October 11, 2013

e-Cigarette News Roundup for 10-11 – Around the world

Welcome my friends to the news that never ends. It's time for another roundup of the week's e-cigarette news. For once it was a week not chock full o' teen gateway theories (ok, there always around). Naturally the big story is the victory across the sea in Europe where the EU will not end up regulating e-cigarettes as medical devices.  Stateside, the FDA is supposed to come out with something, but it's looking like the congressional spitting contest is going to cause some deadlines in the government to slide a bit.  So, let's sit back and talk e-cigarette news for a bit, shall we?

World News
World News

Just a few days ago, I was glad the FDA didn’t react like the EU and try to classify e-cigarettes as medical devices. A federal court saw to that in 2011 when the FDA’s 2009 attempts to ban e-cigarettes was shot down (see more early FDA and e-cigarette history here). Now that the EU has come to its senses, maybe the EU should emulate our friends across the sea. That’s the same conclusion an opinion piece in Forbes came to as well.

Why Is The FDA Shielding Smokers From The Good News About E-Cigarettes?

But if the FDA’s Zeller decides to interpret the law flexibly — there are provisions in the law to allow it — and exempt e-cigarettes from such stringent regulation, while enforcing sound manufacturing practices, valid product labeling and a ban on sales to minors, a revolution in public health may transpire. Listen, to everyone’s surprise, the European parliament did just that! Those of us devoted to public health now have reason to hope that our FDA will hear the lesson from the EU, and flout the hysterics and rent-seekers whose messages would lead to more needless smoking-related death.

These are indeed some strange times. Really the EU’s seeing the light was thanks to thousands of committed consumers being active in the political process. As the article points out, there seems to be a lot going on hear, so it’s unlikely the FDA will be reasonable without some amount of persuasion by real people.

A recent story aired on a New York NBC affiliate just turned the gateway theory up to 11. The story was focused on the trend of using e-cigarettes, or devices similar to e-cigarettes to vaporize marijuana. Understandably, it makes things more difficult for law enforcement to detect people using illegal substances (for the purposes of this story, we’re not going to worry about whether or not anyone should care.) Naturally the story turned to the idea that kids might do the same thing featuring a quote from a narcotics detective straight out of Dragnet with the marijuana is a gateway to LSD talk. Then the story ended with a mashup of the drug and e-cigarette gateway theories.

I-Team: E-Cigarettes, Used to Smoke Marijuana, Spark New Concerns

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan,) said concern about young people using e-cigarettes, and the possible gateway to illegal drugs, is what spurred her to introduce a bill that became law last year making it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors. It’s also illegal in New Jersey, though there are no age restrictions in Connecticut or under federal law.

“Once you try electronic cigarettes, you can become hooked to them, move on to cigarettes and then move on to other drugs,” Rosenthal said.
I think my brain just died inside a little.

I often wonder what a future will look like if the anti-smoking lobby and the tobacco industries get their way and pass regulations that would effectively hand the industry over to Big T. Well, perhaps this article that turned up in Businessweek might be a harbinger of things to come.  Even though most tobacco companies have their own e-cigarette lines, they’ve also been at work coming up with other “solutions.”

Marlboro Man Dons Lab Coat to Find Next Big Tobacco Hit: Retail

The device Bonvin puffs in the lab looks like a hollowed-out fountain pen. A custom-built cigarette is inserted and its tobacco is heated to generate a smoking aerosol. The temperature is “significantly below” what’s generated by a traditional cigarette, which burns tobacco, PMI has said.

While that lessens the health risk, Bonvin says the device still “needs to mimic as closely as possible a cigarette, both in taste, nicotine delivery and behavioral experience.”

Competitors are taking other routes. British American Tobacco Plc (BATS), Europe’s biggest player, is using an aerosol technology found in asthma inhalers. Both companies say their products aren’t intended to help smokers quit; rather, they promise to deliver a safer, more satisfying experience than the current crop of e-cigarettes.

And people wonder why vapers are so vigilant when it comes to e-cigarette regulations. Some are even saying activist vapers are part of an Astroturf movement. No, we just don’t want to depend on Big T’s ideas to keep using cigarettes.

Ok, so this article I’m about to mention was written by a UK writer, so I have no idea what vapid Brits actually sound like, so just pretend the title makes sense.  Anyway, there was an opinion piece in the Independent penned by a TV critic (I think) that was essentially a baseless attack on e-cigarettes with no research at all.  But the weird thing was the author apparently wanted e-cigarettes to exist based on the introduction in the article.

E-cigarettes simply reinforce a terrible habit

When I was struggling to give up smoking, I often wondered when scientists would stop faffing around with that Large Hadron Collider and invent a cigarette that didn’t kill you. After teleportation and an iPhone battery that lasts longer than 12 hours, surely this must have topped the “Overdue” column on Science’s Big To Do List? Then, some time last year, that little plastic device with a red glowing light on the end was suddenly everywhere. It was to the rebellious allure of actual cigarettes as a Ken doll’s crotch is to real sex, but still, it worked. It allowed the smoker to inhale nicotine, without the harmful effects of tobacco. Healthy cigs had finally arrived. Be careful what you wish for.

So, e-cigarettes are the next best thing since flying cars, but they’re also evil with secret ingredients? Maybe it’s just because the writer went through the hell of quitting smoking without e-cigarettes only to find these things already existed. Like, I dunno.

Lincoln Nebraska, local health officials are apparently worried about e-cigarettes throwing a monkey wrench in the local smoking bans. Apparently, some business owners claim that employees can’t tell if someone is smoking or vaping. Establishments also appear unable to actually set their own policies in the city.

Policing a large crowd becomes challenging. “It is easier when you know that everything is a cigarette,” Halstead said.

The Health Department is hearing complaints about people smoking e-cigarettes in businesses, Halstead said. It is getting calls from businesses that want to ban e-cigarettes.

And it is getting calls from bar owners frustrated by trying to sort out  cigarette smokers from those puffing on  e-cigarettes, she said.

This just has to be a non story.  First of all, if it smells terrible and burns your eyes, it’s a cigarette.  Second, it’s your damn bar. As long as you aren’t breaking laws, you get to make up your own rules. That’s why you started a business in the first place. Perhaps bar owners just want to blame big, bad nanny government rather than stepping up and telling patrons it was their decision because of whatever reason.

Citing sources inside the tobacco industry, Ad Age noted that the FDA is unlikely to meet its October deadline for publishing draft e-cigarette regulations. While much of the FDA is still in business, it seems that the political gridlock in the nation’s capital will screw up timelines for the agency. Naturally, prohibitionists are nonplussed while those companies with means continue their ad campaigns.

Government Shutdown Could Delay Expected E-Cig TV Ban Again

But an FDA ban on TV advertising is considered a “no brainer,” according to a report last month from CLSA. That would curb an emerging source of revenue for TV networks, where spending on e-cigarette commercials rose 17.9% to 2012 from 2011, according to a Citibank report.

Anti-smoking groups aren’t eager for any further delay. “Everyone is frustrated,” said Danny McGoldrick, VP-research at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “The FDA said more than three years ago that they would take over regulating all tobacco products.”

Somehow, I doubt this move would buy us another two years. So, this brief respite is hardly worth the pain the rest of the shutdown is bearing down on Americans.

While the US braces for the FDA to come down on e-cigarettes (just as soon as the government turns the “open” sign back on), the EU has come to its senses.  The Tobacco Products Directive was amended to include much more sensible e-cigarette guidelines.  While not a total victory for vapers as there are still some advertising and nicotine content rules (30mg/ml is the strongest you’ll be able to get), the devices will no longer be banned.

MEPs tighten anti-tobacco laws aimed at young smokers

Euro MPs have voted to tighten tobacco regulations aimed at putting young people off smoking, but some measures do not go as far as originally planned.

They rejected a European Commission proposal to treat electronic cigarettes as medicinal products – a move that would have restricted sales.

They backed a ban on menthol cigarettes – but with a five-year delay. And slim cigarettes will not be banned.

There will be more negotiations with EU governments before the law is adopted.

So in theory, it’s possible this one could take a turn for the worse before the law is official. However, this is in general a good day for our European friends.  Except those in the UK. The MHRA jumped the gun a few months ago and decided to medicalize ecigs.  That one will still need some work.

Normally, I don’t cover fellow blogs in the news section, that’s for the site of the week (or really random site every few weeks).  However, there was an interesting post on a blog penned by a professor who’s been under fire for a recent paper critical of the e-cigarette Industry. The professor wonders if the rapid responses to his paper on social media may have something more to them.

So what should we make of e-cigarettes?

So what do I conclude from this experience? There is clearly a dedicated, highly vocal community using devices that look nothing like cigarettes. Many of them are, doubtless, deeply committed to harm reduction, but I argue that they miss the much bigger picture. However, given what we know about the tobacco industry, now that it has jumped on the e-cigarette bandwagon, it would be foolish to ignore the possibility that some of those responding with such speed and intensity to any challenge to e-cigarettes represent industry-manufactured Astroturf rather than spontaneously emerging grassroots.

Now before I get to the point here, the article talked about a lot of people who replied to the report were less than civil. I in no way condone that behavior. I think if you’re trying to get a point across, being respectful is the best way to do so. Personal attacks do nothing but make you look like the bad guy.  Anyway, I’ve seen accusations of Astroturf pop up before, mostly in EU surrounding the TPD. It seems that in this case, if you have a group of very passionate, vocal consumers the best way to counter is to simply accuse them of being a construct of evil industry players. For some reason the idea of people really caring about this subject is lost (or willfully downplayed).


I know the e-cigarette news coming out of France as of late hasn’t been exactly positive. Lest you think all of France is a bad country for vaping, this little story should lift your spirits.  A group of 10 doctors from varied fields of practice have written a letter of support for e-cigarettes. In the letter the doctors point out that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking, and that treating them as medical products under the TPD is a horrible idea.

French doctors voice support for e-cigarettes

In an unprecedented move, the French doctors wrote: “As medical professionals, we see patients every day who are victims of smoking. It is one of the most serious medical problems in France today.

“At the same time, we have noted the development of electronic cigarettes, which have helped a huge number of people stop smoking tobacco.”

The doctors include experts in tobacco addiction, cardiology, angiology, cancer, urology, neurology, foetal pathology, as well France’s senior ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

“We recommend continued research into the improvement of e-liquids so that an even greater number of smokers can stop using tobacco,” they continued, adding that e-cigarettes were “infinitely less” dangerous than inhaling smoke from burning tobacco, which includes carbon monoxide and carcinogenic tars.

The Washington Post ran a lengthy and detailed story over the weekend about the e-cigarette industry’s lobbying efforts. The piece described what the various players from Big Tobacco to the TVECA and CASAA are trying to do to ensure e-cigarette regulations go their way. NJoy and V2 have spent around 100 grand trying to win friends in congress with sway over the FDA. Of course, that’s an absolute drop in the bucket next to the kind of cheddar Big Tobacco can bring to the party.

E-cigarette makers lobbying hard to shape rules for fast-growing industry

Lorillard Tobacco — best known for its Newport cigarettes — entered the e-cigarette market in 2012 with its purchase of blu eCigs and has started to lend some of its lobbying might to the cause. The company spent $2.35 million last year on lobbying, according to federal disclosure filings, and is on track to exceed that this year. The company’s lobbying team at Dickstein Shapiro includes former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert and several other former members of Congress. This year, Dickstein Shapiro began to list “all federal and legislative action related to e-cigarettes” among its lobbying issues.

Of the players lobbying congress, all say they support some level of regulation. What specifically that means is a little vague. The company throwing the most cash at the problem sort of has a reputation for not being exactly friendly to online e-cigarette sales.

I tend to give bad local news stories a pass simply because there are only so many hours in a day for me to make snarky comments about news items.  Still, an article that appeared in a local Florida paper just struck me the wrong way.  The article, written by someone who had previously written about the prevalence of local e-cigarette proprietors decided she needed more information. By that, she apparently meant it was time to introduce gateway theories and flavoring is for kids nonsense. That’s not so unusual for these articles. What is was the opening part where the claim was made that e-cigarettes don’t work because someone bought a kit and then actually used it.

Belling on Boomers: So-called glamour surrounding e-cigs is harmful

When her mother announced that she was going to cut down and then quit her lifetime smoking habit, my friend Lindsey was thrilled. A few weeks later, Lindsey’s enthusiasm had shifted to disappointment. You see, her mother had decided to try using electronic cigarettes to kick her nicotine habit. Some advertisers have suggested that this alternative can assist people in quitting by gradually reducing the nicotine content in their e-cigarettes.

So, Lindsey’s mother bought the starter package for $60, chose some flavors, and vowed to begin cutting down her almost pack-a-day habit.

Thing is, she loved the variety of flavors and the ability to feed her nicotine habit without people complaining about her secondhand smoke.

To begin with, nobody advertises the step down thing.  Some users have successfully done it, but that’s a personal choice. Advertising that would likely land a company in hot water. As for the second part, it sounds to me e-cigarettes are working like they are intended. Lindsey sees her mom’s e-cigarette all the time, not a pack of smokes.

Is there anything more adorable than a militant prohibitionist with an opinion column in a newspaper? Take this one that popped up in a Utah paper recently. The author goes on a tirade attempting to link the e-cigarette industry with the sins of the tobacco industry past. Essentially, claiming that e-cigarettes are hiding behind shady studies constructed by them and (of course) targeting kids.

Too many concerns exist with e-cigarettes

The top three tobacco manufacturers in the U.S. all sell e-cigarettes. The tobacco industry was a pioneer in commissioning apparently “independent” research as a strategy to support its public relations goals of protecting and advancing the industry’s interests. In 1953, tobacco companies were advised that the best way to fight against the emerging evidence of the link between smoking and cancer was not to deny the research outright but to say more research is warranted, thereby creating doubt. Now they are banking on a limited body of evidence related to e-cigarettes and are claiming that the “research” they have is credible.

So let’s see here. You’re going to use limited to research in the very same article to claim that e-cigarettes are harmful.  Not only that, but the very next paragraph makes the assertion that e-cigarette flavors are designed specifically to attract kids. A statement that has no basis in empirical evidence whatsoever and is pure conjecture.  Also, don’t forget to invoke the CDC survey while ignoring it only tracks experimentation (and is still deeply flawed at that).  Who exactly is using the tactics of tobacco past here? I’m confused.

An article in an independent paper out of New Haven, CT sheds some light on the thinking behind the move that prompted 40 attorneys general to beg the FDA to do something about e-cigarettes. For the kids of course. The article interviewed a random community college student who said she could imagine why kids might like flavors as well as the attorney general of the state.  It was hard to tell which one was which.

“Call me an optimist, but there’s simply no basis to think that they [e-cigarettes] are not potentially devastatingly harmful to kids [because they can] become addicted to nicotine and it makes it very likely that they’ll have an addiction for the rest of their life,” said Jepsen. “The nicotine in e-cigarettes is derived from tobacco—there’s no reason to treat it any differently.”

That was the AG for you playing the at-home edition.  The piece also interviewed a researcher who was given a truckload of money by the NIH to look into this gateway theory.  They’ve actually been collecting data for two years and still don’t have a report ready. So it makes perfect sense that the AG can steal a barmaid’s idea and pretend there’s any substance behind it.

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