Rapper and controversial celebrity Rick Ross (pictured) has been picked up by electronic cigarette maker MCig as the company’s global brand ambassador. Presumably the company will be releasing a new line of products using Ross’s latest album title, Mastermind.
You can read about the announcement here.
The choice is likely to draw some controversy. Reebok dropped Ross as a spokesperson last year following outrage over the lyrics in one of his songs appearing to condone date rape. But more importantly to the electronic cigarette community and industry, Ross has been fairly public with his use and endorsement of marijuana.
Much of the community and industry hope to distance themselves from the topic of marijuana — legal or not. E-cigs already have enough trouble being connected to tobacco and smoking. Direct connection to the marijuana industry would only give more ammunition to the kind of stodgy moral high-horse nuts that already fight against e-cigs so vigorously.
There is a close relationship between the standard methods of consumption of both tobacco and marijuana. The relationship means that electronic cigarettes have the potential to remove a significant portion of the harm done by the average consumption method of either.
Still, this is likely to raise some eyebrows around the industry.
This is a big one. A study published in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders this week found that — in all ways measured — electronic cigarettes did not affect acute heart function while tobacco cigarettes did.
The study examined acute heart function in 36 smokers and 40 vapers both before and after smoking or vaping. After just one tobacco cigarette, subjects showed “significant changes in diastolic function parameters.” But by all measures, vaping caused no adverse effects after a solid 7 minutes of activity.
This adds to a litany of other research that all appears to support the idea that e-cigs really don’t cause much harm. A previous study already showed e-cigs had no effect on acute respiratory function. It’s rapidly seeming like expert postulation that e-cigs are 99% less harmful that tobacco cigarettes is becoming proven theory.
Some e-cig opponents continue to claim that there is no proof e-cigs are any less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Meanwhile, studies like this are becoming harder and harder to ignore — which is why many opponents have moved on to claims that e-cigs act as a gateway or are keeping people from quitting altogether.
All in all, this is a difficult study to argue against.
After months of debate over the budget in New Jersey, the latest agreement doesn’t actually tax electronic cigarettes as had been pushed for by a number of Jersey politicians, including Governor Chris Christie. This is a significant win for e-cigs as the momentum to tax them in New Jersey was rather strong for a time.
Proponents of an electronic cigarette tax argued that it was designed to protect non-smokers from nicotine and reduce consumption of e-cigs by smokers. But ultimately it appeared clear the tax was drawn up mostly to squeeze extra cash out of consumers to make up for a state-wide deficit.
And while e-cig opponents supported the tax, many questioned its validity. Experts claimed the tax likely discourage quitting and run businesses out of town.
Research is continuing to show that electronic cigarettes are extremely viable cessation options for smokers. At worst, they outperform patches by mirroring patch quit rate and getting those that don’t quit to smoke less. At best, they appear capable of completely replacing tobacco cigarettes for around 25% of smokers. Taxing e-cigs would only make it more likely individuals might stick to smoking — which is known to be far more harmful.
As for the business argument, New York is experiencing some pains when it comes to it’s own high tobacco taxes which have led to a healthy black market and common border state purchasing. In fact, New Jersey benefits quite significantly from individuals purchasing cigarettes cheaper there for use in New York. It was likely that a hefty tax — which could have been as much as 95% at a time — would only send business back to New York or across other state lines.
Ultimately this was a big win for electronic cigarettes. Whether the tax was dropped because proponents actually changed their minds or simply because they thought it would make it too hard to reach an agreement on the budget, e-cig businesses and community at large can chop this up as a win.
Dr. Oz responded to criticism recently for his baseless endorsements of various “miracle weight loss cures.” His response to claims that he was hawking crap and selling it as magic were contradictory and generally evasive. John Oliver covered the situation during his show, Last Week Tonight, and the parallels to e-cig debates were surprising.
You can check out the piece right here:
After the committee hearing last week, it’s interesting to watch something like this. Dietary supplements tend to fall outside the reach of much regulation. Politicians deride them from their dubious effects and common complications. There were even some pretty major political fights over what qualified as reasonable regulation of the industry.
In general, I fall down on the side of regulation is good. For e-cigs, regulation would ideally ensure that e-liquids were impurity free, labels were accurate, and devices were of reasonable quality. For supplements, regulation would ideally ensure that, for instance, a third of the products actually had the ingredients in them that were listed on the label.
Still, it’s interesting to see a debate go almost exactly the same about two different products — one which I defend and believe in and one that I am skeptical of at best.
John Oliver could use some better material, but it’s still an interesting watch for those familiar with thee e-cig debate.
This past Wednesday, Jason Healy from Blu and Craig Weiss from Njoy sat in front of a committee hearing where they got nothing short of bullied for about 2 hours. The hearing was with the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and many speakers spent their time simply berating the two for the marketing tactics which speakers believed would lead to a new generation of dying smokers for the sake of profits.
In the face of misleading facts, slanted questions, being called what’s wrong with this country, being told that their only motive is money, and being held accountable for the practices of every e-cig company in the country despite only representing one each, both Healy and Weiss maintained absolutely perfect composure. Neither appeared to get angry, short, or frustrated. Neither interrupted any of the speakers to attempt a correction or argue why they had answered a slanted question in a certain way. And despite all this professionalism and corporate dutifulness, neither actually did anything good for themselves, their companies, or the industry at large.
There’s a perception that if you allow an opponent to drag you down to their level, anger you, or force impassioned words out of you, that you’re somehow falling into a trap and allowing yourself to appear defensive, driven by emotion, and otherwise extremely biased. This couldn’t be further from the truth in many situations. The reality is that anything you give someone is something they will try to use against you. Act with passion, and you’re on a warpath and won’t see reason. Act with complete composure, and you’re a perfect corporate drone that doesn’t actually care about the issues.
But showing too much emotion will always be preferable to not showing enough or any. At least then, you’re being genuine — and people respond to that. Healy and Weiss did not appear genuine at all. Their answers were dull and safe, and they appeared focused on responding in the most non-committal (read weaselly) way possible. I don’t believe that Healy and Weiss intended to be weaselly, but that is likely the word witnesses to the hearing had in mind watching their responses.
I really wanted to see either of them respond with some force. In short, I wanted them to disagree with speakers. When a speaker says that e-cig companies are only motivated by the pursuit of money and would sell tobacco to a kid if that’s what it takes to make a profit, stand up and F@#$ing disagree! When a speaker claims nicotine is just as addictive in e-cigs as it is in tobacco cigarettes when science is suggesting that’s not the case, stand up and F@#$ing disagree! When a speaker acts like the advertising tactics of another company are your responsibility, stand up and F@#$ing disagree!
This wasn’t a refined discussion of science and statistics and best policy. This was a setting for over-zealous anti-smoking fanatics to bully people they perceived as the enemy and pat themselves on the back for doing it. As is, they succeeded in that effort and they appeared to be in the right by many accounts because the two representatives of e-cig interests there didn’t really put up a fight. They answered questions without context and allowed speakers to dictate absolutely all terms of the engagement.
I can only hope that Healy and Weiss learn from this situation. By all means, let opponents bait you with slanted questions and misleading facts — and then beat them up a bit for using them. Above all, don’t be afraid to say, That is an asinine question designed to get a misleading response. And then explain your position.
At least when you let someone drag you into a fight — even an unfair one — you can get in some punches too.
This past Wednesday was a rough day for the electronic cigarette industry. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled Aggressive E-Cigarette Marketing and Potential Consequences for Youth. If it wasn’t already evident, the committee seemed to have made up its mind about electronic cigarettes.
You can watch the hearing right here. It’s a serious wake up call for anyone that thinks reason has a good chance of beating out emotion in this debate with anti-tobacco fanatics.
The hearing had only two representatives from the electronic cigarette side of things — Jason Healy from Blu and Craig Weiss from Njoy. The two were expected to answer to the activities of the entire industry from their own companies all the way down to the kitchen sink operations of stoners.
The hearing did little to make real progress. Speakers patted themselves on the back for anti-tobacco efforts in the past. The two e-cig company executives were berated and given little opportunity to speak effectively — at one point even being told they represent everything wrong with this country. Speakers requested meaningless and slanted commitments out of the two represented companies as if they spoke for the entire industry.
What was perhaps most surprising about this whole thing was the fact that the speakers didn’t even try to hide their contempt for the two representatives. With very little grasp of the actual numbers at hand and context to what’s going on in the industry, the speakers ranted about corrupt, children-obsessed marketing tactics. They all assumed that the only motive for selling e-cigs absolutely had to be financial — and how would you make money on e-cigs if you didn’t sell them to teens?
I’ve seen quite a lot of anti-e-cig rhetoric by now, but this entire hearing was frustrating, difficult, and infuriating to watch even for me. It’s hard to even know where to begin. I could argue that e-cigs have already proven themselves successful quitting aids, or that preliminary research indicates that nicotine not delivered via smoke is less addictive. I could take issue with the fact that two individuals, who did not seem willing enough to put up a fight represented the whole of the industry. I could even point out that the stated intention of the hearing was entirely overshadowed by self-righteous indignation and a series of unnecessary pats on the back between anti-tobacco folks.
But I’ll start simple. If you can’t be bothered to approach an issue with the slightest bit of open-mindedness… If you are asking questions to prove a point rather than to get answers… If you assume the person across the table is the devil… Then your so-called hearing is a farce. It exists only to prove a point which you decided — before you had any of the facts — you were right on.
Jason Healy is not the Devil. Neither is Craig Weiss. Time spent berating these two could have been spent discussing solutions or creating a plan of action. Think what you will about Njoy and Blu, but they are not the companies out there selling flavors like cotton candy and gummy bear (if that is indeed what you take issue with). They are not using the image of Santa Claus to promote vaping. They actually came to the hearing to be part of the conversation knowing full well they were likely to get beat up a bit. And as bad as it was, they both have to be commended for maintaining their composure (I certainly would not have).
It’s not lightly that I say a two hour hearing was without any value, but this was garbage politics at it’s worst. More on this whole thing later.
The term Statistically Significant is one that can be a bit misleading. When used properly, it means that a statistic was large enough measured. When used wrong, it can make a statistic sound for worse or far better than it is. Most often, a poor grasp of what statistically significant means is the source of downright incorrect readings of data.
Take the following quote from mathematician Jordan Ellenberg:
“Statistically significant” is one of those phrases scientists would love to have a chance to take back and rename. “Significant” suggests importance; but the test of statistical significance, developed by the British statistician R.A. Fisher, doesn’t measure the importance or size of an effect; only whether we are able to distinguish it, using our keenest statistical tools, from zero. “Statistically noticeable” or “Statistically discernible” would be much better.
This applies to the world of electronic cigarettes and the studies done on them. The most obvious misuse of this term can be found in coverage of a study that reported no statistically significant difference between smoking quit rates for nicotine patches and e-cigs. Some individuals, including a medical doctor from Philadelphia, read this as meaning e-cigs don’t have a statistically significant quit rate — meaning they don’t help people quit.
In actuality, the study found the quit rate for e-cigs and patches to be the same (i.e. not discernibly different) — meaning e-cigs worked as well as expensive, FDA-approved patches.
This is not the first time e-cigs were misrepresented because of the term though. In many studies of the constituents of electronic cigarette e-liquid and vapor, a statistically significant amount of various chemicals were found. This is commonly used to raise alarms about the harms of e-cigs and that they do contain harmful compounds.
However, in most cases, these amounts occurred many factors smaller than they do in cigarette smoke. Many experts even admit that the amounts they found were often barely detectable by their instruments. Some experts question if the harmful constituents in e-cig vapor even occur at a high enough degree to pose a long-term threat. But that doesn’t stop media and e-cig opponents from claiming that e-cigs have horrible chemicals in them which could be as bad as those in cigarette smoke.
As with the last example, the problem is rarely detectable in media as they skip the term statistically significant in favor of saying something simply is or isn’t.
The CDC recently put out its latest annual report on teen risk behavior. It covered smoking, sex, poor diet, and even excessive TV watching among teens. One thing it didn’t cover at all was use of electronic cigarettes. But that doesn’t stop director Thomas Frieden from spending as much time talking about the teen e-cig problem as he spents talking about teen smoking.
The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report found an all-time low in teen smoking since the annual report began 22 years ago. In fact, many places are now seeing smoking on a renewed decline and quitting catching on like never before. Some experts are even crediting e-cigs with these two trends — but that’s a different discussion.
What I find a bit absurd is the preoccupation anti-smoking groups have with arguing against e-cigs in the time and space they could spend further arguing against traditional cigarettes. Studies thus far suggest that e-cigs cause between 1% and 5% of the harm of cigarettes (and many argue those are extremely conservative estimates). Does it really make sense that roughly half of the anti-tobacco movement’s energy is being spent on electronic cigarettes?
Granted, anti-tobacco wants to fight all forms of smoking (even things that look like smoking) and this is the newest one. They are concerned that electronic cigarettes may serve as a gateway to smoking or that they’ll reglamorize tobacco for the masses and undo decades of counter-smoking campaigning. So they view this time as well spent keeping the last few decades of gains against smoking from evaporating.
However, there’s a few problems with this.
They send mixed messages when the harm doesn’t match the response. From a harm reduction angle, you want people to use a safer product if they’re going to use something anyway. Anti-smoking efforts to treat e-cigs like tobacco send a message that they’re the same. This has most certainly convinced many smokers to stick with smoking when they might have otherwise transitioned to a much less dangerous product. The clearest message would be one that clarifies the risks — e-cigs are harmful; don’t use them unless you would otherwise be smoking.
Contradiction call everything they do into question. Many experts equate a lifetime of nicotine use via e-cigs to that of caffeine. The average American still perceives e-cigs as far less harmful than smoking despite a campaign for ignorance by opponents. The fervor with which opponents argue against e-cigs only makes them further appear in the pocket of major tobacco and pharmaceuticals companies or at the command of emotion rather than logic.
It continues to take focus away from the real problem — smoking. Tobacco still kills about half its users — roughly 400,000 individuals a year in the U.S. alone. As is, fights against e-cigs are just a symptom that the war on smoking is far from over.
A recent article from market and investment news outlet Motley Fool highlights perhaps the most telling trend in the electronic cigarette and personal vaporizer market to date. It seems sales of models — the small e-cigs made to simulate the size and shape of traditional cigarettes — are slowing. Meanwhile, sales of larger, customizable devices (mods) are growing at about twice the rate of the rest of the e-cig market.
You can read the Motley Fool piece here.
Lorillard was the first of the major U.S.-based tobacco companies to buy into the e-cig market. It purchased Blu eCigs before many individuals in the industry had even heard of electronic cigarettes and has since made an aggressive push to get Blu products into every convenience store in the nation. This strategy has captured around 50% of model sales for the tobacco giant.
But during the first quarter of this year, their e-cig sales dropped by about 10.5% — roughly in line with a perceived industry-wide decline in model sales in the same period.
The culprit? Well, there are three to be sure. The first two are obvious.
First, there are massive campaigns against e-cigs at the hands of organizations like the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Lung Association. They hope to prevent a new smoking epidemic via an unproven technology, but mostly they appear to only misinform the public about the products.
The second culprit is good old-fashioned competition — which had to kick in at some point. With tobacco giants Altria and Reynolds American both jumping into the fray, the mostly unchecked market control Blu had is fading away.
But the last culprit — and easily the most interesting — is the mods market. Preliminary research into the e-cig market is finding that a great deal of users are moving from models to mods. This is good news whether you view e-cigs as cessation products or a business opportunity. It suggests that e-cigs have the capacity to change a smoker’s habits for the long term.
This is happening mostly because mods offer a customizable experience tailor-made to the tastes of a user. But it doesn’t hurt that they often require less frequent recharging, maintenance, and purchasing, and they tend to be much, much cheaper than models in the long run.
This could be very good news for the vaping hobbyist. The FDA’s recent attempts to structure regulation of electronic cigarettes have suggested that variety and innovation wouldn’t be supported aspects of the market. Companies are currently investing in protecting the models market — one mostly lacking in variety and innovation.
But if it becomes evident that mods may be a future source of reliable income, major companies may start investing in defending them too.
According to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report — an annual review of teen risk trends by the CDC — teen cigarette use appears to be at the lowest it’s ever been since the reports began. Despite the report having absolutely no data on e-cig use by teens, Dr. Thomas Frieden (CDC director) made sure to claim that we should all be concerned about rapidly rising use of e-cigs among teens despite this low in smoking.
There’s quite a lot wrong with this. First and foremost, if the CDC wants to say something about electronic cigarettes in reference to a youth risk report, it should include some look at youth use of e-cigs. You can read the report right here. While e-cig use is increasing among teens, it does seem a little odd that e-cigs would be so quickly mentioned in discussion of this report without actually having been studied by it.
Perhaps they want to get ahead of one simple theory — that e-cigs might be part of the cause of smoking’s all-time low among teens. For years, the decline in smoking rates had been at a bit of a plateau — declining at such a slow rate as to hardly be called success for counter-smoking programs.
Suddenly an alternative enters the market, and the declining smoking rate appears to be back on track.
There are certainly teens out there using e-cigs. Is that a bad thing? Not if they would be smoking instead.
That said, the anti-smoking efforts out there are still failing in many ways. Roughly 41% of students surveyed have tried smoking at least once. That implies that cigarettes aren’t being kept out of the hands of teens. This is exactly why many experts agree that legal restrictions only go so far. For those teens are going to smoke anyway, there needs to be something cooler, more accessible, and less harmful.
Anti-smoking talks tend to give equal time to arguing against both traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes despite a massive difference in harm. In what world does that make sense?
A new study has found that patent litigation is getting entirely out of hand and is hurting start-ups and innovation. From 2004 to 2012 the number of patent lawsuits filed in the U.S. more than doubled from around 2,500 to more than 5,000. Not only do they slow innovation, but they bleed money from start-ups that would otherwise bring new products, jobs, and money to the market. They also scare off potential industry investors.
Much of this has occurred because patent trolling has become a lucrative business — so much so that some organizations exist for no other reason than to file patent lawsuits. Even those with very little grounds for control of an idea can litigate to the point that target companies are forced to settle just to be allowed to continue existing. Presumably, from 1995 to 2012 somewhere around $8 to $42 billion in venture capital investments were prevented by patent litigation. That’s a wide range, but even on the low end, patent trolling represents a loss of around 7% of would-be investments in the 17 year span.
You can read the study right here.
There is plenty of evidence that this is happening with the electronic cigarette industry. While some disputes certainly appear legitimate, the most common patent litigations in the industry come out of a company called Dragonite International — previously Ruyan and Golden Dragon Holdings. I’m not commenting on the legitimacy of these suits, but Dragonite has been pursuing just about every major electronic cigarette outlet since 2008 — especially those that produce small models that resemble traditional cigarettes. Many agree that their claim is dubious at best.
More than once, companies have been purchased or invested in almost immediately after they or Dragonite announced a settlement between the two.
Most experts agree that the current system not only allows, but encourages and rewards patent trolls. Certainly, when it comes to innovative industries where companies need to act fast and keep their products on the market, patent trolls can simply act as a toll booth — asking for enough to make it hurt, but not so much to stop the company. The trolls lose nothing in this bargain, but often this will scare off new investors and fresh capital that would move an industry forward much quicker.
The study is certainly worth a read. Patent reform could only help the e-cig industry, but by the time it happens, the trolls may have already moved on to other targets.
A market research outlet called Research and Markets has published a report claiming that it sees roughly 24% annual growth for the electronic cigarette market between now and 2018. This would be a bold claim for any product market — even new and disruptive ones like the e-cig market — but may actually be an underestimation of the growth ultimately seen.
Assuming guesstimates of last year’s U.S. e-cig numbers of $1.7 billion were correct, this would make the industry a $5 billion market come 2018. This is a step down from what many believe has been around 100% annual growth thus far. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong — just that, perhaps, the market is officially in need of more traditional means of support to see growth continue at such rates.
I’m not entirely convinced that that’s true. I already guessed that the U.S. industry will tip $3.5 billion this year alone and I’m waiting to see if that’s the case. This is closer to the rate that the industry will need to continue growing in order to make true the Wells Fargo forecast that the industry will overtake tobacco in 10 years.
Still, if the rate of growth falls short of this 24% to, say 10 or 15%, the e-cig industry will still be outperforming almost everything else out there.
Electronic cigarettes are currently being debated at just about every conceivable level in media — including academic, scientific, political, moralistic, and economic. All of these debates tend to be dominated primarily by public health experts, policy makers, and anti-smoking advocates. Meanwhile, occasional mention is made of this or that person who managed to quit smoking through transition to electronic cigarettes.
It’s often easy to read an article and find that most of the information is drudged up from the the usual suspects (the FDA, CDC, and American Cancer Society most commonly) because that’s what’s easy to find. But the landscape portrayed by a look at media coverage of electronic cigarettes only scratches the skin of what’s actually going on.
Often, experts will say that successful quit stories here and there and testimonials don’t qualify as evidence of success. To a degree, they’re right. You can’t take the story of one smoker that managed to quit and say that one thing he or she did must work for others. After all, roughly 9% of people that attempt to quit cold turkey manage to do so. just because one of them managed to do so immediately after seeing Avatar doesn’t make James Cameron a successful smoking cessation aid.
This is why many individuals viewed electronic cigarettes as little more than a fad in the beginning — and some still do. But this view underrates the power of word of mouth. One smoker that never thought he or she would quit and manages to do so will share their story countless times. Many won’t necessarily offer up the story so much as be asked for it. Even if they remain mum on how they did it, the people around them — the ones that see the harms of smoking done to that individual — will see how the transition away from it happened.
Take one common story: Jeff, who smoked around 2 packs a day (sometimes more) for more than 30 years, tried every cessation option on the market burning through thousands for no success, and eventually resigned to an early death at the hands of smoking. Ten years ago, Jeff would have no reason to believe he could quit. But now, a product exists that makes it possible. You can damn well bet that other smokers Jeff knows will tell him about it and he will be telling everyone he knows about it if he manages to quit because of this new product.
Jeff is no where near alone. The entire country is now playing a rapidly diminishing game of 7 degrees of separation where almost everyone is coming to know something that managed to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes. The support of countless communities and even other smokers only makes it a faster travelling message.
It’s this message that has outpaced both science and policy at such a rate that the FDA can’t seem to get its act together. Frankly, it’s not entirely their fault. They’ve never before had to deal with so disruptive and rapidly adopted product before. And no amount of best guess warnings and PSAs about using approved products can beat this word of mouth supporting e-cigs.
This is why the industry continues to grow by more than double each year. It’s just a little difficult to fight the spread of information in the information age.
James Dunworth at Ashtray Blog has grabbed up stories from many well known bloggers and reviewers in the electronic cigarette community. These stories (one from myself included) tell how folks like Joe Petner, Scott Bonner, and Oliver Kershaw were introduced to e-cigs and vapor products.
Even if you don’t recognize any of the names, it’s an interesting snapshot of how many of the early e-cig introductions happened.
I’m certainly the odd man out in this crew as I was never a smoker and still am not what I would call an active vaper. But the story– which begins with me unemployed and depressed and ends with a nicotine buzz and a new job — is one I won’t forget.
I believe that even if the FDA puts out some fairly bad policies regarding electronic cigarettes, those policies are likely to be traded in for more appropriate ones in the long run. But let’s live in a world for a moment where electronic cigarettes have the stuffing kicked out of them by short-sighted, lobby-controlled regulations designed to kill as much of the market as possible. What then?
Well, the easy conclusion is that Big Tobacco comes to own the market at large as they’re the only entities with the money, expertise, and power to endure harsh regulations. Wells Fargo already predicts that roughly 75% of the U.S. e-cig market will ultimately end up in the hands of Lorillard, Phillip Morris, and R.J. Reynolds. A bigger knock to the industry will be an end to almost all innovation and product variety within the market as the FDA requires even the smallest variation be submitted through an expensive and lengthy application process for approval.
But Big Tobacco is grabbing and the FDA is primarily focusing on the model market — those small (often disposable or semi-disposable) e-cigs that closely resemble traditional cigarettes. Neither is ready to tackle the tank and mods markets. And while models are definitely bigger business right now, it’s the personal vaporizer market that will be so different, diverse, and rapidly growing that it is almost impossible to stop.
The paraphernalia market for any regulated product group is hard to control. Consider the problems police have had keeping places from selling glass pipes, hookahs, and papers even when it’s super obvious their being sold for illicit drug use. Is a small empty tank with a heating coil an e-cig? What about a battery? What about flavored no-nicotine e-liquid? Regulating a market (particularly one with such a strong do-it-yourself community) is extraordinarily difficult. Product diversity and utility makes it even more difficult to qualify pieces as tobacco products as long as there is at least one distinct legal use. This is why brick and mortar head shops can still sell drug paraphernalia.
The community has formed a support structure capable of bypassing normal avenues of control. Speaking of the do-it-yourself community, FDA regulations may work to squash and control normal retail of products, but strong communities out there make it easy to bypass tradition end-consumer product purchasing. Many individuals have turned electronic cigarette use into a hobby and they are more than willing to educate, assist, and foster new vapers. To put it simply, the FDA may be able to prevent a company from selling completed electronic cigarette units, but it will have difficulty stopping sales of puzzle pieces that add up to an e-cig.
A black market will fill any void the FDA creates. This appears to already be happening in many places where e-cigs are highly taxed, over-controlled, or completely banned. Would an ex-smoker rather go back to smoking or purchase smuggled and unregulated products? For many — especially those that have managed to quit smoking with electronic cigarettes — this is a no-brainer. Even if e-cigs contain significant impurities, experts say they pose a maximum of 5% of the harm of smoking. But even getting away from the addiction/harm debate, vapers enjoy vaping and will find ways to continue. A survey in the UK found that 66% of vapers would buy e-liquid from a black market if they had to.
The FDA will have a hard time taking e-cigs from people (or getting in the way of people getting their e-cigs) without making it into a rights issue. E-cigs save lives. E-cigs cause 1% of the harm that cigarettes do and so should be 100 times more available. E-cigs make vapers happy. To put it simply– E-cigs are about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Regulations that adversely impact any of these three rights for vapers are likely to find themselves under scrutiny in a courtroom.
There is certainly more to this debate. However, electronic cigarettes have yet to convince me that sheer optimism for the market is the wrong point of view.
Keep Calm and Vape On.
Many regulatory agencies and anti-smoking groups around the world are pushing for regulation of electronic cigarettes primarily as tobacco products. Many admit wanting to keep e-cigs off the market even while traditional cigarettes continue to kill countless users.
Most individuals who have been watching the industry and keeping up with the science tend to agree that electronic cigarettes have far more benefits that drawbacks. To put it simply, they make tobacco cigarettes — products which are highly addictive and ultimately kill half their users — obsolete.
But that doesn’t stop efforts to fight electronic cigarettes and attempts to deter their use. Some public health experts and anti-smoking advocates — many of whom are backed by pharmaceutical companies with billions invested in the cessation market — continue to claim e-cigs should be avoided just in case they turn out to have harmful effects. Above all, they press regulatory agencies for knee-jerk policies intended to kill the market until more evidence exists (that’s science jargon for perhaps indefinitely).
On the other hand, despite a campaign of ignorance by opponents, electronic cigarettes continue to succeed. Since they entered the U.S. market around 2006, the industry appears to have more than doubled in size every year. Many analysts don’t think this trend is going to stop anytime soon.
Now, with the speed and urgency of aged molasses, the FDA joins the conversation looking to regulate the market for safety.
And certainly it should. But thus far, regulatory plans for the products appear custom designed to bog down companies in red tape and demolish innovation. It seems this will either hand the industry to tobacco and pharmaceutical giants or kill it entirely.
But that’s the short-term and pessimistic view. And while the FDA certainly has the power to create problems for the market now (and likely will), there are two things likely to prevent bad e-cig policies from sticking around for very long.
First, the public is already beginning to see and believe in the benefits of a world where electronic cigarettes and nicotine vapor products have replaced traditional tobacco smoking methods. Experts can be easily argued against, portrayed as having conflicts of interest, or said to be lacking enough evidence.
But it’s difficult to argue against a tide of thought change that can be seen both anecdotally and statistically. And at this point, there appears to be few in the U.S. that don’t know someone that managed to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes. It’s likely harsh regulations against the products would eventually be loosened as a response to public demand — not just from smokers, but from individuals with smoking loved ones.
Second, it’s entirely possible the FDA itself with come around on the issue of e-cigs. Despite the relative ease with which we might view the FDA as a corporate lobbyist’s wet dream, it does have certain rules and goals that I would like to believe it means to follow.
The FDA was given control over the tobacco market with one pretty simple goal — reduce the tobacco-related death toll. The FDA may take quite a while getting there, but electronic cigarettes are rapidly proving themselves to be the silver bullet against smoking addiction for which the world has been searching for decades.
Letters like a recent one to the World Health Organization from 53 tobacco and nicotine experts in defense of the products are starting to pop up more commonly. These kinds of things speaks on the FDA’s level and at its speed. It’s even possible that with enough push against the already proposed regulations, the FDA may be forced back to the drawing board yet again.
Check back soon for a bit more focus on why bad policy won’t stop e-cigs anyway.
The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey issued a statement recently shining a light on a fairly glaring issue with almost all surveys of electronic cigarette use to date. The problem is simple: for the purposes of these surveys, an individual is considered a current user if he or she has used an electronic cigarette once in the last 30 days.
You can read the report here.
The main problem with this kind of metric for what constitutes a current user is that it alters the way the data may be perceived. It dramatically influences what the studies find to be current and active use of the products. But most importantly for opponents of the electronic cigarette industry, it makes it easier to make e-cigs look like they have ensnared a greater number of users — particularly teens.
This occurs, in part, because it’s difficult to nail down exactly what constitutes a current or — the more appropriate term — established user. It also makes it far easier to create the kind of statistic that media find easy to copy, paste, and relay to the public.
Research outlets like to create statistics that are easy for media use even if they might be slightly misleading. This happened recently when the CDC claimed that some 1.8 million teens in the US had tried e-cigs based on a fairly small sample of the demographic. The number was little more than a wild guess, but its relative simplicity has caused it to show up in nearly every story, report, and statement about electronic cigarettes to date.
The report from Rutgers Cancer Institute goes on to say that understanding and delineating the difference between trial of electronic cigarettes and established use is an important part of understanding their role. Studies that inaccurately report large swaths of e-cig trial as current use only skew numbers that would otherwise be far more useful.
The research organization behind several questionable e-cig studies has put out another. RTI International last produced a study stating that electronic cigarette use might worsen respiratory disease within youth. It, like previous e-cig studies from the group, proved something mostly obvious and expected, but spun it in a way that media could run with a distinctly anti-e-cig slant.
The newest study from RTI now shows that youth and young adults are exposed to more electronic cigarette advertising than they were two years ago. The study found that exposure to e-cig TV ads among 12- to 17-year-olds jumped 256 percent from 2011 to 2013. Meanwhile, exposure to e-cig TV ads among 18- to 24-year-olds jumped 321 percent from 2011 to 2013.
Like RTI’s previous study, this one provides a big, easily shareable tidbit that makes electronic cigarettes sound like the next smoking epidemic to hit our high schools and middle schools. But like the last, a little bit of context makes the crux of the study a bit shaky. In short, it’s no surprise kids are more exposed to e-cig ads. The industry has roughly doubled in size every year for close to 8 years now. What was believed to be a $500 million industry in 2011 became a $1.7 billion industry as of 2013. So of course there will be more advertising.
But let’s ignore that for a moment. There are three pieces to this study that shake up what might otherwise seem like a legitimate grievance against the industry.
75 percent of the ad exposure to youth occurred on cable networks — primarily stations like AMC, Comedy Central, TV Land, and VH1. While teens may watch these channels, most of these stations gun for an older demographic. Ad marketing is less like being a sniper who hits individual targets with intention and precision and more like laying land mines and hoping the right targets step on them. As well, many channels won’t even air e-cig ads before a certain time in the evening. In all the hours teens watch TV, It is hardly a surprise that they might see an e-cig ad at some point — no matter where you try to hide it.
More than 80 percent of the ads were for Blu eCigs. Blu has made an aggressive push to market their product, make it recognizable and memorable, and make sure people think of them first when considering the use of electronic cigarettes. I happen to be of a mind that e-cig advertising should be allowed on television. However, even assuming that the idea fills you with disgust, this is another instance of the actions of few entities being used to reflect against the industry as a whole. There are believed to be 1,500 e-cig companies and businesses in the US. Only one is taking up 80% of the TV exposure the industry has had towards teens. If you have a problem with this, take it to Blu and set precedent for other companies.
RTI used Nielsen’s system of target rating points, or TRPs, to make the calculations. There are already problems with using only Nielsen numbers as data. But this means the study is, at best, a rough guess of the exposure that teens watching TV alone have to electronic cigarettes. And while that number has certainly increased, it provides almost no clear understanding of the actual impact it has. In fact, teens are now more capable of ignoring ads than we ever were before. Watching of live shows is at an all time low, and use of ad skipping tools and technology is at an all time high.
Already, this study is making the rounds and has media outlets in an uproar over teen exposure to e-cig ads. They’re comparing it to Joe Camel ads which appeared to actually target teens at the time. Some even say that this study is solid proof that e-cig advertising need to be brought under control.
But really, this is just another study that shows the industry is bigger than it was 2 years ago. You could do the same study and find that in the last 5 years teen exposure to advertising for The Walking Dead has likewise skyrocketed.
It’s not always clear exactly where a writer stands on the topic of electronic cigarettes. Many individuals in support of open availability of a product 99% safer than tobacco cigarettes are pretty clear on where they stand. But many opponents of electronic cigarettes like to portray themselves as balanced figures of reason who only want reason to prevail. Meanwhile, some supporters of electronic cigarettes avoid making statements too distinct to avoid being portrayed as overly bias.
Anytime you hear someone claim that they want evidence-based decision making and then follow that there is no evidence to support the opposing side, you should be a little weary. This is often the case with discussions of electronic cigarettes. Individuals against e-cigs (particularly those backed by pharmaceutical companies) like to spin electronic cigarettes as something that hasn’t been studied at all.
Still, these opponents might actually believe that they are balanced — even when they clearly are not. A recent column in Mount Pleasant, Michigan’s local paper made it quite clear where the author stood on the subject. You don’t even need to read the article to know. It’s called What could possibly go wrong with bubblegum flavored poison?
This column is a good example of minimal research with maximum bias. There is enough information to prove the writer, one Les Rosan, did a Google search for basic information on electronic cigarettes. However, the crux of Rosan’s piece is that electronic cigarette flavors are being used to lure teens to poisonous electronic cigarettes. The evidence he has: flavors like bubblegum and chocolate are available, e-cigs remain untested for harm, and the CDC reported that some 1.78 million kids had tried e-cigs as of 2012.
As has often been argued, kids do not have a monopoly on enjoying sweet and strong flavors. This is like saying cars can’t be red because kids like red and might think they should drive a car. Just like we do with coffee, wine, beer, naughty movies, and guns, we expect a certain amount of consumer freedom despite what kids may or may not do.
I have to wonder how this column is perceived by those uninformed about electronic cigarettes. The column certainly reads with enough authority to convey a strong view. Those few people out there that still actually read newspapers might believe this stuff. As more pro-e-cig statements have been made, the anti-e-cig side definitely appears to be getting bolder, angrier, and more indignant that e-cigs even bother to exist.
On May 26th, a monumental letter was sent to the World Health Organization pleading with it to give electronic cigarettes a chance to fight the global smoking epidemic. The letter was co-signed by 53 tobacco and nicotine experts who all felt e-cigs shouldn’t be treated like tobacco cigarettes for the purposes of national and international policy.
You can read the full letter right here.
The letter is rather succinct. Among its numbered points are arguments that harm reduction is generally good policy when it comes to fighting addiction, emotion shouldn’t dictate policy (as hard as it may be to avoid), and that it is counterproductive to fight advertising of safer alternatives to smoking.
The letter actually serves as a very smart rundown of the pro-e-cig arguments from a reason-based point of view. It focuses on what makes good policy before focusing on what makes e-cigs different. Have a look. Share it. We certainly will be!
A dental group in California posted about electronic cigarettes in their blog recently. They claim that electronic cigarettes damage teeth and impede oral recovery. This may be true to a degree, but the group lacks any real supporting evidence that oral health is actually damaged by e-cig use. While this group is certainly not as big a concern as, say, the FDA, WHO, or other three-letter acronyms, this is a good representation of smaller outlets adding to the conversation without any real authority, research, or context.
As the CA dental group’s post claims, nicotine is a vasoconstrictor. They use this little factoid to claim that e-cigs must encourage gum disease — or, at a minimum, reduce a mouth’s capacity to recover from gum and teeth problems. This might be true, but there has yet to be any studies to determine if that is the case. At the same time, while nicotine is, indeed, a vasoconstrictor, the level of effect it has on gum health and recovery absent cigarette smoke appears undocumented.
Just being a vasoconstrictor is not enough to claim that nicotine causes damage to the mouth and gums. Many experts attribute the damage done by smoking to the smoke rather than the nicotine. And while calling something a vasoconstrictor may make it sound scary, vasoconstriction is a natural process in the body in response to a number of drugs or environmental conditions. Often, it can even help resist the cold, reduce blood loss, and assist with under-circulation (Orthostatic hypotension).
The point is that there is little evidence to suggest that electronic cigarettes damage teeth and gums — and certainly none that suggests that this damage might compare to that of smoking. This dental group could have put out a warning about nicotine lozenges just as well. But e-cigs are a hot topic that everyone wants to have a say in — whether they know what they’re talking about or not.
This is probably why so many Americans aren’t sure whether e-cigs are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes now. There is so much noise out there on the subject that many individuals don’t have the time to sort through the mess. And with anti-smoking and public health groups continually berating the public with messages about the dangers of e-cigs, people aren’t sure who to believe. Small groups putting out unverified, unsupported, and unclear messages only add to the problem.
Again, this is not to say that e-cigs don’t have any detrimental effect on teeth and gums. However, the actual level of damage done is unclear. If it’s anything like other smoking/vaping harms, it may be 99% less harmful for vapers. That could be more akin to the damage done eating a lolly pop rather than that of smoking.
A collaborative letter to the World Health Organization from 53 leading scientists is warning that classifying electronic cigarettes as tobacco products would only perpetuate the global smoking epidemic. This comes in response to WHO consideration over whether e-cigs should be considered tobacco products for the purposes for most policies.
Thus far, it appears that the WHO thinks all tangentially connected nicotine and tobacco products should be treated the same. This raises a number of problems before ever getting into whether alternatives like electronic cigarettes warrant the harsh controls that exist to fight smoking.
For one, regulating products that are used in fundamentally different ways — like chews versus cigarettes versus hookahs — means that there often needs to be a pile of exceptions and special circumstance rules added to even the most basic of general rules. For instance, limiting cigarette packs to 20 cigarettes is a simple rule that requires re-modifying for, say, pipe tobacco.
But the letter itself focuses primarily on one issue. According to the scientists that collaborated on it, electronic cigarettes are rapidly appearing to be a promising answer to the smoking epidemic. They appear to provide a high rate of success at replacing tobacco cigarettes while also cutting down dramatically on the damage done by smoking. And while this letter isn’t suggesting that the WHO back off and leave the products totally alone, it warns against responding to them before enough evidence is available to make an educated decision.
This letter is a major step for electronic cigarettes as a whole. Many public health and smoking experts have been growing more positive about the products. This has happened not only because of the research being done, but also because their real world impact is already proving incredibly positive.
With more than 70% of Americans aware of electronic cigarettes and the industry set to tip well over $2 billion this year, it’s only a matter of time before they appear in a movie or two. I’m not just talking about moments like that in The Tourist where Jack Sparrow lights one up on a train. I’m talking about moments where an e-cig makes a pivotal appearance and has some discernible effect on the plot of the movie itself.
Here’s a few I expect:
Using e-cig vapor to spot security lasers. We’ve seen this plenty. Blow smoke or dust or even use a fire extinguisher to fill an area with particles which show security lasers and walk right around them. As determined by the Mythbusters though, almost anything thick enough to show a laser is enough to set off a laser triggered alarm. Still, we might just see Tom Cruise in the next Mission Impossible drag on an E-Cig and use the vapor to see his way through a security system.
Using e-cig electronics to assist in a jail break. With some jails now swapping out tobacco cigarettes for electronic ones, it seems only matter of time before a movie about some imprisoned super genius shows him using the electronics in an e-cig to bypass security doors, create a makeshift distraction, or reconfigure a radio to send secret messages. Problem one: these jails require used e-cigs be returned. Problem two: the electronics in them aren’t that complicated.
Swapping out e-liquid or an e-cig cartridge for a poisoned one in an assassination plot. It wouldn’t be the first time an elaborate assassination plot played out on the big screen that hinged on a target’s weakness for nicotine or smoking. Maybe this could happen. But then, it might be hard to say that it was the easiest way to get the job done.
Using an e-cig to light a fuse, pool of gasoline, or something else just in time to save the day. The day was saved at the end of The Fifth Element because Korben Dallas had one last match on hand. In the absence of a smoking habit for the main character, an e-cig would have required a little more work to get the spark needed to save the day. That doesn’t mean we won’t see it happen though.
Using the light at the end of an e-cig to see in the dark. Whether it’s fixing some broken fuses or hiding from terrorists in Nakatomi Tower, it seems likely the novelty light at the end of an e-cig will come into use at some point to shed just enough illumination to get something done. If nothing else, Blu could use this as a rather effective bit of product placement.
The more the public recognizes electronic cigarettes, the more we’ll see them in elements of popular culture. Already, they’ve shown up on Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. It’s only a matter of time before someone MacGyvers an e-cig into a major movie moment.
Not unsurprisingly some major companies out there are getting wise to the use of their brands for e-liquid flavors. While most e-liquid operations are aware that they won’t get away with flavor brand use for long, some continue to use brands they shouldn’t. Most recently, this has sparked backlash for use of Thin Mints (Girl Scouts of America), Cinnamon Toast Crunch (General Mills), and Tootsie Roll (Tootsie Roll Industries).
All three companies have sent cease and desist orders to e-liquid shops that are using their flavors. And certainly this is their right. It also makes it hard to claim that e-cig companies aren’t marketing to kids when chocolate mint, sugar and cinnamon, and hard chewy chocolate thing flavors are given the brand names kids know and (mostly) love.
However, this issue further highlights anti-electronic cigarette efforts to make the sins of a few look like the sins of the entire industry. It’s believed that there are nearly 1,500 unique businesses in the U.S. that fall within the electronic cigarette industry. It’s very difficult to say that the actions of a few of these companies should reflect on the sensibilities of the whole. But that’s exactly what is being done.
Take this article on e-cig brand fighting from the Huffington Post — which has not been the most balanced when it comes to coverage of electronic cigarettes. A read of the article makes it sound as if almost all or a majority of e-liquid manufacturers engage in this kind of brand stealing. In fact, the only representative of e-cig interests quoted in the article is Linc Williams — a well-spoken and prominent member of the vaping community, but also a representative of a company, NicVape, which has its hand in questionable brand use.
This makes the only quotes in defense of e-cig interests in the story mostly null in reader’s minds. Williams is not a bad guy. But in this circumstance, the article is getting a quote from the minority and spinning it as a representation of the majority of the industry. The same happens when reports (all too often) claim that the e-cig industry claims e-cigs are harmless or safe to use. In fact, many companies avoid that topic in its entirety.
Use of registered brands remains a problem within the industry. Some outfits simply view themselves as too small time to be worth chasing down over brand rights. Like many other issues, as the industry has gotten larger, the availability of knowledge has widened. You simply don’t see companies making health claims like they did three and five years ago. That has very much been because the average e-cig seller is far more educated in what can and can’t be said about their products. This issue is likely to tread much the same course.
However, for the time being, outlets that engage in questionable tactics do make the the industry at large look bad. If nothing else, it only gives ammunition e-cig opponents.
The tax reform advocacy ATR (Americans for Tax Reform) has responded to North Carolina’s plan to tax electronic cigarettes and vapor products. The response is a letter to legislators explaining that the tax will drive away business and needlessly increase the cost of quitting for those that might transition away from smoking.
You can read the letter right here.
It’s main points are well constructed.
- Not only will this tax increase hurt North Carolina small businesses, imposing a tax hike on the products makes little sense from a health perspective.
- Imposing additional taxes on these innovative products will chase business out of the state and onto the Internet, which is already a significant market for e-cigarette and vapor products.
- A number of studies have shown that electronic cigarettes stand to improve health and prevent disease.
- The imposition of new taxes on innovative products that reduce smoking and people’s dependence on tobacco cigarettes is misguided and will impede proven harm reduction methods
- Other states, including Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont have all rejected efforts this year to raise taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products
The letter itself comes from the president of the organization, Grover Norquist. Among mentions of other studies, it highlights the recent U.K. study that found smokers trying to quit are 60% more likely to succeed with e-cigarettes than with other quit methods.