E-Cigarettes Under Attack

With the number of people wanting to quit smoking cigarettes, it seems surprising that the Food And Drug Administration and World Health Organization attack one of the best ideas yet: the electronic cigarette.
It looks like a cigarette, tastes like a cigarette, and feels like a cigarette, and yet all most contain are less than 20 chemicals in most cases, including mostly nicotine, propylene glycol (used in a number of food products), and water.
The e-cigarette works by dissolving nicotine within a cartridge that contains the chemical propylene glycol, which is used to make the smoke in such things as fog machines used at parties. Other uses for this chemical include being put in bakery goods, prepared fruits and vegetables, food coloring, flavor concentrates, sunscreen, hand moisturizers, cosmetics, toothpaste, mouth wash, and even baby wipes.
WHO claims that there is not enough evidence that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, but where is the evidence supporting that they are not safe? The major chemicals within an e-cigarette are either already on the FDA’s GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) list or are already contained in cigarettes themselves. There isn’t anything in them more dangerous than the pack of normal cigarettes a person can get at their nearest convenience store and the most important chemical in them, nicotine, isn’t listed by any health organization as a carcinogen.
Not only that, but nicotine levels in e-cigarettes can be managed in a way similar to both nicotine patches and nicotine gums which are approved for use by the FDA in the United States and in other countries abroad. There are even cartridges that contain no nicotine at all and there are talks about adding cartridges that contain, of all things, vitamins.
So, what’s not in an e-cigarette? Paint stripper (acetone), lighter fluid (butane), cyanide, ammonia, mercury, the embalming chemical formaldehyde, and not even radioactive Polonium-210… all of which are in the cigarettes produced by big tobacco companies. When being smoked, a cigarette emits 4,000 chemicals… and 69 of them are known to cause cancer.
The Australian state of Victoria banned e-cigarettes and other unapproved nicotine delivery systems due to the fact that “nicotine has been linked to cardiovascular disease”, according to the Health Minister, Daniel Andrews. As of this writing, normal cigarettes and all of the 4,000 chemicals they emit are still legal for adults in Victoria.
There are also currently no statistics to support the claim that the marketing of e-cigarettes would lure in non-smokers to the habit. E-cigarette vendors online, however, are making it clear that these are not to be purchased by minors and typically have a number of health warnings on their sites concerning nicotine, addiction, and pregnancy, so the industry is already attempting to regulate itself outside of the law, much the same way the movie industry regulates itself with its rating system.
The sale of nicotine gums or patches are not regulated in the United States and are subject to no minimum age law. If the e-cigarette industry is regulated to the extent of needing a prescription to obtain one, many believe it will cause the e-cigarette to slip out of reach for those desperate to quit or desperate for an alternative to traditional smoking.
Even the Mayo Clinic states that even though nicotine is most of what keeps a cigarette smoker hooked, it’s the other toxic chemicals in cigarettes that cause the majority of a smoker’s health concerns.
Can e-cigarettes really be slammed simply because of the chemicals they contain? Is it just a health issue? Considering the amount of chemicals contained in a normal cigarette versus an e-cigarette, shouldn’t the FDA be elated that there is such an alternative that both mimics the habit of smoking and reduces the amount of carcinogens the smoker and those around him are inhaling by 100%?

It's not a cigarette

It looks like cigarettes and gives a nicotine hit like a cigarette. But it’s not a cigarette. It’s an e-cigarette — a battery-powered electronic device containing a microprocessor, heater, and a cartridge containing liquid nicotine that produces a puff of nicotine vapour (not smoke). It even has a light on the end of the stick that glows when the user draws back on it.
But why smoke a fake cigarette? Manufacturers of e-cigarettes claim that they deliver the nicotine hit without the associated chemical agents in tobacco smoke that can cause cancer. And, because they produce no smoke, they can be used in restaurants, aeroplanes, at work — wherever smoking is banned.
Since they were invented in China in 2004 by electronics company Ruyan, e-cigarettes have been lighting up across the world — Britain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Turkey and numerous other countries.
In some countries, they are only allowed as medical devices. But not in Australia, where they are banned outright.
Victoria, the last Australian state to ban the nicotine cartridges, did so in January. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon told reporters that e-cigarettes were an “insidious, manipulative attempt to hook people on smoking”. The ban followed a decision last October by the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee, part of the Federal Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Put simply, the TGA refused to classify e-cigarettes as an approved nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine patches, gums or inhalers, partly because no peer-reviewed scientific study has been done on their ability to wean users off smoking. So, regardless of their potential appeal to the one in four men and one in five women in Australia who smoke, they were outlawed.
But businessman Albert Nisman, who holds the Australian distribution rights for e-cigarettes under the brand name Egar, isn’t taking no for an answer. He says he is planning a new submission to the TGA, and is “pretty confident” his product will get approval.
Nisman says the ruling that banned e-cigarettes — taking them off the shelves in Victoria after they had been on sale for about 12 months — was unfair for two reasons. First, he says, e-cigarettes remain a healthier alternative than cigarettes. “We’re not mixing anything else into it, tar or anything else. Smoke is the killer, the burning of toxic chemicals. We’re not burning anything, we’re vaporising.”
Second, according to Nisman, many of the 10,000 Victorians who bought Egars in the year they were available for sale found the devices a useful way of weaning themselves off tobacco. A starter kit costs $75.
Nisman claimed that “95 per cent of our customers who purchased Egars before the ban quit (smoking) within a month or two”.
“I think it’s really unfair … (but) we are not legally able to make a claim that it helps you quit smoking. Putting the legalities to one side, obviously a lot of people have quit smoking,” he said.
One of the reasons they were an effective quitting device, he said, was that they mimicked the oral sensation of smoking, plus delivered a fast nicotine hit. In fact, some users continued to use the Egar with a non-nicotine cartridge, coupled with a patch, in an effort to quit. “The action is the thing that they’re addicted to.”
But what of claims that e-cigarettes can widen the appeal of nicotine by appealing to users who would otherwise not smoke cigarettes? Despite a website (egar.com.au) that features pictures of young women, Nisman rejected this.
“We’re not marketing it to kids, children or non-smokers. Our target market is explicitly smokers. We’re not putting it out there to be trendy or anything else.”
Several submissions critical of the devices were made to the TGA when it was considering its ruling. The claim that e-cigarettes actually widen the appeal of nicotine was a key concern, as was the fast delivery of nicotine. And while the devices claim to be free of tobacco carcinogens, there are other chemicals involved besides pure nicotine, such as acetaldehyde.

Electronic cigarettes are illegal

Electronic cigarettes are an unregistered pharmaceutical product and it is illegal for the public to possess them, the Health Department warns.
Two people were arrested for selling electronic cigarettes, Health Department director Lam Ping-yan said at a press conference yesterday.
The items in question are cigarette-shaped electronic devices that atomise nicotine into an aerosol. No burning is involved in the process.
The Health Department and police raided an appliance shop yesterday in Apliu Street, Sham Shui Po, arrested two people and seized nine types of products. They included atomisers and “smoke cartridges”, which are refill products.
The two people arrested were a manager and a store employee.
Under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, electronic cigarettes containing nicotine and marketed as products to help people quit smoking are pharmaceutical items that require registration with the Health Department.
None of the electronic cigarettes sold in the city are registered and it is illegal to sell or possess the product. Anyone who sells or possesses the products is liable to a HK$100,000 fine and two years in prison.

Stop using electronic cigarettes

Hong Kong’s Department of Health Wednesday called on smokers not to use electronic cigarettes as the safety, efficacy and quality of such kind of product have to be established.
A spokesman for the department said Wednesday that initial laboratory analysis on an electronic cigarette sample revealed that it contained nicotine.
The spokesman said under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, electronic cigarettes containing nicotine and marketed as tobacco cessation products were classified as pharmaceutical products requiring registration in Hong Kong.
The department raided a shop in Sham Shui Po earlier on Wednesday, resulting in the seizure of nine types of electronic cigarettes. It has also instructed the parties concerned to remove electronic cigarette advertisements and promotional materials from their websites.
The spokesman said possession or sale of an unregistered pharmaceutical product, and possession of Part I poisons without authority, were both liable on conviction to a 100,000 HK dollars (about 12,820 U.S. dollars) fine and two years’ imprisonment.
He urged members of the public who have been using electronic cigarettes to stop using them immediately.