Saturday, January 29, 2011

Discovery News: How safe are e-cigarettes?

Discovery News recently published an online article regarding e-cigarettes.

Amongst other things, e-cigarette opponents continue make the claims that while they somehow know nothing about what is in e-cigarettes, in spite of 16 different reports available to them, e-cigarettes are probably more dangerous than tobacco cigarettes and are a threat to our youth. In case you don't buy their claim about safety, they argue that being addicted to anything is the problem, regardless of whether or not the product actually has been shown to have little or no health risks.

Prue Talbot is being sneaky by accusing all of those available e-cigarette studies as being suspect because they are paid for by companies. She's banking on the fact that most Americans don't realize that all of the tests and studies submitted to the FDA for approval are also paid for by the companies. That is the only way to get them tested. Who else is going to pay for them?

New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal has ignored the plethora of reports emailed, faxed and mailed to her and continues to claim that e-cigarettes "are a mystery," and yet, claims that e-cigarettes contain chemicals which are more dangerous than those found in tobacco cigarettes. If they are a mystery, how does she know there are dangerous chemicals? She insists if she could quit that anyone could quit, completely ignoring the multitude of correspondence from e-cigarette users that they couldn't quit using any other method or don't wish to give up nicotine and shouldn't have to. Rosenthal snidely remarks, "If people want the easy way to just get addicted to another nicotine delivery system, I hope soon they'll have to look elsewhere." Given that e-cigarette users have told her that they have tried everything else, she seems unmoved by the fact that it leaves tobacco cigarettes as their only option.

Dr. Siegel's e-cigarette research paper clearly shows that there is nothing in e-cigarettes to make them even remotely as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes. The 4 ingredients in e-cigarettes - nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine and artificial flavoring - are already found in tobacco cigarettes, yet e-cigarettes lack the toxic chemicals and high levels of carcinogens found in tobacco cigarettes. It's like claiming non-alcoholic beer "may" be as intoxicating (and therefore equally or more dangerous) as real beer because they both have bubbles, malt and barley. There is simply no logic to the argument.

The FDA study Talbot and Rosenthal cite found that one cartridge of eighteen was contaminated with a non-toxic amount of diethylene glycol and that the levels of carcinogens were as low as the nicotine patch. Diethylene glycol has not been found in any e-cigarettes since. If anything, the FDA test proved that there were no toxic amounts of any chemicals and extremely low carcinogens. Yet they disingenuously claim that there is a great danger to the public. If the carcinogens and non-toxic chemicals found in e-cigarettes are a danger, why are they still selling the patch?

Additionally, the double-speak of e-cigarette opponents is painfully obvious. They claim tasty flavors are a scheme to attract youth to e-cigarettes, yet ignore the fact that pharmaceutical nicotine gum and lozenges come in Cinnamon Surge, Fruit Chill, Fresh Mint, Cherry and Cappuccino flavors. Additionally, youth smoking is on the rise even though flavored cigarettes have been banned since 2006. Youth aren't anymore attracted to "safer" e-cigarettes than they are to tasty pharmaceutical gums and lozenges. Surveys of thousands of e-cigarette users found that the vast majority are former smokers between 35 and 65 years old. There is absolutely no evidence that young adults, and therefore copy cat teens, are even interested in the start-up costs and maintenance involved with e-cigarettes. It's much easier, cheaper and more "cool" to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Prue Talbot's study found leaky cartridges and inaccurate labeling. Ironically, she didn't bother to test e-cigarettes to find out what was actually in them. If quality control is an issue, then address those companies which get a failing mark, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. The FDA has the power to regulate quality and safer designs by classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products rather than continuing its quixotic charge to classify them as nicotine addiction treatments. This would also automatically ban sales to minors.

These simply aren't a treatment for nicotine addiction. The vast majority use them as an alternative source of nicotine that still gives them the smoking experience without the high health risks. There is nothing else on the market that can simultaneously provide relief for nicotine addiction, greatly reduce health risks and simulate smoking. If they didn't have e-cigarettes, most users would still be using tobacco cigarettes - not gums and patches. E-cigarettes are not an alternative for gums and patches, they are an alternative for tobacco cigarettes. These folks don't want to quit nicotine, they just want to quit smoking. Once people like Linda Rosenthal, Prue Talbot and their supporters get that through their thick skulls, they'll understand why their crusade is fundamentally wrong.

Let's remember that the anti-tobacco movement started because of the high health hazards linked to smoking, not the extremely low health risks of smokeless nicotine addiction. E-cigarette users may remain addicted to nicotine, but the only reason they would ever return to smoking is if these "well-meaning" anti-smoking zealots ban e-cigarettes and leave tobacco cigarettes as their only option.

Join and fight this insanity!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New York at it again - your state could be next!

The New York State Assembly Health Committee is meeting this coming Tuesday to discuss Bill AO1468.

This bill would not only ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, but proposes to ban sales of any products which contain nicotine that are "not defined by law as a tobacco product or approved by the United States food and drug administration for sale as a tobacco use cessation or harm reduction product." This of course has the intended effect of banning e-cigarettes, because although the U.S. Appellate Court has supported Federal Judge Richard Leon's opinion that e-cigarettes should be regulated by the FDA as a tobacco product, the  FDA still refuses to do so. Because consumers are replacing tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes and feel that they have "quit smoking," the FDA's stance is that makes them a drug delivery device, even though the majority users have not quit nicotine at all - just smoking. Last I knew, nicotine addiction was considered the disease, not how you got your nicotine. Quitting smoking and quitting nicotine are two very different issues.

The justification for this proposed change in the New York law is
Recent advertisements have touted "e-cigarettes" as a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco consumption and as a tobacco cessation product. These electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that vaporize cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals that the user inhales. Advertisements for these products omit any mention of FDA testing that found users inhale carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze.

Given the unregulated nature of this product, there is no way of knowing the amount of nicotine in each cigarette, the amount that is delivered with each inhalation, or the contents of the vapor created in the process. "E-cigarettes" are often marketed and sold to young people and are readily available online and in shopping malls. They are produced in different flavors, such as chocolate and mint, in order to increase their appeal to all segments of the population. These products also lack any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. These devices are often made overseas in countries with less stringent standards for product quality than exist in the United States.

First, let's look at the claim that e-cigarette companies fail to advertise the FDA testing. The FDA tested just two brands of electronic cigarettes. Why would other companies have to claim that the FDA testing had any relevance to their product, as their product wasn't tested by the FDA? The diethylene glycol was found in just one of the 18 tested cartridges and has not been found in any other independent tests of ANY e-cigarette brands. Additionally, neither the FDA nor any other lab has found toxic levels of ANY chemical in e-cigarettes. Expecting companies to tell consumers that there are "toxic chemicals" and "diethylene glycol" in their products is like expecting the makers of Skippy peanut butter to tell consumers there is salmonella in their product because another brand of peanut butter was once contaminated with salmonella.

Claiming that users inhale carcinogens is nothing but hypocritical spin. Are pharmaceutical companies required to warn nicotine patch users that they are "absorbing carcinogens?" The FDA tests showed that the extremely low level of carcinogens (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) found in their e-cigarette samples were nearly identical to the levels found in the FDA-approved nicotine patch. So, if those extremely low levels are of concern in e-cigarettes, they should also be of concern for nicotine patch users. In reality, if e-cigarette companies were actually allowed to report what the FDA really found, rather than the spin the FDA presented to the public, they would be able to show that the FDA tests actually showed e-cigarettes to be non-toxic and no more carcinogenic than the nicotine patch. Somehow, I don't think that's what those proposing this bull - er - bill have in mind.

This bill also pulls out the tried-and-true "save the children" tactics. These are completely unsubstantiated claims that these products appeal to and are targeted at youth. They completely ignore surveys of thousands of e-cigarette users which show the average user to be closer to 40 than 14 and offer absolutely no examples of actual sales to minors. The claim that chocolate and mint flavors are intended to "appeal to all segments of the population" (read "kids") is really saying nothing. What product doesn't try to appeal to as many consumers as possible? Additionally, nicotine gums and lozenges come in Cherry, Cappuccino, Fresh Mint, Fruit Chill and Cinnamon Surge. The Nicorette site says their products have "been developed with palatable flavors" and "sweetened with sorbitol," (another trusted product.) One can only surmise this is to make their products more appealing to all segments of the population, as well, yet no one accuses Glaxo SmithKline of marketing to youth.

The bill sponsors want e-cigarettes to come with warnings, but as of yet, there have been no serious adverse effects reported linked to e-cigarette use. The irony being, of course, that tobacco cigarettes do come with warnings and have been linked to serious health risks, yet remain perfectly legal. If New York legislators get their way they will have successfully banned a low-carcinogen, non-toxic product - one which also has been reported by thousands of users to have provided improved health benefits - and protected the market share of tobacco cigarettes.

Finally, if the FDA would have given up this quixotic charge to classify e-cigarettes as a drug delivery device (rather than an alternative tobacco product) months ago, they could already have e-cigarettes subject to the same regulations as other tobacco products - complete with warning labels and banning sales to minors. It's the FDA's own obsessive behavior, unable to move on even after losing on appeal, which has kept e-cigarettes completely unregulated!

Your tax dollars in action.