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.
A new study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine has revealed a concerning trend for the electronic cigarette industry. It seems that from 2010 to 2013 the percentage of smokers that believe e-cigs are safer than tobacco cigarettes dropped from 85% to 65%.
You can read more on the study right here.
This is likely the result of what can only be called a campaign for ignorance led by over-zealous anti-smoking groups and cessation product backed public health advocates. Their efforts to fight electronic cigarette “misinformation” has only injected more doubt into the subject. Is there harm to using electronic cigarettes? Yes. Is that harm dramatically (believed to be 99%) lower than that of tobacco cigarettes? Also yes.
But opponents of the devices like to spin science-based discussions on the products as “lacking evidence” despite a litany of studies supporting one statement: If e-cigs can successfully replace use of tobacco cigarettes, they should without obstacle or impediment.
What appeared to be a fairly simple question — whether e-cigs are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes — has become mired in political, scientific, and moral double-speak. When it became evident that e-cigs were likely to be concluded as safer, opponents quickly did everything they could to wage a media campaign designed not to inform, but to make the topic so convoluted that most would avoid wading in.
The justification for this is not hard to see — they want people to quit completely or stick to cessation options they “know” work. The problem with that is that it ignores the opportunity for reduced harm in individuals that can’t or won’t quit. Also, as it turns out, when a company plunges millions into developing a product (like, say, a nicotine patch), they don’t really care whether that product works and they do care whether people think it does. And they’ll throw millions at both problems.
Many people have now realized that the “approved” cessation methods don’t work. In the United Kingdom, for example, e-cigs have been so successful for cessation that sales of approved cessation products are now plummeting.
In the U.S., however, despite the FDA not having the best reputation, many argue that the very fact e-cigs are not yet regulated proves they must be harmful. They won’t say it in exactly those words, but it appears as if lacking regulation applies harm to the devices. Thus far, studies into the purity and transparency of ingredients in electronic cigarettes have mostly shown the industry is acting appropriately.
If this campaign continues, conventional wisdom could become that electronic cigarettes are not safer than tobacco cigarettes. Many experts will even tell you that it doesn’t take anymore research than already existed a decade ago to figure that one out. Simply put, without smoke, tobacco use is miles away safer. This doesn’t keep opponents from claiming that we need 50 years of research to prove that — arguing that it took that long for science to figure out smoking.
If you thought competing against tobacco companies for a slice of the electronic cigarette market was hard now, it might soon get much harder. According to the media rumor mill, someone on the inside has indicated that the second and third largest U.S.-based tobacco companies are discussing a merger. This would combine Reynolds American and Lorillard into something far more capable of competing with the monster that is Phillip Morris.
In the U.S., Phillip Morris controls around 46% of the tobacco market. In 2011 that accounted for the sale of some 135 billion cigarettes sold. Meanwhile, Reynolds American holds a distant second with around 25% of the market and Lorillard an even more distant third with about 14%. By combining their efforts, the new entity — that may or may not be created — would control around 39% of the U.S. tobacco market.
While this might make it possible for a better degree of competition with Phillip Morris, it will also further widen the power and economic gap between tobacco companies and the e-cig businesses that might attempt to compete with them in the electronic cigarette market. Already, Big Tobacco has shown an ability to influence decision making on the subject of e-cigs with far less effort than the rest of the industry.
Smart money, unfortunately, tends to be on neither side. New e-cig businesses appear too likely to get squashed by the heavy tobacco giants (and if not them, then pharma giants instead). Tobacco giants, meanwhile, are scrambling to make up for rapidly drying up cigarette sales as countries push anti-smoking legislation that increasingly make quitting (or switching to e-cigs) less of an option and more of a necessity.
So the electronic cigarette market is the one place they might be able to shift focus, maintain sales, boot out everyone that isn’t them, and pat themselves on the back for selling a safer product. It even seems likely that Reynolds is the company pushing for the deal because Lorillard’s e-cig operations are far more mature as the company viewed electronic cigarettes with shrewd optimism from the start. Their purchase of Blu, for instance, has landed them control of some 50% of gas station e-cig retail.
Whether these rumors will prove true can only be guessed at. It does seem likely though. News of the potential merger bumped Reynolds stock by more than 4% and Lorillard stock by around 10% the same day (Wednesday). Looking further out, Wells Fargo’s Bonnie Herzog claimed it likely that British American — the second largest global tobacco operation behind Phillip Morris — would purchase the new entity created by this merger.
A provision to tax electronic cigarettes in North Carolina was included in a bill involving some 14 other tax-related resolutions. The new tax adds 5 cents per milliliter of e-liquid sold.
While this essentially works out to less than North Carolina’s 45 cents per pack tax on cigarettes, it still stands to hurt the industry and make it easier to control for larger companies. It’s no wonder why North Carolina-based tobacco company Reynolds American Inc. was a major supporter of the tax.
Still, this is not nearly as bad as the tax some places are toying with or have already implemented. It appears to leave non-e-liquid e-cig parts, accessories, and devices alone. This could mean that the tax won’t impact vape shops as heavily. However, the tax will not effect small models and disposables to the degree that it effects bulkier purchases.
Under most e-cig prices, the tax would be less than a percent of the cost of a disposable, while it would be about 6 percent of the cost of a 10 milliliter bottle of e-liquid. Though this wouldn’t come close to closing the cost gap between disposable/cartridge e-cigs and refillables, it seems likely to cut into the profit margins of vape shops more than the profits of large convenience store-based sellers.
Many other states and cities are debating a tax on electronic cigarettes. While this is not nearly as bad as the 75 or 95% taxes discussed or implemented in other places, it further increases the possibility of other places padding their budgets with e-cig taxes.
Many experts are already calling these moves nothing more than taxes on public health.
A new study is getting shoved around by just about everyone that wants another excuse to hate electronic cigarettes. The study finds that electronic cigarette vapor both suppresses the immune system in users and triggers a defense mechanism in MRSA that makes it harder to kill. While this appears to be true, traditional cigarette smoke does the same to a far greater degree, but that tidbit is being shoved to the end of stories or left out all together.
Nicotine is a known anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective — both aspects of which appear connected to its ability to suppress a user’s immune system. The study doesn’t actually appear clarify whether the suppression of an individual’s immune system occurs at any degree beyond that caused by nicotine itself. In short, the study appears to only prove that nicotine continues acts the way we expect it to when used via electronic cigarettes.
Here’s one simple example of coverage of this study. If you’ll notice, the article spends a good deal of time highlighting the problematic effects it found in electronic cigarette vapor. Only in the last line of the whole piece does it clarify that real cigarettes were found to fuel MRSA even more than the electronic versions.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA (sometimes called mercer or mersa) is a nasty thing. It exists as a natural selection of antibiotic-resistant infection and responds to almost any change in its environment by going defensive and getting tougher to kill. So as nasty as it sounds to say the e-cig vapor makes it stronger, so do most attempts to treat it.
Yet again, we run into a situation where a study is only finding what we could already guess was the situation with electronic cigarettes — that they possess some similar harms to that of conventional tobacco cigarettes but at a lesser degree.
As always, the statement on them should be, they’re better than smoking — especially for those that can’t quit — but worse than not smoking at all.
In December of last year, Spanish authorities announced hefty anti-e-cig regulations focused primarily on banning use in public places. It now seems that those regulations — along with some heavy-handed anti-e-cig campaigns — have caused some 70% of electronic cigarette business to evaporate. Roughly 60 percent of e-cig outlets in the country have now closed and it appears another 20 percent will be soon.
According to the Spanish National Vaping Association (ANEV), efforts to make electronic cigarettes appear dangerous and deadly are motivated primarily by the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies that continue to make massive amounts off tobacco cessation produces. By banning their use in almost all public and even many private places, Spain has sent many vapers back to smoking.
This could be indicative of what might happen in other places — like the US — if electronic cigarettes are treated like tobacco cigarettes for the purposes of bans and sales restrictions. In essence, if the industry isn’t destroyed, it may simply be handed over to the few massive tobacco or pharmaceuticals companies that can afford the various (largely unnecessary) costs of doing business.
Even stepping aside from the the health debate, many legislators do not like the idea of killing so many jobs based solely on the fact that e-cigs have unknown health effects. In the US, for instance, the e-cig industry could tip $3 billion this year. Killing 70 percent of that market practically over night — which may happen if the FDA has its way — could ruin a lot of small businesses that have popped up mostly in the last 3 years.
A study published in March by the Action on Smoking and Health organization has found evidence that electronic cigarettes are not serving as the gateway to nicotine addiction that some opponents claim. Indeed, as already appeared evident, most electronic cigarette users were current or ex-smokers and were using the products as a way to cut down on or quit smoking.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a consortium of anti-tobacco pressure groups. Despite many organizations like ASH falling decidedly against electronic cigarettes, it appears ASH is more willing to do the research and determine an appropriate course of action for the products based on fact and evidence — rather than a lack thereof.
ASH put out a document in March on electronic cigarettes that was surprisingly balanced in its presentation. Among other things, the document claimed there is little evidence of use by those who have never smoked or by children. It even goes on to say that it does not consider it appropriate to include e-cigarettes under smokefree regulations.
The ASH study found that the number of non-smokers trying electronic cigarettes is not growing. This suggests that a part of the non-smoking population is not growing more or less interested in electronic cigarettes. In short, it appears non-smokers aren’t going to be a major source of growth for the industry the way opponents try to claim.
This study supports previous evidence and further shines a light on why many tobacco cessation products like gums and patches are losing business. E-cigs appear to do the job that they can’t — even if scientific research isn’t caught up enough to confirm that it’s the case. It’s long been known, though, that the success rate of cessation products approaches almost zero percent on a long enough timeline because the rate of smoking remission is extraordinarily high.
Many people have grown suspicious of the tobacco cessation model — one which charges large amounts of money for very low success rates and an almost inevitable need to attempt quitting again. E-cigs appear to break that model.
Out of the pages of a Saturday Night Live script, e-meth was born. Now, cops in Georgia claim that they pulled over two suspects and found they were smoking meth using an electronic cigarette. But there’s something fishy about the whole tale.
Commentators on the story on the whole do not appear to come down for or against electronic cigarettes. Indeed, the main reporter actually says, “e-cigarettes have been extremely beneficial for individuals that have been trying to quit smoking.” He goes on to say that they help users cut down on their craving for nicotine. It sounds like the reporter may actually know an e-cig user.
The story gets a little hazy from there. It seems two suspects were being pulled over on belief of having stolen a gun. What police found instead: some cubes of meth (apparently meth comes in cubes) and electronic cigarettes. You can watch the video and read the story right here.
Now, I’ve got to editorialize a little more than normal here. I’m not very familiar with the intricacies of meth, but I’m pretty familiar with what it takes for most electronic cigarettes to function. And while there may be ways to deliver meth via an electronic cigarette, it seems unlikely that these men found a way to cram cubed meth into an e-cig and smoke it. I am more than willing to accept that I may be wrong on this fact.
However, the story only says that meth cubes and electronic cigarettes were found in the same car and police don’t actually say that the e-cigs were in active meth use when found. That doesn’t stop them from warning people that meth users could be e-smoking their meth right in front of you and you might not know.
Isn’t it possible that these individuals — who don’t look as rough around the edges as you might expect — were using their e-cigs for the intended purpose?