Wednesday 13 November 2013

E-cigarette summit

I spent an enjoyable day at London's E-cigarette Summit today (top marks to the E-Cigarette Forum for putting it together). I heard that the organisers struggled to find 'public health' people to appear on stage despite the fact that it was held at the Royal Society and was not in any way organised by the tobacco industry.

Apparently the fact that a handful of people in the audience—an audience of hundreds—work for Big Backy is now enough to dissuade true believers from entering the building. They make themselves look ridiculous with this cult-like behaviour and they increasingly find themselves left out of an important conversation.

Good. The dinosaurs of the public health racket are irrelevant and their extinction is long overdue. I'm delighted to see that the British public do not believe the lies of the British Medical Association.

ASH's Deborah Arnott was there, however, with a presentation that began with this quite brilliant explanation of free market economics...

Anyone who needs to check Wikipedia to find out how business works—and feels the need to explain it to a room full of grown ups—probably isn't the biggest fan of capitalism, and she went on to say that every industry is as bad as the tobacco industry.

In a way, this is true. I've said before that the notion that Big Sugar, for example, "uses Big Tobacco-style tactics" means nothing more than that they try to sell their product in a hostile environment in which fanatics think they should not be selling it. Those who know their history would say that there were times when Big Tobacco went far beyond merely "maximising profit" in the mid-20th century, but that's all coming out in the wash now. For the statists of public health, the pursuit of profit (as opposed to the pursuit of government grants) is always and everywhere a threat to health, while bans and heavy regulation are the cure.

This is abject bollocks, of course. The elephant in the room at this conference was snus—a product that was banned with the same spurious arguments that are being made against e-cigarettes today. It was claimed that snus would be a 'gateway' to smoking. It was said that it appealed to kids. There were fears about 'dual use'. Yap, yap, yap. Thirty years on, there is indisputable evidence from Sweden that snus was a gateway away from smoking and that its use amongst 'kids' prevented them from taking up cigarettes. If the snus companies had been allowed to "encourage uptake" in the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been prolonged across Europe. The smoking rate is so much lower in Sweden (13%) than in the rest of the EU (28%) that it is ridiculous.

You might expect the public health cranks to have some humility in the face of this massive cock-up. It would not be unreasonable for them to be investigated and clapped in irons. But no. Instead, they stampede, blinded and cack-handed, into the well-functioning free market of e-cigarettes and demand yet more destructive regulation.

Who are these people and why should anyone listen to them? How do careerist barkers like Deborah Arnott, Linda Bauld and Anna Gilmore get a high seat at the table while ordinary vapers have to spend their own time and money begging for a hearing? What has any of it got to do with them?

The star of the show was Jeremy Mean of the MHRA. He constantly reminded me of Ronald Reagan's maxim that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government and I'm here to help". He was as eager as a puppy dog to start regulating e-cigarettes as medicines and when he showed you his photos of the Athlete's Foot cream and skin lotions that are his usual stock-in-trade you could see why. Finally, he was going to get a chance to regulate something that isn't a medicine.

E-cigarettes are so obviously not medicines that I was impressed by Mean's ability to keep a straight face while claiming the contrary. He and Arnott are confident that the heavy hand of government regulation is just what is needed to bring innovation, excellence and efficiency to the e-cigarette industry. I am sceptical about this claim to say the least, but it is a proposition that can be tested if, in five years time, medically regulated e-cigarettes have dominated the market at the expense of un-(medically)-regulated products.

The only way to carry out this test is to do what I see as the obvious solution: make companies go through medical regulation if they want to make medicinal claims (eg. "this is a proven smoking-cessation aid") and leave companies alone if they want to market their products as recreational devices.

This is a solution that should please everyone. It's what the consumers want (see Mean's slide below). It's what the e-cigarette industry wants. It's even what the European parliament wants. But the bureaucrats and the public health racket will keep pushing for total medical regulation because—as I have argued before—medical regulation of e-cigarettes is not about health, it is a power grab.


Ken said...

The BBC article you link to has some interesting quotes:

"It is clear they are less harmful by several magnitudes than smoking," says Dr Ram Moorthy, from the British Medical Association.

"But we still need to have a much greater evidence base about how safe they are."

The BMA has called for e-cigarettes to be banned in public places.

"Our concern with the use of e-cigarettes is that it normalises behaviour that has become socially unacceptable," says Dr Moorthy.

"Our biggest concern is that something that looks like smoking becomes glamorous again and may be attractive to children."

The non sequiturs just keep coming. But there's more to tease out of this.

Just think for a moment what 'less harmful by several magnitudes' means (if Dr Moorthy is using the word 'magnitude' at all rigorously). It means that vaping is at least thousands of times safer than smoking. And that this is 'clear' even without the 'much greater evidence base' he says is needed.

So why, in that case, should they be banned in 'public places', let alone regulated as medicines?

Neal Asher said...

They've been nothing if not consistent. They've lied about and/or exaggerated the dangers of alcohol, snus and second-hand smoke. They're doing the same with various foods and now they're lying and exaggerating about e-cigs. Arnott should have put up a display with the words: The urge to regulate is an economic concept that keeps me and my kind latched on and sucking hard on the public teat.

Jon vMagik said...

I'm a vaper myself. Switched from traditional cigs to a basic ego battery and protank/evod combo a few months ago and can already see the initial health benefits.

The problem is there hasn't been enough research done into the long term effects as of yet because the devices simply haven't been around for long enough. So while they appear to be far safer than smoking nobody really knows the long-term effects of vaping, whether that's to do with the inhalation of PG/VG (which seems "fairly" safe at this point) or, more importantly (IMO) specific flavourings which could cause issues.

eCigs are still a nicotine delivery system which, just like smoking or drinking should be restricted to those people of legal age, especially as virtually every Vaper (and manufacturer) out there likes to say "hey, it's like smoking but it's safer and you just exhale water Vapour" when we honestly don't have all the facts yet to throw those sorts of statements around. At this moment there's no laws that I know of (especially buying online) that says you can't sell ecigs to those people who are under the legal smoking age, it's generally down to the retailer.

We vape because we HOPE it's a safer way to get the nicotine we so crave. It has become a hobby for a lot of people that goes far beyond just "smoking" and I enjoy that part of it but regulation (to an extent) does need to happen:

1.) It looks cool, it does, you have devices that look like lightsabers and can blow clouds of vapour that tastes like Strawberry Cheesecake. While I'd never want anyone who isn't/wasn't a smoker to try vaping it's simply going to be more attractive to Children or non-smokers because of the whole "safe" branding/mantra that's around at the moment.

2.) There should be more research done into the effects of inhaling a lot of the popular flavours. We already know of some cinnamon/"butter" based flavours which can cause issues and there should be some sort of regulation that makes sure harmful/toxic substances aren't just thrown into cheap eliquid and sold online without any fear of repercussions. I don't think regulating the devices as medicinal products is the way to go (Vodka, for example is not a medicinal product!) but until we have an organisation that has performed relevant testing and can issues "seals of approval" to recommended retailers then we're just trusting that descriptions given are accurate and going by reviews etc.

I would personally ban ecig use in public places (like restaurants/bars/public transport), not because there's some risk of "secondary vaping" but because:

1.) If using cigalike products it LOOKS like smoking.

2.) Sitting in a restaurant or bar and puffing out clouds of vapour could aggravate other customers, even if you say "wait a minute, it's safe". The scent of a particular eliquid might also be unpleasant to some and you can't just have a sign on the window that says "ecigs allowed if they don't look like cigs, are primarily PG based to reduce vapour output and no strong-smelling juices please". It's simply easier to ban their use in those places.

I love vaping, I WANT smokers to make the switch and/or quit completely but I'm also a realist. I don't want to promote their use in a way that's going to either make people go "ffs, look at that idiot" or, on the other hand I don't want non-smokers to take it up just because it's cool and it's a fine line.

At the end of the day these are devices that should be there to stop people from smoking. Yes there's a world of mods and tinkering out there but the main aim is to get off the cigs and, in that respect they should be bound by laws that make them as safe and attractive as possible to smokers without forcing them on the non-smoking public.

Steve Kelly said...

"Who are these people and why should anyone listen to them? How do careerist barkers like Deborah Arnott, Linda Bauld and Anna Gilmore get a high seat at the table while ordinary vapers have to spend their own time and money begging for a hearing? What has any of it got to do with them?"

Just so. These people are cranks. Nobody should ever have listened to them. Why has anybody ever listened to them? I'll never really understand that. I have a stumbling block to understanding that. I'm sane.

westcoast2 said...

@Jon vMagik

1 There have been many studies on PG inhalation going back many years. e.g Look for studies on inhaled Cyclosporine.

2 Age restriction is applied by reputable sellers. No problem with legal age restriction.

3 The use flavours came about because that is what vapers themselves wanted. Adults enjoy flavours. Flavourings do need more research.

4 Vodka may not be a medicinal product, but there is Medicinal Alcohol. So you have Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Alcohol. I suggested, on ECF, a regulatory framework based on this model back in 2009.

5 Looky-likeys (or more PC cigalikes, mini-ecigs) are tacky! Having said that, if there is no harm to by-standers then there is no reason to ban them. There has been research on this. An *e*-cigarette is not a cigarette.

6 ECCA had an idea of offering a 'Seal of approval', funding this is a problem. There are already consumer laws that deal with sales of e-cigs.

7 Ban in public places? Why? Restaurants, Pubs etc are private places and can restrict there use if they want to. Truly public places need no such ban unless there is evidence of harm. 'Look likes smoking' (imho) is not a good enough reason for law making, water looks like Vodka therefore water should be only sold in Pubs. Let's ban things because it's easier to do that than educate and inform.

8 e-cigs are an alternative to traditional cigarettes. They are not NRT and not just for quitting. They are a choice. Why do you want them bound up in Bans and further regulations?

9 Nicotine craving? For some this maybe an issue, for others not so. This is a whole separate issue. Nicotine is only one reason people smoke or vape.

10 Vaping is not Smoking. The only thing they have in common is Nicotine. May people are confused by this leading to all sorts of misconceptions about e-cigs.

Jonathan Bagley said...

Jon, banning vaping in bars defeats a major part of its purpose - the other parts being saving money and reducing a perceived health risk. Nobody is going to light up a cigarette in a vaping bar. It's a completely different activity and is immediately detectable by the smell. The other patrons would have the culprit removed. Vaping should be a normal part of everyday life for those who choose to indulge. It should be up to the bar owner whether vaping is permitted. If enough people are annoyed by the vapour, bars which ban it will exist. If a bar is clearly sign-posted as a vaping bar, it is unreasonable to enter it and then complain about the vapour.

Neal Asher said...

Which is precisely how smoking should be dealt with, Jonathan. But the antis aren't being reasonable.

Steve Kelly said...

Neal Asher said: "But the antis aren't being reasonable."

Right. And the Antis never were and never will be reasonable. Antis are anti-accommodation. So they must never be accommodated. They throw their adversaries into the gutter: they get away with that. So they must be tossed in the gutter: once and for good. Until that happens reasonable people will never be able to accommodate each other again.

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