Tag Archives: quit smoking

The E-Cigarette Double Standard

Since the beginning of the e-cigarette debate over their safety and effectiveness to help smokers quit the habit, there have been those on both sides making claims. On one side there are many e-cigarette companies marketing the product as a “healthier way to smoke” and that they can help users quit smoking. And although the evidence is pointing to these conclusions, it is hard to deny that these claims may be premature. On the other hand, those against electronic cigarettes tout that e-cigarettes may be as, or more, harmful than tobacco cigarettes. They claim they are full of antifreeze and that they are marketed directly to children. These misleading statements about the potential dangers of electronic cigarettes do little to help smokers the actual difference between the two recreational products.

So here are the facts as we know them today: All surveys and studies done to date show evidence that e-cigarettes are at least as effective as NRTs in helping people quit smoking. However no one has completed the required clinical trials for the FDA to be able to make this claim. And no one likely will, since the e-cigarette has been deemed a tobacco product in the United States by the courts, rather than a NRT. As for the anti-freeze claim, the FDA did find trace levels of diethylene glycol in one companies e-cigarettes a few years ago. It was not found in any other companies products and wasn’t found in all samples. Yes, regulations to ensure only food grade ingredients are used are important, but to claim all e-cigarette users are inhaling toxins is absurd.

nicotine gumThe Guardian recently published an article entitled “Watch out, e-cigarette smokers – you’re inhaling the unknown“. And in the article the author, Tom Riddington, states.

With a little research, it is clear that we do not know the risks of using e-cigarettes long-term, and the potential for harm is significant. Until the same regulations as other nicotine replacements are imposed, e-cigarettes should be considered a snake-oil gimmick that could get a new generation hooked on nicotine before their first smoke.

This is where the double standard comes in. When a Nicotine Replacement Therapy product is introduced, the FDA looks at what is in it and whether or not it is effective in helping users quit smoking. They test it for 6 months to ensure no other problems arise. However 6 months is a far cry from knowing the long term effects. So why should e-cigarettes be held to a higher standard than FDA approved nicotine products? And e-cigarettes have been used in the US since 2007 with no major side effects reported.

As for getting kids hooked on the product, what about flavors of nicotine gum? Or just the fact that they put nicotine into gum, which is a kid favorite to begin with.

In conclusion, it is very much possible to also write, “With a little research, it is clear that we do not know the risks of using nicotine gum long-term, and the potential for harm is significant. Until different regulations are imposted, nicotine gum should be considered a snake-oil gimmick that could get a new generation hooked on nicotine before their first smoke.”

Research E-Cigarettes Before Writing

quit smokingIn an article published in the Vernon Morning Star out of Vernon B.C., Doug Rogers, a substance abuse prevention counsellor with the Vernon School District urged smokers to avoid electronic cigarettes. And although we understand why a substance abuse counsellor for a school would promote abstinence, we have some concerns about Doug’s disregard for facts. He failed to recognize any actual data on the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes.  Meanwhile, the only data he cited to stay away from vaping was a warning put out by the FDA.  In the article, Mr. Rogers states:

When the FDA analyzed samples of two popular brands, they found variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens).

While this is not completely false, it is certainly not the whole truth.  For instance, the amounts of carcinogens found in e-cigarettes were similar to those found in nicotine gum.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if Mr. Rogers didn’t state:

If you’re looking for help to stop smoking, please talk to a health professional about smoking cessation programs which are safe and effective.

As most smokers and smoking cessation experts know, approved quit smoking methods include nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, cold turkey, and even medication.  It is hard to consider the writer credible when he promotes one method of quitting smoking with potential hazards while dismissing another.

The bottom line is that many smokers who want to quit smoking have tried many of the available options.  But when all attempted methods of quitting smoking fail, is using an e-cigarette not better than smoking?

 

Michael Siegel Corrects Misleading Opinions

Since the introduction of electronic cigarettes into the US market, many public health groups have went on the offense against their use. Arguments have ranged from “we just don’t know what is in them” to “they come with flavors so kids will start using them”. In recent months a new talking point has been taken up by anti e-cigarette organizations such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights, and the American Legacy Foundation. The new objection is one dealing with the social acceptance of smoking. They argue that electronic cigarettes continue the action of smoking and normalize it again, reversing years of anti-smoking propaganda.

But Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health has issued a blog post to offer counter points to the misleading information being presented by those organizations with a vested interest. In his post named Blinded by Ideology, Anti-Smoking Advocates are Widely Misleading the Public into Thinking that Electronic Cigarette Use is a Form of Smoking, he correctly states that “By definition, using electronic cigarette use reduces cigarette use. Far from promoting smoking, advertisements that promote electronic cigarette use are urging smokers not to smoke — but to switch to electronic cigarettes instead.”

Semantics aside, Dr. Siegel is correct; vaping may be like smoking in many ways, but IT IS NOT SMOKING!  And equating it to smoking in order to apply the same laws to vaping and smoking, it unfair, unscientific, and helps no smokers.  What it does do, is keep those involved in industries against e-cigarettes; namely pharmaceuticals and tobacco, in business.

These so called “public health” organizations should be ashamed of bashing e-cigarettes, a product in direct competition with the most deadly product on the market.  If public health was their number one goal, e-cigarettes would be on their list of ways to quit smoking.

Reasons Why Health Canada Doesn’t Like E-Cigarettes

Here are our top reasons why we believe Health Canada has banned electronic cigarettes with nicotine and won’t let any companies claim e-cigarettes help smokers quit smoking.  Please note these are made up and suppose to be funny.  In no way has Health Canada indicated that any of the below reasons are factual…..although that doesn’t mean they are not 😉

1. If everyone in Canada was healthy, there would be no need for Health Canada.

2. First e-cigarettes, then e-joints.

3. Smokers pay taxes, taxes pay salaries.

4. There are not enough smokers working for Health Canada

5. They don’t believe vaping is as cool as smoking

 

Nonetheless, if you smoke and live in Canada, you can get e-cigarettes without nicotine and they work just fine!

Patterns of electronic cigarette use and user beliefs about their safety and benefits: An Internet survey

A new study name “Patterns of electronic cigarette use and user beliefs about their safety and benefits: An Internet survey” has been published.  The study was an Internet survey aimed at gathering scientific data regarding how e-cigarettes are used and how those users perceive them. The summarized conclusion from the study authors reads:

The participants primarily used e-cigarettes as a stop-smoking aid or as an alternative to conventional cigarettes, and the majority reported that they successfully stopped smoking. More data on e-cigarette safety and its efficacy in harm-reduction and smoking cessation are needed.

Bill Godshall from SmokeFree Pennsylvania added further details:

Survey of 179 Polish e-cigarette users finds 66% of users no longer smoked any cigarettes and 25% smoked fewer than 5 cigarettes per day, 41% primarily used e-cigarettes to quit smoking, 41% primarily used e-cigarettes to reduce harm associated with smoking, and 82% believed e-cigarettes to be less hazardous than cigarette smoking.

The survey results are not surprising to most vapers or those familiar with e-cigarettes or those who use them.

The study details can be found here.

Electronic Cigarette Article From The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

We came across an article written in January, 18th, 2012 by Susie Stachan from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  The article, entitled “E-cigarettes not the answer to quitting smoking” (full article can be found here) is full of misleading and incorrect information.  And although we respect what the WRHA has done over the years, we also believe in facts and science so here are some corrections.  Below are excerpts from the article and our opinion on their factuality.

Proponents say e-cigarettes help them to cut down on the health risks, eliminate the odour of burning tobacco, and cut down on the amount of nicotine they get with each inhalation.

The issue here is the word proponents, or rather than missing word “users”.  The fact is, the internet is full of e-cigarette users praising the technology.  It should be important what e-cigarette users and current/former smokers have to say, but it appears it is not.

Yet e-cigarette kits are both sold online through Canadian websites, and in stores in Winnipeg, all of which contain nicotine.

Simply not true.  Some electronic cigarette retailers do sell e-cigs with nicotine, but many do not.  One example is this online e-cigarette retailer which carries a couple different brands, all without nicotine.

Health-care providers don’t know if they are a safe alternative to regular cigarettes, or if they are a bid by Big Tobacco to continue having people buying their product.

How can they not know?  Everyone in the industry and on the forums know the big players, and they aren’t tobacco companies.  In fact the first sign of the tobacco industry getting involved in electronic cigarettes was when the tobacco company Lorillard bought the established e-cig brand, Blu.  Most e-cigarette companies are small start-ups with some better funded companies slowly rising to the top.

As for the safer alternative, let’s compare.  Tobacco cigarettes contain 4000 chemicals and kill about half the long time users.  E-Cigarettes use propylene glycol, glycerin, water, flavoring, and optionally nicotine.  All ingredients (minus the nicotine) are approved for use in food.  Nicotine is found in all NRT products.  And there have been multiple tests of the electronic cigarette.

“There are concerns about second-hand smoke, too. There’s no clear evidence on what’s in that vapour, and whether this will have a second-hand smoke effect on other people,”

At the time of the article, there wasn’t.  But now there is testing showing that e-cig vapor is not dangerous to bystanders indoors.

In May 2009, the FDA’s Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis tested the contents of 18 varieties of electronic cigarette cartridges produced by two vendors: NJoy and Smoking Everywhere. They found known cancer-causing agents in a number of the cartridges, and also that the actual nicotine levels did not always correspond to the amount they purported to contain.

What the FDA found was trace amounts of TSNA (Tobacco-specific nitrosamines) and as Dr. Michael Siegel noted on his tobacco harm reduction blog: “The rest of the story is that an independent scientific expert report has now confirmed that – at least in the case of NJOY electronic cigarettes – there is no evidence that these products pose any increased health risks compared to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products and that they pose much less health risk than FDA-approved tobacco cigarettes.”

We do believe that nicotine content should be regulated to ensure accuracy.

The Winnipeg Health Region offers smoking cessation support and supplies patients with nicotine patches and gum while they are staying in region hospitals.

That is great.  But seems odd that they would recommend a patch or gum with nicotine rather than recommend an electronic cigarette with no nicotine.  Last time I checked, they don’t give alcoholics beer so they will stop drinking.

We hope all public health organizations in Canada will base their opinions and recommendations on facts and science and not blindly tow the company line.

Agree, End The Ban On Nicotine E-Cigarettes In Canada

In a comment article printed in the National Post at the end of last year, Jesse Kline makes the argument for ending the ban in Canada on electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine.  While I fully agree the ban is not in the best interest of the health of Canadians, there are a few issues with some of the facts and speculation made in the article.  I thought it important to set the record straight.

First, some praise.  It was good to see that people are realizing the ban on e-cigarettes in Canada is only for those products that contain nicotine.  For some time many thought it was a general ban, but without nicotine or health claims Health Canada has little say over a product made up of electronics and containing no drugs.  Jesse did fail to mention that health claims such as “quit smoking” or “healthy alternative” do bring Health Canada into the picture, but all-in-all he had it right.

Where he failed to do some research was the sentence: “The devices contain a heating element that turns a liquid made of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine (two common food additives) and nicotine into a water vapour,”  In truth, the liquid or e-liquid as it is often called, is made up of propylene glycol, glycerin, water, flavorings, and potentially nicotine.  But the big issue I have is “water vapour”.  This is a common misconception.  The vapour from an e-cigarette has been shown to contain the same ingredients as the liquid, although not in the exact same percentages, since the vaporization process does not effect each substance in the same way.  This can be shown with some testing of e-liquid.

Jesse also claims there are no carcinogens in e-cigarette vapor.  This is only partially true.  Without nicotine, yes, there are no carcinogens.  However with nicotine there are trace amounts.  This is not a big deal when you consider BBQ’d meat has trace amounts of carcinogens, but none-the-less it was not completely accurate.

The last and most serious falsity with the article is from this quote:

A number of studies have shown that the illusion of smoking created by the device helps to satisfy cravings, but without nicotine, it cannot help smokers get over the physiological dependence that is created by the drug.

True, studies have shown e-cigarettes help smokers, but I have always found it curious that experts and users alike believe that it is important to keep using nicotine to get over the addiction to nicotine.  Although in rare cases such as heroin addiction, other drugs are used to ween the addicted off the drug, it seems counter intuitive to keep using nicotine to get over an addiction to nicotine. What I would recommend to people is to quit smoking cold turkey and if they like, use and e-cigarette with no nicotine to get the action of smoking, if they still want it.

Overall we applaud Jesse Kline for speaking his mind and bringing more light to the issue of electronic cigarettes in Canada.

Leaked: European Union May Be Planning To Ban E-Cigarettes

According to Michael Siegel from “The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary” blog, the Tobacco Journal International received information indicating that the European Union may have plans to ban the electronic cigarette unless it is marketed by a pharmaceutical company as a nicotine replacement therapy product.  This was the same position that the FDA in the United States took until is was challenged in court.  The US court determined that absent any health claims, the electronic cigarette with nicotine is a tobacco product.  So what is the difference?

Well, as a tobacco product, the e-cigarette can be sold wherever cigarettes are sold.  This makes the most sense to have an impact on current smokers since getting e-cigarettes in front of smokers is key.  Also as a tobacco product, there are less stringent rules and regulations to enter the market.  This is beneficial to everyone because it means increased competition and product innovations.

Now as an NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) the e-cigarette would be treated as nicotine gum or the patch.  This means they would only be allowed to be sold in pharmacies as a quit smoking product.  This limits their market exposure and gives smokers the impression that e-cigarettes are solely meant to help them quit smoking.  But what about those smokers who like smoking, but want to simply “try something else”?  This is the same case when a smoker walks into a gas station to buy cigarettes and sees the smokeless tobacco product Snus.  They may not be thinking about quitting smoking, but rather just trying some other form of tobacco.  This may lead to reduced consumption of tobacco cigarettes; and isn’t that the point?

I hope the European Union bases their decision on facts and science rather than which existing industry has the most pull.  Keep choice alive, especially when that choice is an alternative to a known killer.