Friday, December 11, 2009

Legislators Jump On Elctronic Cigarette "Ban" Wagon

By Kristin Noll-Marsh

In a move that defies logic and reason, legislators and anti-smoking groups all over the country are attempting to modify the definition of "smoking," in public smoking bans, to include electronic cigarettes.

Bills just passed by New Jersey legislators (S-3053/S-3054), define electronic cigarettes as the same as tobacco cigarettes and prohibit use of the devices in indoor public places and workplaces, based largely on recent findings by the FDA:

"Electronic smoking devices have not been approved as to safety and efficacy by the federal Food and Drug Administration, and their use may pose a health risk to persons exposed to their smoke or vapor because of a known irritant contained therein and other substances that may, upon evaluation by that agency, be identified as potentially toxic to those inhaling the smoke or vapor," the bill's authors ascertained. (1)

In an email to the senators, the executive director of anti-tobacco group Smokefree Pennsylvania, William T. Godshall, urged the New Jersey lawmakers to vote down S-3053, while supporting proposed bill S-3054.

"To improve public health, Smokefree Pennsylvania urges you to SUPPORT [S-3054] (to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors under 19) and to REJECT [S-3053] (to ban adult use of electronic cigarettes in ALL indoor workplaces)," Godshall said.

"Unfortunately for public health and common sense, [S-3053] inaccurately redefines "smoking" as including the use of smokefree e-cigarettes in order to ban the use of these lifesaving products in all workplaces in NJ (including in the privacy of one's office, work station, etc.). Smokefree Pennsylvania has advocated smokefree workplace laws for more than 20 years (because tobacco smoke pollution poses a health hazard to people and property), we urge you to REJECT [S-3053] because it improperly defines the usage of smokefree products as "smoking", unfairly discriminates against e-cigarette users who have recently quit smoking, would force e-cigarette users outside into smoking areas to obtain smokefree nicotine, and would discourage hundreds of thousands of smokers from quitting and/or reducing cigarette consumption by switching to e-cigarettes."

"Proponents of [S-3053] have grossly and intentionally misrepresented the health risks of e-cigarettes in order to scare legislators into voting for this unwarranted legislation that threatens (instead of improves) public health. Smokers who have recently quit and/or are trying to quit need support, not harassment and ostracism," Godshall argued. (2)

Although many electronic cigarette models look similar to tobacco cigarettes and produce a vapor that looks similar to tobacco smoke, outward appearances are deceiving. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, the devices do not contain tobacco, burn any material nor produce side-stream smoke. Electronic cigarettes utilize a small heating element, which warms a flavored nicotine (or non-nicotine) and propylene glycol solution into a fog or vapor. The device does not produce side-stream vapor, because it only creates the vapor when the user inhales through it. The vapor, unlike tobacco smoke, does not linger and produces no unpleasant odor, nor irritation, for most bystanders.

Dr. Michael Siegel, a respected physician with 20 years of tobacco control research, stated in a March 2009 post on his blog, The Rest of the Story:Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary, "It strikes me that there is a tremendous abstinence-only mindset in tobacco control that isn't capable of even entertaining the possibility that harm could be reduced by a product that is called a cigarette. The very fact that the product is in the form of a cigarette is simply intolerable to many tobacco control advocates. It is not truly the health of smokers that is of concern; it is the act of smoking that is bothersome and unacceptable. So even if that smoking were to save thousands of lives, it is not a viable option. Better that people should use the traditional products and die [than] switch to a product which has not been fully studied but which is probably much safer." (3)

Health New Zealand, an independent research and consultancy company owned by Dr. Murray Laugesen, a respected anti-smoking advocate and New Zealand's most experienced researcher on smoking policy and cigarettes, tested the Ruyan brand of electronic cigarettes andAdvertisement concluded that there was no danger to bystanders from the exhaled vapor:

"Second hand mist from an e-cigarette is not smoke at all, and does not contain any substance known to cause death, short or long term, in the quantities found. It becomes invisible within a few seconds, and is not detectable by smell."

"The e-cigarette does not create side-stream smoke."

"Exhaled breath after e-smoking contains even less nicotine per puff, as much of the nicotine inhaled is absorbed. Similarly, propylene glycol is largely absorbed and little is exhaled," Dr. Laugesen's report revealed. (4)

Yet, this comprehensive report is largely ignored by those wishing to define electronic cigarette vapor to be as dangerous as tobacco smoke. Instead, the bill's authors, state Senators Robert M. Gordon and Joseph F. Vitale, point to the statements made by the FDA, which were based on the limited testing the agency did on two brands of liquid; however, the FDA report did not include any findings on the composition of the actual vapor when exhaled. The testing methods and report were criticized by numerous members of the medical and scientific community - and even some anti-smoking advocates - as incomplete and inconclusive. (5)

Despite the warnings by the FDA and condemnation by groups such as the American Lung Association, electronic cigarettes are currently being used by hundreds of thousands of consumers worldwide and the number is growing each day.

"I did my research," said John Opager, an electronic cigarette owner in Chicago, IL. "I found that, though one tested sample by the FDA contained small amounts [less than 1%] of DEG [diethylene glycol], it was a statistical anomaly. The FDA's comment that e-liquid contains nitrosamines actually made me laugh, as most manufactured products containing nicotine have nitrosamines, as the nicotine is extracted from tobacco. That would include traditional NRTs [Nicotine Replacement Therapy, such as nicotine gum] which I believe the FDA doesn't have a problem with."

Many electronic cigarette users are concerned that if the proposed ban in New Jersey is passed, they will be followed by other state legislators and are concerned about how this will impact their future health.

"I feel that legislators forcing me back outside to use my [electronic cigarette] next to tobacco smokers will put my health at risk," stated a concerned Dayna Streeting, of Sheboygan, WI. "Knowing how dangerous second hand smoke is, I don't want to be around it anymore! I quit for a reason and use an electronic cigarette for a reason - to save my health."

"They saved my life," Streeting continued, "and I am extremely thankful. My husband is also happy that I'm no longer risking his health by using tobacco cigarettes around him. My doctor even agrees that it's a good idea, knowing how dangerous tobacco is. Anyone who wants to ban electronic cigarettes, because of safety reasons, needs to take another look at the tobacco that is still on the market."

Brad Preston, an electronic cigarette convert from Apple Valley, MN, said he would also like to see more evidence, before any further legislation takes place.

"Unless there is conclusive evidence that second-hand electronic cigarette vapor is harmful," Preston commented, "I think that every establishment should be allowed to decide independently whether or not to allow its use, or to designate specific areas for its use. A bar, adult restaurant, business or place of employment might condone the use of electronic cigarettes, while perhaps a family restaurant may not care to. Considering that propylene glycol has been used as an air disinfectant in hospitals, I believe it is highly unlikely that second-hand electronic cigarette vapor is harmful in any measurable way."

Thaddeus Marney, who is a founding board member of CASAA (The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association), had another concern. "I would like to know how it is that the government agency [the FDA] tasked with preserving public health allows television commercials for a drug that has known lethal side effects [Chantix], while attempting to BAN a product that has not been linked to any serious side effects when used as intended?" Marney asked.

Dr. Siegel also questioned the true motivations of many electronic cigarette opponents.

"Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has announced that he wants the FDA to immediately take electronic cigarettes -- which deliver essentially pure nicotine (with no tar or other tobacco constituents) -- off the market. At the same time, he is a supporter of legislation that would provide special protection to actual tobacco-containing cigarettes and ensure that this most toxic variety of cigarettes always remains on the market and continues to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year," Siegel stated in a March 2009 blog post.

"What Senator Lautenberg and the health groups are trying to do is ban a much less harmful type of cigarette but to give an official government seal of approval to the much more toxic one that we know is killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. The logic of these actions completely escapes me. Or at least the logic did escape me until The Ashtray Blog pointed out that Senator Lautenberg is the recipient of more than $128,000 from pharmaceutical companies (in 2008 alone)," Siegel continued.

"The only real threat that electronic cigarettes pose is not to the public's health, but to the profits of the pharmaceutical companies, which manufacture competing products (nicotine replacement therapy). If lots of smokers turn to electronic cigarettes, rather than pharmaceuticals, in order to try to quit smoking, then the pharmaceutical companies stand to lose lots of money. So perhaps it is not surprising that Senator Lautenberg is standing up to protect the financial interests of the pharmaceutical companies over the interests of the public's health." (6)

Suddenly, the logic and reason behind the proposed bans becomes quite clear to electronic cigarette owners.

1. Senator ROBERT M. GORDON,District 38 (Bergen), Senator JOSEPH F. VITALE, District 19 (Middlesex) , SENATE COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE, Nos. 3053 and 3054 ,

2. Bill Godshall, Smokefree Pennsylvania, Godshall email

3. Dr. Michael Siegel, Absurdity Gone Wild: Health Canada Asks Smokers Not to Use E-Cigarettes Because of Safety Concerns, But Not to Refrain from the Known Toxic Ones,

4. Dr. Murray Laugesen, Health new Zealand, E-cigarettes: harmless inhaled or exhaled, No second hand smoke,

5. Janci Chunn Lindsay, Ph.D., Exponent Health Sciences, Technical Review and Analysis of FDA Report: "Evaluation of e-cigarettes",

6. Dr. Michael Siegel, Senator and Anti-Smoking Groups Want to Ban Less Harmful E-Cigarettes and Protect the Most Toxic Ones,

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