Read that link and then come back to me, OK? OK.
I arrived at that blog via twitter after comments were closed. This post is a longer version of what I would have said there, had I not arrived too late to the party.
Firstly we’ll look at the report by Blumenthal (et al) which stirs up the whole debate again. Blumenthal concludes that electronic cigarettes
“are targeted at young people with the very clear intent of creating a new generation of smokers.”
There isn’t a shred of evidence in this report that supports that claim. Not one. I’m going to point at Sweden and the data on Snus, just like Clive Bates did in his blog. I’m also just going to link to the NHS choices response to an earlier report, although that too has drawbacks to it. I can get yet another full house playing Bad Science Bingo here, because the facts don’t support the claims. In fact as hard as I look, all I can find are results consistent with the idea that e-cigarettes are being used by smokers interested in quitting or cutting down their use of tobacco cigarettes. How the study concludes that the data suggests the opposite is utterly beyond my comprehension. Maybe I’m just thick. Or concussed. Clive Bates has explained the fallacies in this better than I can, so I quote;
The reasoning for claiming e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking amounts to a crude non sequitur: “e-cigarettes were associated with more, not less, cigarette smoking among adults“. More, not less… but compared to what? The study found that more smokers were using e-cigarettes than non-smokers. However, this banal observation does not confirm that e-cigarettes do not help quitting any more than finding that NRT is used more by smokers would suggest NRT is not used for quitting. The real test of the impact of e-cigarettes is hard to gauge because it requires knowledge of what would have happened in the absence of e-cigarettes. If you could show there is “more, not less” smoking than there otherwise would have been had e-cigarettes not become available, then that would definitely be a concern. But of course the study does not and cannot do this, given the limitations of its methods and the available data.That doesn’t stop you claiming [“E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco”,] which as far as I can see, is based on nothing at all:”
So the quoted report has major flaws in the psyence – well it’s more psychobabble than science – used in the conclusions.
“In the wake of the report, Mr Durbin and Mr Waxman urged the Food and Drug Administration to clamp down on the marketing strategies used to promote e-cigarettes and to prohibit the enticing flavours”
Why are ecigarette adverts the way they are? Because they are REGULATED. Ecigarette firms may not make claims that the products they sell are smoking cessation aids because the only products that may make those claims are medicines/medicinal products licensed for that purpose. Hell. I don’t make the claim that they are cessation aids and I’m not selling anything. I have not ceased using nicotine – and actually neither has anyone. Including the holier-than-thou idiots that thought this shite up. No one tests free of nicotine; it’s a natural part of our diet.
Apart from the difference in ‘cessation aid” claims, eigs are being marketed IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as NRT products. Compare and contrast the sweet flavoured, “success has never tasted so sweet” of a popular NRT brand, with the far plainer packaging of a standard bottle of eliquid. Compare the image of a fit and healthy looking woman puffing on what looks like a feminine hygene product, with the image of runners breaking out of a fug of unhealthy looking smog; which one of those adverts I just described is marketting the ecig? Actualy to my mind they both are, remembering the fact that NRT is failing spectacularly in it’s claims to help you quit. 50% more likely to succeed? Well yes, but that 50% is a tiny fraction of the proportion of smokers who do struggle through quit or die and emerge butterfly like as non-smokers afterwards.
And as had been said, many times before, adults like sweet flavours too. If they didn’t NRT products and Vodka would not be produced in sweet flavours.
Can I just state the obvious here a second please? The manufacturers of ecigarettes are marketing ECIGS. Not cigarettes. There are very few ecigs on the market that are sold by tobacco companies. Ecigs are not a Big Tobacco plot to gain addicts for evil weed. There is no Mcavity the Mystery Cat of Tobacco sitting cackling as he entices… it’s Reefer Madness, I’m not going to finish that line of thought. Anyway, the gateway effect has not been proven. In fact current data suggests that it does not exist.
Back to the BBC:
The true health consequences of e-cigarettes are yet unknown. The three main ingredients of e-cigarettes are nicotine, flavouring and propylene glycol.
While some data shows nicotine can dangerously weaken the immune system, the flavouring seems to be harmless. That makes propylene glycol the wildcard. Since it usually it shows up in products such as soft drinks, salad dressing, shampoos and soaps, there is good data about the safety of eating it or applying it to one’s skin. But the effects of inhaling it are not yet understood.
There are also concerns that there could be cancer-causing substances in the vapour and metals on the coils inside the e-cigarette.
There is so much wrong with this, I’m just going to rewrite it.
“The long term health consequences of ecigarette use are as yet unknown. However there is good reasearch that suggests that while using an ecigarette may not be as safe as breathing fresh air, it is at least 99% safer than smoking tobacco and is harmless to bystanders. While some research shows that tobacco-free nicotine use can produce some negative effects, the majority of recent research suggests that nicotine itself is about as harmful as caffeine.
The other major ingredients in eliquid are Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin. Time Magazine first reported on studies on PG in 1942, unfortunately paywalled now. It’s used in inhaled medications such as NRT, and is generally safe, although a small number of people may be sensitive to it. But the effects of inhaling it are very well understood. VG is one of the most benign substances known to man. It breaks down into carbon dioxide and water, is hypoallergenic, non toxic and presents little risk to health at all. Even the FDA say that it’s harmless.
The wildcard in the mix is the flavourings. Although the PG based flavours that are recommended for vaping are safe for food use, there are no long term studies on inhaling these substances. There are also concerns that there could be cancer-causing substances in the vapour and metals on the coils inside the e-cigarette, but these were detected at only trace levels in any studies done. It is very unlikely that any risk is greater than the risk of smoking tobacco cigarettes, and is likely to be many times less hazardous.”
A simple google search brings up the facts needed to correct the inacuracies and balance the argument. I did try to stay objective here and I’m in no way asserting that ecigs are “SAFE!” I’m saying that they are considerably safer than smoking tobacco.
After this we get the scare stories about exploding batteries again. Newsflash: approximately 2 million people in the UK charged ecigarettes today, using the correct charger, and none of them exploded. Also many house fires were prevented by the use of a safer product which causes far fewer fires than lit tobacco products. But that’s not news is it?
Of course we should ban the sale of these products to under 18s, that’s a sensible precaution, but the heavy handed regulation that we see coming out and this crazy scaremongering is actually putting people off trying ecigarettes, and therefore preventing people from switching. This more than anything is “giv[ing] tobacco companies free rein to profit by manipulating the public’s mind and jeopardising its health.” [source] The people who are shouting loudest against ecigs are the ones keeping people smoking. You wonder why I have head shaped dents in my desk?
Is my argument rabidly pro-vaping, or is it a balanced and considered opinion based on fact? I think I’m being fair, even as angry as I am.
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