November 01, 2013

e-Cigarette News Roundup for November 1 – And so the story goes

Welcome to another e-cigarette news roundup Friday! As usual, we have a ton of stories that vary widely. The big news this week is that New York City has raised the age to purchase cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21. There are plenty of other e-cigarette news stories to go around as well. If you missed it, don't forget to check out the special news report on Altria's steps to kill small e-cigarette businesses via the FDA. So, get yourself comfortable and dive into this week's e-cigarette news.

 
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We all know that prohibitionists have been spending a lot of time spreading fear of e-cigarettes to whoever will listen.  It looks like all that hard work has paid off, as every day Americans, particularly younger ones perceive e-cigarettes as similar in risk to tobacco.

College students say they don’t ‘NJOY’ e-cigarettes

Public relations major, Nico Quaratino, admitted that he had tried e-cigarettes in the past, but was not satisfied with their product. However, when asked about what product he thinks is the healthier alternative, the 20-year-old said, “I don’t think either of them are healthy because e-cigs are also really bad for you.” He continued, “I can’t imagine smoking on machines being much better than tobacco.”

There goes one guy who will happily remain a smoker for years. A job well done!

The Big Apple has gotten much ink in the last 24 hours as its city council passed a measure to raise the age limit for cigarettes from 18 to 21. In a move that rattled the cages of some in the e-cigarette industry, those devices, too, fall under the new requirement. Fortunately, more draconian measures like banning the sale of flavors were dropped from the final version of the rule.

NYC council votes to make tobacco-buying age 21

The city Health Department said in a statement that the measure was taken off the table because “with the arrival of e-cigarettes, more time is needed to determine how best to address this problem.”

E-cigarette makers say their products are healthier than tobacco, and a trade association leader bristled at the city’s proposal to prevent people under 21 from buying them.

“Is 21 the right number? People can join the Army at 18,” said Ray Story, founder of the Atlanta-based Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.

That’s the same argument I used to make as a teen when I complained about not buying beer. While the move to include ecigs in the measure seems like a misguided land grab, I doubt it will have much impact to vapers. Otherwise legal adults will still be able to order stuff online (for now). Maybe that qualifies as black market, who knows?

In a press release, e-cigarette company Logic patted themselves on the back for a job well done at their first industry summit. Apparently, the company got a bunch of retail types and analysts together to talk e-cigarettes. Among the topics were regulatory issues and market outlook.

LOGIC Technology Hosts First Annual Electronic Cigarette Summit

logic e-cigarettes logo
logic e-cigarettes logo
“We are excited to have debuted and hosted what will become an annual event, allowing industry insiders and retailers to meet, discuss and maximize the opportunities offered within this rapidly growing category,” said Miguel Martin, President of LOGIC Technology. “This Summit serves as a great forum to inform our trade partners about new ways to reach their adult consumers.”

Participants noted that this summit, the first of its kind, was invaluable in illustrating the exponential growth already underway within the category. Attendees had the opportunity to hear an industry overview from leading Goldman Sachs analyst Judy Hong as well as a regulatory and tax update from Thomas Briant, an executive from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets.

It sort of goes to show how things are different in the retail space. Seems to me that it’s a sort of every man for himself kind of environment as opposed to the small retailers who tend to band together when necessary to pull off larger events.

By now you’ve all heard the clarion call of prohibitionists everywhere, e-cigarettes will lead kids to a life of smoking and loose morals, or something like that. Well, someone actually thought to find out if that was actually the case. And how do you do that? By finding smokers who were recently kids and ask them how they started. A study surveyed 1300 college students asked them about tobacco use and how they got started. The results aren’t exactly the alarming trend we’ve been led to believe.

E-Cigarettes May Not Be Gateway to Smoking: Study

“We asked what the first tobacco product they ever tried was and what their current tobacco use looked like,” said researcher Theodore Wagener, an assistant professor of general and community pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in Oklahoma City.

Overall, 43 students said their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette. Of that group, only one person said they went on to smoke regular cigarettes. And the vast majority who started with e-cigarettes said they weren’t currently using any nicotine or tobacco.

“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything,” said Wagener, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in National Harbor, Md.

While encouraging, don’t expect many prohibitionists to change their tunes, or even acknowledge the study even happened. For the rest of us, well, I guess a hardy “no duh!” is in order.

Apparently, the mayor of Tower Hamlets are warning of the unknown dangers of e-cigarettes. Cautioning citizens to be wary of the devices. As an added bonus, shopkeepers are reminded that they could be held liable for the deaths of anyone using these devilish murder sticks.

E-cigarette warning to consumers and businesses in Tower Hamlets

Smokers switching to the latest trend for e-cigarettes and e-shisha pipes are being warned of the safety risk from the electronic devices and their chemical contents.

Businesses have also been dealt a stark reminder from Tower Hamlets Trading Standards that they could be liable for any death or injury resulting from the sale of a dangerous product.

 

When I read this article, I pictured in my head some raving madman with unkempt hair and a long, scraggly beard professing that the end is neigh. For their part, the local consumer products safety agency says there shouldn’t be much of a problem with the devices.

Meanwhile in France. A tobacco shop proprietor is suing a vapor shop over “unfair” labor practices. Apparently, the problem is that e-cigarettes look like cigarettes but don’t have to be sold through the state-run tobacco authority like cigarettes do. The case has the potential to set precedent for e-cigarettes in France.

Tobacconist sues e-cigarette shop

Is France set to ban e-cigarettes in public? - The Local
Is France set to ban e-cigarettes in public? - The Local
Lawyers for the two sides argued the case in court in Toulouse yesterday with the buraliste saying e-cigarettes were a tobacco product and should only be sold through the legal monopoly of the tabac. He added that it was illegal to advertise tobacco products but the e-cigarette shop – sited near the tabac in Plaisance-du-Touch – had a window full of advertising which was aimed at persuading people to start using e-cigarettes and tobacco.

He said e-cigarettes “recall the act of smoking” and were supported by the four major world tobacco companies. The e-cigarette was another smoking product which was advertised as such and which used “cigarette” in its name.

I wonder if there were ever any French court cases where buggy whip companies sued car manufacturers over accelerator pedals.

The year was 1986, I was in high school, my dad’s Firebird was still cool, and an enterprising company came out with a smokeless cigarette which produced nicotine vapor and that was promptly squashed by the FDA.  No this isn’t a time warp, and thankfully, I no longer have a mullet. I came across an interesting document (tip o’ the hat to Carl Phillips). The document was a letter giving the parent company of Favor cigarettes 10 days to stop selling their product, or else.

This may sound familiar here in a second. The justification for the demand was exactly the same thing the FDA used to justify its attempted e-cigarette ban in 2009 calling e-cigarettes an unapproved medicine.  Here’s the letter in all its typewritten 1980′s glory (Motley Crue cassette not included).

Download (PDF, 100KB)

Oh you have to love the prohibitionist mindset. A group of doctors in Pennsylvania who I’ll refer to as the PMS (no, really, Pennsylvania Medical Society) have recommended several draconian measures including raising taxes on e-cigarettes, you know just to be safe, because they just don’t know what’s in there, darnit.

E-cig users should pay higher taxes, PA doctors say

Though MacLeod acknowledged e-cigarettes may be used by some smokers to quit using the more-dangerous tobacco cigarettes, the fact that e-cigarettes are still addicting and can be marketed to minors was cause for concern.

In addition to banning sales to minors and applying cigarette taxes to e-cigarettes, the group called for Pennsylvania schools to include the dangers of e-cigarettes in their normal anti-tobacco programs.

 

So let me get this straight. PMS doesn’t know what’s in e-cigarettes, but they should include information on the dangers of e-cigarettes in education programs. Even though they don’t know what’s in there, they totally know they’re dangerous. 200 doctors actually put effort into coming up with that.

As we approach the deadline for the FDA’s e-cigarette regulations to be approved by the OMB, more speculation is mounting about what that will look like. In an article peppered with input from famed prohibitionist you’d expect a lot of rhetoric, especially in anything with input from Professor Glantz. However, it seems that some e-cigarette companies are all for restrictions that would protect their interests at the cost of competitors.

Industry appears largely to welcome the FDA’s proposed rule in that it will level the playing field.

“Since the rules apply to everybody, that is a fair and equitable environment in which to conduct business,” [Logic CEO] Martin said. “An environment where the FDA does regulate the sale and marketing of products is a good thing.”

Once regulated, “[e-cigarette companies] are going to have to follow things like registration, product listing, ingredient listing, good manufacturing requirements, there’ll be the user fees, adulteration and misbranding provisions will fall into place…FDA can come in and inspect facilities,” Malkin noted. “It’s a big change from what they have now.”

But wait, it gets even better from the president of Mistic, a brand available at Wal-Mart stores around the country.

Internet sales ought to be done away with because of the difficulty of age verification, suggested John Wiesehan, Jr., CEO of Ballantyne Brands, which makes Mistic brand e-cigarettes.

From a business standpoint, I get where these guys are coming from. It’s dirty, but getting the government to do your wet work of eliminating a big swath of competitors is an awful tempting carrot. The problem is that when you get into bed with something like this, you never know what kind of blowback you might see in the future.

I’ll be honest here. Prohibitionist articles are so common these days, they’re beginning to sort of blur together in one giant lump of half truths and FUD. Sometimes, there are new underlying trends that can be picked out, like prohibitionists claiming that an old tobacco company tactic used was claiming a lack of conclusive data to delay regulations while the prohibitionists use the same language themselves to justify their actions. Another trend is to simply lump e-cigarettes in with smoking.

STONE: Are e-cigarettes the lesser of two evils?

One thing is certain, whether someone smokes or vapes, nicotine delivery is the name of the game … and nicotine addiction is big business. Between the big tobacco and e-cigarette companies, it’s a $100 billion plus industry with the aim for as many people to depend on their product as possible.

Simply put, e-cigarettes allow another opportunity for the cycle of nicotine addiction to continue. The ground health professionals have made during the past four decades to greatly reduce tobacco use stands to be compromised with the rising use of e-cigarettes.

As the case with illicit or even legal drugs, there are various ways to fuel an addiction. As the desire for nicotine grows, the quest for it will not stop at just vaping e-cigarettes.

And that is how you rephrase the gateway argument without sounding like the Simpsons’ Chief Wiggam. Of course that doesn’t make the argument any more valid.

With all the depressing news coverage of e-cigarettes and the looming specter of government regulation, it’s refreshing to read a positive human interest story. This one is particularly unique in that it’s not the typical vape shop profile. Rather, it’s the tale of a traveling blues man and a near biblical conversion to electronic cigarettes. Roy “Book” Binder’s new album even includes a tribute to his e-cigarette.

The Good Book tells a celebratory story of ‘electric’ cigs

He has a new album, he told me, called “The Good Book” - a typical play on words from Roy Book Binder. It’s different from some of his other work, which features him and his guitar, singing his own stuff and interpreting some of the songs of blues greats, many of whom were gone before phonograph records switched away from 78 RPM. The best of them include him telling stories – if you can find the DVD of him at the National Storytelling Festival, you’ll not be disappointed – but this one is different, with a New Orleans-style bluesy-jazzy group of backup musicians and, he told me with some excitement, a new song: “Electric Cigarette Blues.”

 

If you’re curious about the song, you can check it out on YouTube

The New York Times ran a lengthy piece on electronic cigarettes that featured prominently NJoy e-cigarettes along with a healthy dose of Stan Glantz. The company talked about its strategy to mimic traditional cigarettes as closely as possible, while backhandedly slam competitors. NJoy’s big push is to renormalize smoking in the form of e-cigarettes, so really it’s the idea of normalizing e-cigarettes since they were never denormalized.

The E-Cigarette Industry, Waiting to Exhale

Mr. Vuleta, who told his tale in the office of Craig Weiss, the NJOY chief executive, calls this a process of “renormalizing,” so that smokers can come back in from the cold. He means that literally — allowing people now exiled to the sidewalks back into buildings with e-cigarettes. But he also means it metaphorically. Early in the last century, smoking was an accepted alternative for men to chewing tobacco; for women, it was daring and transgressive. Then, in midcentury, it became the norm. As the dangers of tobacco — and the scandalous behavior of tobacco companies in concealing those dangers — became impossible to ignore, smoking took on a new identity: societal evil.

The article is a fascinating read even with the paragraphs that deal with Professor Glantz’s freakouts. One interesting thing that was mentioned in there was that in the company’s dealings with the FDA in 2009, it intentionally argued that e-cigarettes should be tobacco products and therefore subject to the then new tobacco regulations. Of course this was to prevent an immediate outright ban, but it seems to be a bit of an out of the frying pan and into the fire… for many of NJoy’s competitors.

Apparently there was an issue with some crossed signals between British American Tobacco and Apple’s ad network as ads for the UK e-cigarette brand were pushed to a children’s iPad game. The company pulled all of its online ads and quickly apologized for the incident as it investigates the cause.

E-Cigarette Brand Apologizes for Advertising in Kids iPad Game

We apologise that an advert has ended up on an channel that it clearly wasn’t intended or appropriate for. As soon as this was brought to our attention, we pulled all our online advertising whilst we look into this matter further and establish how it happened.

Vype is an e-cigarette brand marketed and sold by Nicoventures, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco. Children are not, and will never be, the target audience for Vype, which is a product aimed at adult consumers who are able to make an informed choice regarding which brand they choose.

 

This was obviously an error. But I’m sure at some point a prohibitionist will try and point to this as evidence e-cigarettes are designed to hook kids.

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