood in a room with roughly 30 other people that all had a version of that smile on their faces. The energy, the atmosphere, and, most of all, the people were all quite extraordinary.
We were all decompressing after a full day of advocating across Capital Hill as part of SFATA’s Day on the Hill event. SFATA is the largest U.S.-based smokeless alternatives (i.e. e-cig) industry trade organization. Its membership (now close to 50 global members) represents a category of vapor companies looking to act responsibly and be treated fairly. The goal of the event was to convey a need for sensible and deliberate regulatory action for the electronic cigarette industry.
But, before even that, we wanted representatives, staffers, and various committee members to recognize one thing — that the electronic cigarette industry at large is not simply the actions or statements of one or two errant entities or the misleading interpretations put forth by anti-smoking fanatics. The e-cig industry is a robust market of small, medium, and large companies, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers that exist at a town, city, state, and national level. But at the core are individuals. Many of those individuals simply want to know that their voice can be heard and their concerns can be considered.
SFATA’s Fly-In (an industry organized advocacy event) was my own first experience with D.C. advocacy (a less stigmatized word for lobbying). Even so, I’ve seen the disaster that poor planning and lacking preparation can bring. This was a particular concern as most e-cig operations only formed in the last few years and the industry at large has perhaps less experience than even myself when it comes to advocacy.
Fortunately, the first full day (Monday the 4th) was dedicated to preparing for a day of meetings to follow on Tuesday. SFATA’s supporting lawyer outfit, Venable, provided nearly 6 hours of presentations, coaching, Q&A time, and more on what to expect. It sounds a lot more boring than it actually was. The industry is still so much the wild west. There’s constantly new information and new goings on to consider. I, for one, will not be lacking interesting topics to cover for at least the next month.
A reception that evening provided a much more casual opportunity to find out what everyone else is doing, share war stories from the political, commercial, or community trenches, and generally find out who else is out there. Some Washington staffers and media showed up to find out a little more about the industry and SFATA. If nothing else, it helped most of the folks in attendance flesh out the conversations they were planning to have the following day.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t an uphill battle (Hah! A Capital Hill pun!) in front of its members — of which about 30-40 were in attendance for the event. An article in The Hill (a local DC news outlet) over the weekend talked about the Fly-In, but was misinterpreted by many as saying that SFATA and the e-cig industry was looking to avoid regulation entirely (it’s not). On Monday, the Committee on Energy and Commerce publicly patted itself on the back for sending a letter to the FDA warning that e-cig companies were targeting kids with marketing and advertising campaigns similar to previous tobacco efforts. And, no matter what, many individuals still view electronic cigarettes, nicotine, smoking, Big Tobacco, cigarettes, and even lung cancer as an amorphous, synonymous blob.
I was privileged enough to sit in on 3 meetings and I heard about goings on in a great many more. Generally, the response was positive. Even the most die hard anti-electronic cigarette candidates and staffers smiled, shook hands, and laid the groundwork for future compromise.
That many visiting SFATA members had never before found an issue important enough for them to hike all the way to D.C. and talk to a representative went a long way. These were not owners of massive businesses (some larger than others) talking to reps through lawyer-speak and encoded offers of campaign support or lobbying. These were owners often of 10-50 person operations asking for little more than patience while the science catches up to the product.
One staffer put it really well, but in the absence of a direct quote, I’ll paraphrase — we spend a lot of resources trying to be first when we should spend them trying to be right — and that’s what these business owners were asking. Take a breath, look at the research, the industry, the people, and create the right regulatory structure rather than shoving the industry under an umbrella that clashes with its suit just so you can say “Well, at least it’s out of the rain.” That might not be the best metaphor, but it was a long event.
But to get back to the overall response, it was mostly a positive one. One very hostile staffer said her representative (again, paraphrasing) wasn’t willing to manipulate legislation just so someone can get a big paycheck. Aside from that one instance though, meetings were very productive. Some staffers even had friends and family manage to transition from smoking to electronic cigarettes. Nothing could beat that as a springboard for meaningful conversation. The products, they speak for themselves.
For the members, this was more than just a visit to a city to speak with someone about their company. It was an opportunity to participate in national politics, no matter the size or significance of their role. No matter how much you might start to feel like Congress, politicians, and the government don’t care about you, the individual you, there is a bug that gets under your skin when you realize your voice can be heard. There’s certainly red tape, barriers, complexities, and complications involved, but they can be overcome.
Because this is a rare piece in which I can speak as a true participant in the story and an advocate for the industry, I would like to thank all involved for taking the discussions in D.C. to a new level. As much as these events are by the industry and for the industry, community support is vital. Neither side can exist in a vacuum. While SFATA is arguing for industry, economy, and jobs, community and consumer groups like CASAA provide the kind of grassroots momentum you just can’t buy. For the same reason, community support for industry events is as valuable as industry support for community events.
My deepest thanks to all involved, and Godspeed.
After the ill-timed government shutdown last month, the SFATA organized Washington Fly-In was rescheduled to early this month. This coming Monday and Tuesday (the 4th and 5th of November), e-cig trade organization SFATA, electronic cigarette industry leaders, and yours truly will be in D.C. meeting with representatives to advocate for fair and business friendly regulation of the electronic cigarette industry.
Fly-Ins are something trade and industry groups often organize to advocate for a business-friendly response to current issues. In this case, visitors will be speaking with decision-makers on the Hill about how electronic cigarette regulations can be both effective at protecting consumers but also reasonable enough to allow small companies to remain in business.
Current FDA regulatory sensibilities would classify electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. In addition to applying a laundry list of flavor, advertising, and sales bans, high taxes, and retail barriers, this would effectively hand control of the industry to only the largest of companies. All the work small companies did making the electronic cigarette market a robust and lively one, would be repaid with forced closures and impossible to follow business practice standards.
And so enters the Fly-In. Not only will it help shape the future of dialogue between the electronic cigarette industry and regulators, but the meetings and discussions had may well foreshadow what the next year or two has in store for the community.
I’ll be on the ground there reporting as much as possible.
A new study is demolishing one of the biggest arguments against electronic cigarettes to date. The study found that out of 1,300 college students only 43 popped their nicotine cherry (that is, used nicotine for the first time) with electronic cigarettes. Of that 43, only one went on to smoke tobacco cigarettes.
This means only a single individual out of 1,300 walked the path that might suggest gateway use. It seems likely that the individual would have ended up smoking regardless of the role e-cigs might have played in their first nicotine experience.
If anything, this suggests that electronic cigarette use allowed individuals to experiment with nicotine without getting hooked. Normally smoking rates around college age range from 15-20 percent. A random sampling of 43 college students would normally show 6 to 9 smokers. Out of this group of 43, only 1 (or 2.3%) smoker turned up.
According to one of the researchers, “It didn’t seem as though [electronic cigarettes] really proved to be a gateway to anything.” A vast majority the 43 individuals reported not currently using any kind of nicotine product regularly.
You can read more about the study right here.
The findings from the study were announced at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Although they require undergoing a review process before they can be accepted, the preliminary results look promising. Not only does it appear electronic cigarettes don’t serve as a gateway, they also don’t appear to ensnare users in the powerful grip of nicotine addiction in the way that tobacco cigarettes do.
Claims about the gateway effects of drugs and dangerous products have been used in scare tactics for a long time. Its much easier to claim that one thing might lead to another than to prove that it doesn’t. There’s more on the gateway effect right here.
We’ll have more on this study once it get’s published.
It’s not surprising that some of the most extensive articles on the electronic cigarette industry tend to focus on the companies behind it. They are the ones plunging the most money into public relations. While organizations like CASAA (an e-cig consumer advocate group) might be deserving of coverage for their work in the political trenches, the major companies are the ones out looking for the best ways to become the iconic e-cig brand that everyone has heard of.
NJOY has been among the most successful to that end so far. The company — which took much of market merely by being just about everywhere — has been working to be seen as the growing underdog of the industry. That’s a little true when put up against the massive goliath tobacco companies Lorillard, Philip Morris, and R.J. Reynolds that have joined the e-cig industry looking to make up for lost cigarette sales. It is a little less true, however, by comparison to the entirety of the rest of the e-cig market — which, many analysts agree, NJOY dominates.
This past week, NJOY made another major step towards becoming synonymous with electronic cigarettes when an extensive piece on the e-cig industry came from the New York Times and spent almost all its time looking only at NJOY. You can read the article right here.
This is hardly the first piece like this to come out of the NJOY PR machine. And kudos to them. The company has been seemingly working from day one with a very aggressive strategy to get it’s product to be the brand people think of when they think of electronic cigarettes.
Certainly that’s not the case for most individuals that are heavily involved in the community, the market, and the habit. But NJOY is doing a good job being the first brand people see as soon as they hear about electronic cigarettes for the first time. And that’s a valuable beachhead in the war for customers.
A lot of the major tobacco companies reported their third quarter stats for 2013 just recently and there’s a certain trend showing up across the board. It seems everyone is reporting a decline in tobacco (specifically cigarette) sales.
Cigarette sales have been on the decline since around 1982. But around 2005, the decline plateaued a bit. But in the last couple years (interestingly, as e-cigs have grown into a national industry), the trending decline in tobacco use has returned. How much?
Altria (the company behind Philip Morris) reported a 3.6% decline in cigarette revenue in the U.S. over the first 3 quarters of the year. The company sited the industry-wide rate of decline as the primary culprit behind the sales drop.
For the same period, Reynolds American reported a 6.3% decline in R.J. Reynolds cigarette sales. In the same report, Reynolds claimed that the highlight of the quarter was Reynold’s VUSE, its stab at the electronic cigarette market. The VUSE is currently focused on Colorado as a testing ground for the product. Reynold’s claims that the VUSE has already established market leadership in the state.
Meanwhile, Lorillard (the tobacco company that purchased Blu eCigs) seems to have saved itself from much of the market decline, reporting only 0.2% U.S. cigarette sales between these past 3 quarters and the same quarters last year. The decline from 2012′s third quarter to 2013′s however was closer to 2.7%. That still hurts, but the company is certainly doing well diminishing the pain with its e-cig business — which grew from $14 million in the third quarter of 2012 to $63 million this quarter.
British American Tobacco stuck more solidly with the trend set by Altria and Reynolds however. It reported a 3 quarter decline in cigarette sales of 3.2%. It also claimed that sale increased in a number of countries despite declines in Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Egypt and Western Europe.
It’s no wonder the tobacco companies seem to be scrambling to take advantage of the rising electronic cigarette market. If things continue as they have been for tobacco, these companies will have to diversify to maintain the size they’ve become.
In the absence of a government shutdown, it seems that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is back to work pushing regulation forward on electronic cigarettes. According to an email electronic cigarette trade organization SFATA sent out to its members, drafts of the FDA’s deeming regulations have been sent over to the Office of Management and Budget at the White House for review.
If passed, the deeming regulation (as last claimed by the FDA) would classify electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. This would place regulatory control of the products in the hands of the FDA as part of its control of all tobacco products. Most likely this would also mean hefty taxes, testing and quality barriers, advertising and flavor bans, restrictions on who can sell them, packaging requirements, internet sales bans, and other elaborately designed obstructions. This would most likely ruin small (well, smaller than huge that is) electronic cigarette businesses and hand the industry almost entirely to the biggest three tobacco companies (Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard).
By law, the review must be completed within 90 days. Following final OMB approval, the proposal will be published to the Federal Register and the public will be given a time frame within which it must submit any comments to be considered. This time frame is likely to be 60 days. The FDA is required to review and analyze these comments before making its final decision.
This is not as much time as we might think. All said and done, regulation could easily be pushed through by the end of next year. It might even take another industry shaking set of lawsuits against the FDA to keep it from ruining the industry — like it did in 2008 and 2009 when the FDA banned electronic cigarettes without any real evidence that they deserved it.
We’ll keep you up to date as we learn more.
There’s almost always an excuse to write a bit on the clarifications needed in the electronic cigarette debate. Pick a day of the week and it’s likely that that day, possibly even that hour, a story is being published with a slant against electronic cigarettes that fails to appropriately tackle, describe, and dismantle the little devices.
The most common mistake is making nicotine out to be the sole bad guy in the massive equation that leads from cigarette smoking to death. Nicotine is not a perfect substance. it does cause some heart problems with excessive use, it can lead to pregnancy complications, and is highly addictive. But then, the same can be said about caffeine, which increases blood pressure, impacts fetal development, and is also highly addictive.
But the level of harm caused by these two substances is actually quite small when taken by themselves. This is why we don’t see (as much) national efforts to keep kids away from caffeine, campaigns to demonize the products that contain it and the companies that push it, and people don’t think twice about a lifetime addicted to the stuff. Want to learn more? Just check out this video on the stuff.
Nicotine isn’t that much different. The problem is that the majority of people get their nicotine from smoking cigarettes. So when, say, Dr. Aw of the National Post writes about his concern that electronic cigarettes make indulging a nicotine addiction that much easier, it hard for most people to see the problem with the argument. In their minds, nicotine and smoking are one and the same. But Dr. Aw is using a flawed argument. If nicotine can be obtained without the smoke, that saves an individual from the 10,000 to 100,000 constituents they’d be getting with cigarette smoke.
Dr. Aw also worries that electronic cigarettes will complement smoking rather than supplement it. By that, he means the 76% of e-cig users that also smoke are getting the harm of both. But any level of smoking reduction is a good thing — and research is showing that very few (some say around 2%) of e-cig users maintain duel use. Those that do usually cut their smoking by 50 to 100%.
Most researchers and experts agree that e-cigs only really pose 1% of the risk that conventional cigarettes do. So if a smoker replaces half their smoking with electronic cigarette use, it looks like they’d be cutting the harm done to them by about 49.5%.
The point to be made here is that the terminology needs to be clear. Smoking cessation without nicotine cessation is far more likely for most smokers and still cuts out 99% of the damage. That should be a far more immediate concern for the general public than trying to cut out use of nicotine entirely — a much more difficult fight and far less worth the effort.
This past Friday, national Fox stations Fox News and Fox Business both ran pieces about electronic cigarettes. Fox News ran a somewhat fluffy piece on the first vaporium (e-cig bar/shop) in Manhattan while Fox Business ran an interview with Victory Electronic Cigarette company CEO Brent Willis. As a refreshing change of pace from other pieces that have run recently, both presented electronic cigarettes as an opportunity for smokers rather than a danger to everyone.
The Fox News piece takes a look at the Henley Vaporium, a vape lounge in the Soho area of New York City. The piece doesn’t dig too deep on the topic — and it doesn’t need to. Mostly, it covers the impressive new trend and enthusiasm for a way to “smoke without smoking” and enjoy the act in places that New York laws have banned smoking from for years.
Perhaps most unique about the piece is the focus the interviewer puts on his ability to use a zero nicotine electronic cigarette, given that he’s not a smoker. Even as the majority of people in the U.S. have come to know of electronic cigarettes, many still are surprised to hear that zero nicotine is an option. Although some opponents will point to this as a potential gateway for people — leading them from “harmless” zero nicotine use to some nicotine use to outright smoking — it’s more likely that people will use low and zero nicotine electronic cigarettes as a way to step away from the drug rather than towards it.
The Fox Business piece delved a little more deeply into the arguments surrounding electronic cigarettes. But like the Fox News piece, it has an interesting moment that people should see more. The CEO admits that he’s not a smoker — probably having something to do with his father passing away due to smoking complications from a 3-packs-a-day habit. But as a non-smoker he expresses a wish to help people who have thus far been unable to quit. He believes the products can help.
Non-smokers are primed to hate smoking and look down on smokers. And yet, they tend to be the one’s pushing regulations, making decisions about smoking policies, and controlling when smoking is acceptable. Smokers are by no means a majority. Many tend to be ostracized for the habit. Many non-smokers won’t take anything a smoker says about the habit seriously — often assuming it’s just the words and excuses of an addict.
Unfortunately that means in some circles only non-smoking representatives of electronic cigarettes will be heard. Willis is one of those representatives. Yes, he has a business agenda, but as a non-smoker, he wouldn’t be in the industry if he didn’t see true opportunity.
Common to so many statements against electronic cigarettes is the claim that the tobacco industry is behind the electronic cigarette industry, one and the same with it, using it to initiate a new generation of smokers, or using it to offer smokers a new way to stay addicted but feel better about their habit. This comes up almost every week, but most recently can be found in a statement from heads of the American Lung Association.
People are primed and conditioned to hate the tobacco industry, Big Tobacco, and cigarettes. So electronic cigarette opponents aim to use an individual’s distaste for that industry and the act of smoking to create an uneasiness with regard to e-cigs. The goal is simple — prevent e-cigs from catching fire with the populous.
But electronic cigarettes are only tangentially connected to tobacco. Yes, all three major U.S.-based tobacco companies are now producing and selling their own version of electronic cigarette — but that’s three out of an estimated 250 different electronic cigarette brands out there right now. The vast majority of those brands come from companies that have nothing to do with tobacco — most are even small businesses and largely solo endeavors from people that saw opportunity in the products when they themselves learned of a new way to consume nicotine without smoking.
Electronic cigarettes can hardly be considered tobacco products. They contain only nicotine — a drug found in a number of natural plants and vegetables. That nicotine can be derived from tobacco, but it can also be derived from eggplants, potatoes, and even created in a pharmaceutical laboratory.
As electronic cigarette advertising, marketing, and branding campaigns have launched, many opponents claim that this is just a new way to advertise smoking to youth. They claim this is a product that exists just about solely to create a loophole in some 40 years of tobacco product advertising bans.
They neglect to realize a major flaw in this view. Electronic cigarettes entered the American market around 2007 and 2008 largely under the efforts of private companies and China-based mail order programs pushed online. The big three tobacco companies (Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard) only really entered the mix over the last 3 years — and after some debate and ruckus over whether the products were worthwhile. A Phillip Morris representative even presented on why the products were doomed to fail.
The point is that tobacco industry sins from 40 years ago and even those from right now shouldn’t apply to the growing electronic cigarette industry. Even if the e-cig industry ends up largely under the control of companies that are currently tobacco companies (as claimed by some analysts), that doesn’t mean both industries should be treated the same.
A collaborative opinion piece from American Lung Association heads Harold Wimmer and Ross Lanzafame slams electronic cigarettes with all the same ridiculous claims we’ve seen before. But it’s rare we see them as tightly packed as they appear here.
The piece, titled Flavored electronic cigarettes are forging a new pathway to addiction, death and disease, makes little effort to present a balanced view. It also contradicts itself at several points.
Here’s the essential points it argues:
- Based on the CDC’s (misleading and probably wrong) numbers from last month, 1.78 million middle and high school students use electronic cigarettes.
- In the absence of regulation, the tobacco industry is free to promote e-cigs to kids using flavors like cotton candy and atomic fireball.
- Aggressive marketing of e-cigs to teens is achieving “alarming success.”
- Kids ensnared by electronic cigarettes may be condemned to a lifelong addiction to nicotine and smoking.
The article mentions plenty of sideline arguments and points that we’ve argued against for years now, but these are the essential points made about kids using the products.
The CDC numbers that the article calls to only figured the number of kids that had ever tried electronic cigarettes. So maybe 1.78 million middle and high school students have tried e-cigs, but that says nothing of the number engaging in ongoing use. Many experts have already claimed these number provide almost no useful evidence other than showing that kids who smoke are the ones likely to try e-cigs. So far, there’s no evidence that kids do or will start from e-cigs and move to smoking.
The article raises one flag that contradicts its effort to villainize the electronic cigarette industry. It mentions that there are some 250 e-cig brands on the market, and that they likely represent a wide range of chemical components — and therefore a wide range of harm profiles. This contradicts two major parts of their arguments.
First, if there are so many e-cig brands out there, how can the the e-cig industry be use synonymously with the tobacco industry? They are not the same.
Second, with so many brands, the marketing efforts, flavor varieties, and overall business plan of any one isn’t representative of the industry as a whole. We’ve yet to see an e-cig company actively work towards sales to minors. Do some offer flavors that might appeal to kids? Yes. But so do alcohol companies. We have to hope our society is mature enough to enjoy things that should only be for adults without placing the blame on product sellers with kids work around the system to get a hold of their stuff.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen so ridiculous a rundown of the anti-e-cig arguments. It won’t be the last.
A national survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services has damn near contradicted just about everything opponents of electronic cigarettes are claiming. Despite the industry nearing roughly $1.7 billion in sales this year and countless youth smoking watch dogs claiming that e-cigs re-normalize smoking and initiate youth into the habit, smoking rates across the board are on the decline.
The survey found that from 2011 to 2012, instances of past month smoking (that is, individuals that had smoked within the last month of responding) among 12- to 17-year-olds dropped from 7.8 percent to 6.6 percent.
This really isn’t all that surprising. Youth smoking rates have been on the decline for a while. In 2002, the past month use for the same age group was a solid 13%. So someone somewhere is doing something right.
Anti-smoking fanatics are likely to call this a track record of success. They’ll use these kinds of results as proof that they know what they’re doing and follow up with something like, “So trust us when we say e-cigs are bad.” But really, who says they were the ones that made these declines happen.
Really, no one can say exactly what has contributed to the decline in smoking and smoking initiation rates. There’s a lot of programs, campaigns, new tools and therapies, and — let us not forget — electronic cigarettes on the market. Many of these may have contributed a part to the decline, but it also possible some of them contributed nothing to it. For instance, adding a surgeon general warning to cigarette packs may have helped, but so many other strategies have been implemented in tandem that we can’t know if that one change made any difference.
What we can say is that the decline we’ve seen for the last decade doesn’t appear to be slowing down now the electronic cigarettes are on the market. If nothing else, they appear to be speeding it up.
The ongoing debate over electronic cigarettes has led to some pretty wild and conflicting assumptions, statements, and arguments over the devices. Some of them hinge on whether they deliver too much nicotine or too little or possibly none at all.
Older arguments tended to claim e-cigs don’t successfully deliver nicotine to the user and that this makes them poor alternatives to tobacco cigarettes — mostly because they don’t successfully sate cravings. Newer arguments say that electronic cigarette deliver more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes and that this makes them poor alternatives — mostly because they reinforce and perpetuate nicotine addiction.
So which is it? Research is suggesting it’s closer to somewhere in the middle. The reality is that tobacco cigarettes have been so refined over the decades upon decades they’ve been around, that almost nothing can deliver nicotine as efficiently as they do. They even go so far as to include constituents that blister and deteriorate the lining in your lungs so that your body can’t block as much of the nicotine from getting to the blood stream.
That said, studies are finding that electronic cigarettes can still deliver plenty of nicotine. And given that they are far less harmful (research so far suggests 99% less harmful) and that they can be used more openly than tobacco cigarettes, vapers can make up for any lost nicotine delivery by vaping more without much concern for the harm done or needing to find a smoke-friendly location to light up.
There are outliers that deliver far less or far more nicotine than the average — just like there are with any large group of products. However, studies that looked into this particular aspect of electronic cigarettes and found poor nicotine delivery among the products have largely proven to be poorly conceived and poorly implemented. No study has shown (to the best of our knowledge) that electronic cigarettes deliver more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. Most of the studies that seem balanced tend to show electronic cigarettes deliver a comparable amount, but slightly less than tobacco.
But — and here’s a big but — studies into the habits and trends of those using electronic cigarettes are showing that most tend to gradually reduce the nicotine concentration of the electronic cigarettes they use. That means the devices are helping people reduce their addiction rather than reinforcing it.
All this suggests that nicotine content of electronic cigarettes isn’t so big a concern. Experts say that under the right circumstances — that is, when not delivered through smoked cigarettes — nicotine can be consumed for an entire lifetime without significant harm to an individual — much like caffeine. This also suggests that even the most addicted of individuals, puffing away on an e-cig all day and all night is not doing the same harm to themselves that a casual, only-while-drinking smoker does.
All this, and vapers are more likely to step down use than step it up — which cannot be said about smoking.
Remember when tobacco industry executives, anti-smoking advocates, and public health nuts were claiming the electronic cigarettes weren’t worth fighting over because they didn’t deliver enough nicotine? It really wasn’t that long ago and the argument still comes up on occasion.
Electronic cigarettes don’t deliver enough nicotine to be a worthwhile replacement for cigarettes, they’d say. They can’t possibly be strong enough to meet the cravings smokers have. Therefore, they should be banned or regulated in oblivion because they can’t possibly be good enough to bother keeping around.
Now, the opposite argument is being made to counteract new research and evidence that they can work as a replacement for smoking and without hardly ding to an individual’s health. So now, electronic cigarette opponents are saying that despite the lower health risks and success as a replacement for tobacco cigarettes, they do deliver more nicotine and may cause smokers to be even more addicted to the drug — preventing them from ever truly quitting.
There’s a good example right here:
On average, e-cigarette users are drawing about 150 puffs and going through five nicotine cartridges per day. For perspective, that’s only about half the puffs it takes to get through one pack of tobacco cigarettes.
However, we must keep in mind that each e-cig cartridge contains between about 6mg and 24 mg of nicotine.
Using a midpoint of 15 mg per cartridge, e-cig smokers are going through about 75mg of nicotine every day. With vapor, only about half of this nicotine gets absorbed into the body, so we’ll reduce that number to 37.5 mg.
When we consider the fact that a conventional cigarette pack contains around 20mg of nicotine, it becomes clear that the number of puffs doesn’t really matter; what matters instead is the quantity of nicotine being consumed.
We’ve already mentioned before, but we’ll say it again — nicotine is not the problem. Nicotine is comparable to caffeine in the level of effect it has on and harm it does to the human body. It’s the smoke that causes most of the problems. Many experts now claim that nicotine can be used for a lifetime without significant harm to the individual under the right circumstances.
But aside from that, it seems that opponents are so desperate to find reasons to ward people away from e-cigs that they will use entirely conflicting arguments just to see what sticks and what doesn’t. So we end up with people arguing against electronic cigarettes saying both that they don’t deliver a sufficient amount of nicotine and therefore are ineffective and mostly a novelty at the same time that others are saying that e-cigs deliver way more nicotine and are therefore still as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes, but in a different way.
Both statements are being made on the other side of the fence from those in favor of electronic cigarettes. Both are generally wrong. More on that soon.
Electronic cigarettes have been around for long enough that we’re starting to see marketing and smoking trends data that would be influenced by their existence if they do have an effect. So far that effect appears to be increasing the frequency at which people attempt to quit smoking. But that doesn’t keep some public health and anti-smoking groups from claiming that electronic cigarettes may cause people to perceive smoking more favorably and make it a more common habit.’
Recently, a town looking to impose all its public smoking bans on electronic cigarettes met some resistance when locals actually pressed the issue and argued that there was no health reason to do so. Opposition to the ordinance actually convinced city regulators to hold off on making a decision in light of these arguments.
But support for the vaping bans came back with a rather frustrating counter argument. Electronic cigarette use looks like smoking, they say, and so if people can use them in areas where smoking is banned, then smokers will think that smoking in those places is okay and smoke there despite the smoking bans.
There’s plenty wrong with this argument. Most importantly, it implies that people can’t tell the difference between the two and won’t understand that the laws have not changed. First, smokers know the difference. Smokers are well acquainted with where they can and cannot smoke. And you would be hard pressed to find a smoker that thinks the same rules apply to smoking and vaping — in fact, that’s what makes e-cigs so successful.
But the other problem with this is what we’ll call the bungee jumping effect. If someone saw people bungee jumping off a bridge and decided to jump off on their own — which is both decidedly illegal and deadly — should the bungee jumpers be held at all accountable or be banned from bungee jumping because of that one individual’s clear misunderstanding of the situation? We hope that the answer is no.
Even if a smoker smokes in a non-smoking area because a vaper just vaped there, that isn’t reasonable justification for imposing vaping bans and vaping fines. This is just another flimsy argument put forward by anyone of the groups or individuals that lack the maturity or sensibility to separate smoking and vaping.
Under the exact same logic, golf carts might lead people to drive a car on a golf course, grills might lead to people setting their houses on fire, and powdered sugar might make people take up cocaine.
After news of some new data from the United Kingdom, it’s starting to look like electronic cigarettes are making people more likely to give up smoking. Public health folks have voiced concern that e-cigs might re-normalize smoking after all the work that’s been done to fight and demonize it. But not, it’s looking like electronic cigarettes discourage smoking more than it encourages it.
Basically, the data found that people were trying to quit smoking more in recent years than before. A significant job can be seen just in the time from 2011 to 2013 even. The data itself doesn’t show or test the actual correlation between an increase in quit attempts and an increase in accessibility to and use of electronic cigarettes. But it does suggest that this is a distinct possibility.
This matters a lot. Public health nuts and anti-smoking fanatics despise electronic cigarettes — and one of the arguments they use that actually works on some regulators and decision makers (because they have so few) is that public e-cig use will re-normalize smoking, make it look harmless to youngsters, and bring about new heights in smoking rates. There are problems with this argument (a lot), but it can be used as a justification for action against electronic cigarettes without needing to prove that they cause sufficient harm. All you have to argue is that the net effect on public health is negative — in this case by encouraging smoking — and along come the hefty vaping bans and sales restrictions.
But that argument may fall flat as more information like this surfaces. It may start looking like the net effect electronic cigarettes have on public health is actually a positive one. If they incite more people to attempt to quit smoking, some of those people will succeed. That’s less damage to them and the people around them. That’s not even taking into account the fact that electronic cigarettes are rapidly proving themselves both far less harmful than cigarettes and capable of permanent replacement of a smoking habit.
All in all, e-cigs may be the best thing to happen to public health in a century.
Some pretty hefty research will be needed to prove any of this, but in a way, some things already appear true. This year, a $1.7 billion industry exists that was around $500 million last year (unconfirmed) and far less in years before that. And yet, smoking rates continue to decline (albeit very slowly). That alone suggests that e-cigs aren’t bringing the smoking habit back into the mainstream.
New data from the United Kingdom seems to indicate the the growth of the electronic cigarette industry there is leading to a pretty serious increase in smoking attempting to quit smoking. The data comes from the Smoking Toolkit Study — an ongoing effort to track national trends in smoking and smoking cessation.
From May 2011 to August 2013, the percentage of smokers that used electronic cigarettes rose from 2% to 16%. That’s quite the climb, but is roughly in line with growth the industry has experienced worldwide. But in the same time, the percentage of smokers who had attempted to stop in the last year rose from the neighborhood of 35% to the neighborhood of 45%.
Though more directed studies will be needed to show a real correlation, it seems very likely that the availability of electronic cigarette has generally raised the likelihood that smokers will attempt to quit. This certainly contradicts claims from public health and anti-smoking groups that electronic cigarettes will raise smoking rates by re-normalizing the habit.
This brings to light an entirely new dynamic in the debate over electronic cigarette bans. It also makes analyst predictions that the industry may well surpass and replace most of the tobacco industry within the next decade that much more plausible.
Read more about the data from e-cig advocate Michael Siegel right here.
An article in a local paper in New York covers all the reasons anti-smoking adovcated have for pushing regulation of electronic cigarettes — particularly e-cig advertising. The arguments are flimsy and misdirected at best, but the piece serves as a good rundown of the fears public health groups have about electronic cigarette advertising.
Most of the seven points hinge on comparing e-cig advertising to that of tobacco cigarettes in 50′s, 60′s, 70′s, and even some tactics employed as late as the 90′s. Celebrity spokespersons, magazine ads featuring rugged men and beautiful women, sports and music festival sponsoring, “cartoon” mascots, and use of sexual imagery all are used as damning features of e-cig advertising.
If marketing tactics like these were to determine whether or not a product should be regulated, then there are few items in existence that for which we wouldn’t be dealing with red tape. Cars, soda, beer, make-up, tee-shirts, and even underarm deodorant would qualify for this sort of regulation. That e-cigs can come in a variety of sweet flavors might mean to the author that kids are being targeted, but this is like saying that colorful shirts only appeal to kids and should be kept off the market.
Only one point in the article is remotely particular to electronic cigarette advertising — “Switch, Don’t Quit” ad mottos and slogans. The author doesn’t say where these mottos exist (though we’re sure they’re around) or how exactly they make kids use e-cigs, but that is the implication the author is trying to get across. These sorts of slogans are clearly targeted at adults that smoke. How this sort of ad slogan automatically means e-cigs should be regulated is anyone’s guess though.
The article doesn’t dig deep on anything that it argues. Each point warrants nearly an entire article countering, but the author offers little more than a line or two parroting arguments used by others and with almost no real evidence or connection to the topic at hand — that the author believes electronic cigarettes need to be regulated.
We’ll dig a little deeper soon.
Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland recently considered whether use of electronic cigarettes in its classrooms was to be banned. Ultimately, the university decided to leave the decision in the hands of each professor for his or her own preference. So professors felt that electronic cigarette use was fine while others felt it qualified as disruptive behavior.
The local independent student newspaper there, The Bottom Line, surveyed 40 students for their thoughts on electronic cigarettes. Only 30 percent of the students that responded thought that e-cig use should be banned under the school’s smoke-free campus policy (in place since 2011). Meanwhile, 70 percent felt use in the class room would be disruptive.
A question of disruptiveness does seems more relevant than a question of health and smoke policy — as e-cigs are rapidly proving devoid of smoke or secondhand harm. The question of disruptiveness, however, is similar to the dawn of handheld videogames, then of cell phones, then of smart phones, and even of slap bracelets and flashy public murals.
It seems likely that an e-cig user that was fired (sorta) for vaping in the store while on the job in a baby products retail store might not be unemployed if she considered the impact her vaping might have at the particular moment she did it.
Speaking as someone that had enough trouble concentrating in classes without other people helping out, e-cig use might better be done outside the classroom. However, it is nice to see a university leave the ultimate decision up to individual professors rather than forcing their hands in a matter that might not be an issue for a particular class.