October 18, 2013

e-Cigarette News Roundup for 10/28 – Back to Work

Welcome to another fun-filled week of e-cigarette news! Lots of big stories this week from Europe and the US. Now that the US government is back on the job, expect some FDA style rumblings in the near future. The speculation this week is that they plan on jumping on e-cigarette regulations just as soon as they open up shop again. So we'll see if next week brings anything interesting. For now, here's this week's e-cigarette news.

Seeing as many news stories about e-cigarettes as I do, I’ve become somewhat jaded. Essentially, it’s a lot of the same rhetoric over and over again. e-Cigarettes are a Big Tobacco Conspiracy, they’re trying to hook kids, we don’t know what’s in them, they don’t help people quit. Of course there’s also the classics, like e-cigarettes contain antifreeze. That one isn’t used so much since it’s well known to be complete bull.  An article in the Decatur Daily not only used the antifreeze myth, but decided to embellish just a tad.

Buyer beware of today’s new smoking trend

We come today to inform you that no regulating body has determined such devices safe — an e-cigarette comes with a bottle of spiced chemicals that can include formaldehyde to rat poison to ingredients of antifreeze.

That said, a recent study in the journal “Tobacco Control” determined the ingredients in a dozen popular brands of e-cigarettes to be significantly less toxic than that of lighted cigarettes. (Their salespeople, such as Decatur’s Vanessa Reed, call the devices “nicotine delivery systems,” though that hardly distinguishes them from cigarettes.)

Yes, that’s right, they said rat poison. I have no words. Keep in mind, this isn’t an editorial written by some crackpot, this is what passes for actual journalism in this particular publication.

Oh BMJ, you silly pharma industry tool. After a huffy editorial announcing it wasn’t on Big Tobacco’s payroll any more and subsequent tweet that meant e-Cigarettes too, the journal published yet another huffy editorial. This one was about the recent amendments to the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. Mostly the rant was about the concessions given to Big T, mostly. There was a bit at the end where clearly any sort of acceptance of e-cigarettes was completely out of the question.

European Union’s tobacco products directive

The most contentious area is e-cigarettes. The commission proposed treating them like any other nicotine delivery device and regulating them as drugs, a view supported by many governments, including that of the United Kingdom, after careful review of the evidence. The parliament was, however, influenced by intensive lobbying against this, although the meaning of the alternative text is unclear. Now, “all nicotine containing products” will be subject to the same restrictions on cross border advertising and sponsorship as cigarettes. Although cigarette brand names will be banned, the many flavourings, such as bubble gum and cotton candy, which increase their appeal to children, will not. However, the draft text goes on to urge governments to “ensure that they can be made available as widely as tobacco products,” reflecting unsubstantiated claims that they are a “game changer” for smoking cessation.10 The draft legislation fails to address the rapid growth in sales of products designed to resemble real cigarettes as closely as possible. This subterfuge is widely viewed as a way to renormalise smoking, a key goal of those seeking to recruit child smokers, and to counter some of the effects of smoking bans.11

Yep, that’s right, e-cigarettes have declared war on made-up words, by making the tobacco control lobby invent new made up words like “renormalise.” Also, putting scholarly references to opinion pieces in the newspaper does not a scholarly editorial make. Oh yeah, and that number 11? It’s a link the author’s own ranty paper about some conspiracy theory. That’s totally a blogger thing to do. I should know.

Don’t expect to see any further e-cigarette research to make its way into the esteemed journal BMJ. Today, the journal confirmed in a post that it will no longer publish research funded by the tobacco industry. In guilt by association news, the BMJ also stated via Twitter that it considers e-cigarettes to be part of the same industry.

Journal policy on research funded by the tobacco industry

As editors of the BMJHeartThorax, and BMJ Open we have decided that the journals will no longer consider for publication any study that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry. Our new policy is consistent with those of other journals including PLoS Medicine, PLoS One, PLoS Biology1Journal of Health Psychology; journals published by the American Thoracic Society; and the BMJ’s own Tobacco Control.

Critics may argue—as many did when journals stopped publishing cigarette adverts—that publishing such research does not constitute endorsing its findings and that, as long as funding sources are fully disclosed, readers can consider that information and make up their own minds about the quality of the work. Peer review should prevail, goes this line of thinking: it’s not the editor’s job to make these kinds of judgments. However, this view ignores the growing body of evidence that biases and research misconduct are often impossible to detect and that the source of funding can influence the outcomes of studies in invisible ways.

My request for clarification on why the decision to include e-cigarettes in this decision was not immediately returned by BMJ. It is also unclear what will constitute industry sponsored research for e-cigarettes since much of the research is independent and funded by the community.

Forbes published an article about the current state of e-cigarette marketing. Essentially, it’s the same story you’ve heard before, one in which people argue e-cigarette companies are targeting kids. Typically, in these stories, the FDA tends to be pretty tight-lipped about their plans, which were supposed to unfold this month. A little hint of what the agency is up to seems to have seeped out in this particular article.

E-Cigarette Marketing Seen Threatened Under FDA Scrutiny: Health

In a government catalog of upcoming federal regulatory actions, called the Unified Agenda, the FDA lists October 2013 as the deadline for issuing a notice for proposing such rules.

The FDA has sent a proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget, seeking to expand its regulatory authority beyond cigarettes, Steven Immergut, a spokesman for the agency said in an e-mail yesterday. “Their review will begin when the government shutdown ends,” he said.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said everyone is watching to see precisely what the FDA has proposed.

“Sometimes OMB takes weeks and sometimes OMB sits on things for a very long time,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think this is something the OMB plans to sit on.”

It looks like things are about to heat up in the federal arena. Over on the ECF, Bill Godshall has put up a call to action for vapers to start contacting their elected officials to plead their case. Probably not a bad idea at this point.

e-Cigarette company White Cloud issued a press release touting a partnership with the University of South Florida’s business school. The schools faculty will look for trends in the market as they relate to e-cigarettes and consumer behavior. White Cloud will provide the university, well the press release didn’t say, so I’m going with money here.

White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes Partners with USF for Research Study

As part of the agreement, marketing faculty at USF’s College of Business will conduct a study of the perceptions, barriers and transitional comments for smokers moving to the potentially less harmful alternative of electronic cigarettes.

The purpose of this research study is to gain insight into a new segment of consumers who are adopting “vaping” behaviors instead of smoking. The research conducted by USF’s College of Business will encompass both qualitative and quantitative consumer studies via focus groups, interviews and surveys of adult smokers.

The project team from USF includes Professor Paul Solomon, Ms. Carol Osborne, Instructor, and Dr. Anand Kumar, Associate Professor and Chair of the Marketing Department.  The faculty team’s research interests cover areas such as brand strategies, marketing communications’ effectiveness and consumer reactions to new technology products and services.

This is sort of an interesting move. While most are interested in research on the potential benefits and risks of e-cigarettes, this one takes a different track. Considering there are accusations flying around about targeting youth, maybe more insight into who’s really using these things and why isn’t such a bad idea.

The city of Evanston, IL decided they’d like to ban e-cigarette sales to minors. The state already has a law on the books that will soon be implemented, but whatever, fine. The law also bans public use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is banned. Not so fine. However, the rationale for such a move is completely cringe-worthy.

E-cigarette users turn out to oppose ban

Another speaker said his father died last year of complications from cancer brought on by smoking, and that if he’d been able use electronic cigarettes he might be still alive now.

A city staff memo supporting the proposed restrictions noted that because e-cigarettes are relatively new, few studies have been done of the health consequences of their use.

But it argued that their use in public places should be banned because, “since they closely resemble cigarettes, it may lead people to believe that it is okay to smoke in areas that are smoke-free.”

Yes, that’s right. Apparently the smokers of Evanston are too stupid to realize the anti-smoking laws didn’t just disappear overnight because, vapor.  Good job to the folks who turned out to try and convince the city they’re a little off their rocker. I’ve been seeing more and more towns try to take things into their own hands. Like quite a few. The paranoid in me is beginning to wonder if this might not be some kind of orchestrated thing since pushes for bans at the federal and state levels have been met with little success.

Now here’s something you don’t see every day.  A local news outlet that ran a story about some study or another concerning the safety of e-cigarettes. Ok, fine so we see those all the time.  How about one that looks at two studies?  Yep, see them too. How about one that looks at two studies that both show the sky is in fact, not falling and the risks of e-cigarettes have greatly been blown out of proportion? Yeah I thought so.

Studies disprove some negative health risks associated with e-cigs

Recently, a new study of the ingredients of e-cig vapor has been reported by Prof. Igor Burstyn of the School of Public Health of Drexel University’s Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health.

The study revealed that “the levels of contaminants e-cig users are exposed to are insignificant, far below levels that would pose any health risk. Additionally, there is no health risk to bystanders. Proposals to ban e-cigarettes in places where smoking is banned have been based on concern there is a potential risk to bystanders, but the study shows there is no concern.”

A second study, done by Greek researchers this year, revealed that e-cigs do not appear to pose a threat to the heart.

Actually, I lied.  There weren’t two studies they mentioned, but three, the last just getting passing mention.  They did of course bring up that some people are still freaking out over the devices.

An article that recently appeared in the Telegraph was theoretically about the state of the e-cigarette industry. Instead, it seemed to be more or less a piece about the MHRA and its medicalization plans. Despite the EU rejecting such plans recently, the UK’s medical administration seems to putting on that British stiff upper lip and staying the course thing. It appears the agency has no problems acting unilaterally.

E-cigarettes: all you need to know

However, there is a problem with quality control – which is why the MHRA wants to see e-cigarettes regulated as medicine. This should come into effect in 2016, although without a Europe-wide initiative the UK may act unilaterally. “Our tests show that different products vary in how much nicotine they deliver” says Jeremy Mean. “So some products may not help people regulate their nicotine cravings.”

There are also fears that e‑cigarettes could “renormalise” smoking and promote nicotine addiction. “This is precisely why they need regulating as medicines, so that they are not sold to under-18s or targeted at non-smokers,” says Mean. He advises that for now, would-be quitters should use conventional NRT products – patches, gums and sprays – rather than e‑cigarettes.

Why is it when officials recommend patches and gum, it always sounds like a commercial of some sort?  As for the UK, it seems this is a loose end that will take a little more work from UK consumers to tie up this loose end.

Exciting news!  Top X Reasons… articles aren’t just relegated to the blogosphere any longer.  They’ve made the jump to the newspaper realm.  A paper out of upstate New York ran a top 7 list furnished by a prohibitionist group.  The reasons why the FDA should heavily regulate controls.  Apparently, e-cigarette companies, like the tobacco companies before them were the only ones who ever thought of using things like celebrities, attractive people and sporting events to sell products.

APOV: Seven reasons the FDA should regulate e-cigarettes
1. They have celebrity spokespeople.

Like cigarette ads of old, television, online and print ads for e-cigarettes feature catchy slogans and celebrity endorsers, including actor Stephen Dorff and rock musician Courtney Love for NJOY. Their message: Using these products is trendy and cool.

2. Their magazine ads feature rugged men … and glamorous women.

These ads feature today’s equivalents of the Marlboro Man and the Virginia Slims woman, depicting e-cigarette use as masculine, sexy or rebellious. E-cigarette ads have appeared in magazines that reach millions of teens, including Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, InStyle and Us Weekly.

3. They know sex sells.

Like cigarette companies have long done, e-cigarette makers portray use of their products as sexually attractive. The allure for young people to start using is just as real; particularly in the Internet age we live in.

4. They sponsor sports … and music festivals.

For decades tobacco companies used sponsorships of sports and entertainment events, especially auto racing and music festivals, to promote cigarettes to huge audiences, including kids. Cigarette sponsorships are now banned, however today e-cigarette brands have auto racing sponsorships of their own. The Blu Cig company is one of them.

5. Their products come in sweet flavors.

A 2009 federal law banned fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes, but many e-cigarette companies gleefully pitch similar flavors. Apollo Vapors, for example, offers Almond Joyee (“the candy bar taste without the calories!”), French Vanilla (“like biting into a deliciously sweet vanilla cupcake”) and Banana Cream (“yummy ambrosia of bananas and whipped cream”).

6. They use cartoons.

The website for blu eCigs has featured a cartoon pitchman named “Mr. Cool.” It was reminiscent of the Joe Camel cartoon character that so effectively marketed cigarettes to kids in the 1990s.

7. Their ads say, “Switch, Don’t Quit.”

Tobacco companies have long tried to discourage smokers from quitting by marketing cigarette changes as reducing health risk. Some e-cigarette ads carry a similar message. No wonder youth e-cigarette use is on the rise. These developments underscore the need for the FDA to quickly regulate e-cigarettes and take steps to prevent their marketing and sale to kids.

I feel bad for quoting the entire list, but just one of these didn’t quite capture the lack of substance behind these articles.  Since no product uses these things to market to people after all.  And certainly adults don’t like pretty people, racing or other things.  And Courtney Love?  Really?  Really!? Ok, so adults don’t really like her either, but at least they know who the hell she is. But wait, there’s more, I’m having trouble finding this Mr. Cool ad, Google Image search only turns up pictures of their existing adds… and some guy with an unfortunate medical condition (you’ve been warned.)

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