Public Health

Inhale Your Vapor If You've Got It

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The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that at least two companies are selling electronic nicotine inhalers shaped like cigars, cigarettes, and pipes as tobacco substitutes. The manufacturers aim to avoid FDA regulation by marketing the devices not as a quitting aids (or, as the FDA would see it, treatments for the disease of nicotine addiction) or as safer (and therefore disease-ameliorating) alternatives to cigarettes but as a way to get your nicotine fix when you're not allowed to smoke. The article quotes one anti-smoking activist, Bill Godshall of Smokefree Pennsylvania, who welcomes the inhalers, and another, Alan Blum, director of the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, who sounds ambivalent. But both are mavericks within the anti-smoking movement: Godshall also favors smokeless tobacco as a harm-reducing alternative to cigarettes, and Blum at one point was sympathetic to that idea.

I predict most anti-smoking activists will be outraged by these products. First, they will argue (as they do with respect to smokeless tobacco) that the inhalers give smokers a way to endure smoke-free environments more comfortably and therefore blunt the effectiveness of smoking bans as a way of encouraging smokers to quit. That's probably true, but from a "public health" point of view you'd have to weigh the people who continue to smoke because of these products who otherwise would have quit against the smokers who switch mostly or entirely to the inhalers, thereby dramatically reducing their intake of toxins and carcinogens. Second, many, if not most, anti-smoking activists are uncomfortable with the idea of continuing to use nicotine indefinitely, regardless of the health consequences, because they view drug addiction as inherently bad. In their view, complete abstinence is the only acceptable alternative. Again, from a "public health" perspective, which seeks to minimize morbidity and mortality, this stance is highly questionable, since it could well result in more disease, not less.

From a libertarian perspective, of course, the issue is easy: Let manufacturers sell whatever tobacco or nicotine products they choose, as long as they're honest, and let consumers make their own tradeoffs between risk and pleasure, regardless of the impact on collective measures of health. That's not likely to be the way this shakes out, of course. I suspect the manufacturers of nicotine gum and patches, who not only had to get pre-market approval for their products but waited years before they were allowed to sell them over the counter instead of only by prescription, will be irked by the competition from non-FDA-regulated nicotine inhalers. All of these companies are selling essentially the same thing, however they choose to describe it, and it's quite common for people to use patches and gum as long-term cigarette substitutes, as opposed to "cures" for nicotine addiction. It seems like the artificial regulatory distinctions among different nicotine products can't last. Then again, our drug laws are riddled with such inconsistencies.

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  1. “””From a libertarian perspective, of course, the issue is easy: Let manufacturers sell whatever tobacco or nicotine products they choose, as long as they’re honest, and let consumers make their own tradeoffs between risk and pleasure, regardless of the impact on collective measures of health.”””

    I don’t think America is interested in the libertarian perspective. In general, Americans are driving the pro-nanny movement.

  2. I’ve puffed on one of these things. It’s hysterical. I really like them, but they are really corny looking with the red light at the end.

  3. I predict most anti-smoking activists will be outraged by these products. First, they will argue (as they do with respect to smokeless tobacco) that the inhalers give smokers a way to endure smoke-free environments more comfortably and therefore blunt the effectiveness of smoking bans as a way of encouraging smokers to quit.

    The distinct and predictible departure from “smoking hurts the workers and other patrons” babble that they used to sell this authoritarianism with to bein with.

    Would be nice if the property owner could set these rules rather than the Council Overlords.

  4. Does nicotine itself have any health benefits?

  5. Separated from the damage caused by the products of burning tobacco, nicotine doesn’t have any major health risk. Therefore, I don’t see any compelling reason for the state to regulate it as drug anymore than one would coffee.

    It’s arguable whether nicotine should be classified as an addictive substance at all. People have trouble kicking nicotine largely because doing so causes a loss of real mental function. Nicotine is vilified u its delivery system is so destructive but administered separately it could be qualified as an enhancer or a medicine.

  6. Bingo | May 7, 2008, 1:30pm | #

    Does nicotine itself have any health benefits?

    I don’t thinks so, but Ron Bailey would be the one here to ask about that, I think.

    It is supposed to be bad for your heart, no matter how you take it and ingesting it as smoke is probably the most total damage to the user, as can be witnessed by my horrible run times when I don’t switch to smokeless tobacco.

  7. SL,

    Is that new, that nicotine is not bad for your heart now when taken straight?

    Had always heard otherwise.

  8. Brief glance at wikipedia says it aids concentration and boosts metabolism as well as providing a calming effect. Time to start smoking!

  9. Bingo,

    Thanks for the update, I brought Skoal along with Winstons to work.

  10. Does nicotine itself have any health benefits?

    Is pleasure a health benefit? If not, why not?

  11. Is pleasure a health benefit? If not, why not?

    Because we all know that things that make you feel good are bad for your. They have to be. Or else they wouldn’t give you pleasure.

  12. Googling “nicotine heart” indicates that the evidence is mixed. Nicotine does elevate the pulse, a daunting prospect for those who think we may be allocated a fixed number of heartbeats.

  13. I bought one a few weeks ago. It serves its purpose, but I suspect I will be shown the door as soon as I try to get my nicotine fix while enjoying a very dry gin martini at any legal drug dealing establishment (aka a bar).

  14. I am addicted to several drugs, and I love it. Pot, nicotine, air, food, water… In my life, I’ve loved them all.

  15. Does nicotine itself have any health benefits?

    I think someone said it already, but nicotine helps concentration and alertness.

    The nicotine compounds act similar to natural chemicals in the brain that transmit signals between brain cells, causing this increased mental activity.

    I think the worry here is that, as the body becomes dependent on nicotine to perform this function, production of the natural chemicals can drop off.

    I don’t know if they’ve proven this drop-off yet, but who’s to let facts get in the way of a good ol’ nanny crusade?

  16. There is a simple, effective way to make smoking more acceptable, and someday we might use it. Gather all anti-smoking activists and shoot them all!

  17. electronic nicotine inhalers shaped like cigars

    So, sometimes a cigar is not a cigar? Whodathunkit!

    Yuri,

    I second your notion, especially after running into a nutty chick at McCormick’s in Crystal City who had to have a fit about people smoking at the bar.

    Amazingly, she was sitting at the bar as close as one could possibly sit to the non-smoking area without being in it AND she was just a few doors away from a Ted’s Montana Grill (all non-smoking, all of the time).

  18. Somewhat related to the War on Tobacco.

    Oh, when will they ever learn?

  19. That’s funny- I wouldn’t have pegged Ted Turner as anti-smoking. I like to picture him riding around on his ranch like the Marlboro Man. Perhaps the buffalo just tastes better without cigarette smoke in the air.

  20. I’m pretty platform-aligned Libertarian, but I do split with the LP and become what some might consider an anti-smoking “fascist.” I badger family and friends, vote for smoking bans, etc. ever since I saw my grandfather die of cancer. I do want to disagree with your assertion I would be against other methods of Nicotine delivery; completely untrue. I would strongly support the legal distribution of Nicotine via inhalers, etc… in the same way I’ve never tried any illegal drugs, but generally support measured decriminalization and evaluation for eventual legalization of those substances.

  21. There is some evidence that nicotine is an effective anti-depressant. If required I will pull the linky outta me arse.

    fwiw, I roll my own. Top tobacco costs me $7.95/can. It comes with 200 rolling papers. It takes me about two and a half weeks to smoke a can.

  22. I would so buy a nicotine inhaler. Then go to restaurants and just smugly stare.

  23. That’s funny- I wouldn’t have pegged Ted Turner as anti-smoking.

    Dude, we talking about the same Ted Turner? That’s exactly how I would’a pegged him.

  24. I badger family and friends, vote for smoking bans, etc.

    Badgering of family and friends to quit smoking is perfectly within the purview of orthodox libertarianism.

    Voting for smoking bans, not so much.

  25. Does nicotine on it’s own do anything bad to your body that if you are insured by my carrier, I will have to pay for in 10 years?

    If not, then go ahead and use these things, just prepare to be mocked mercilessly for your addiction just as I mock my classmates who look like zombies before 2 cups of coffee.

  26. I’m pretty platform-aligned Libertarian, but I do split with the LP and become what some might consider an anti-smoking “fascist.” I badger family and friends, vote for smoking bans, etc. ever since I saw my grandfather die of cancer.

    SO you are libertarian except when it affects you. Then there oughta be a law.

    Hypocrite.

  27. I badger family and friends, vote for smoking bans, etc. ever since I saw my grandfather die of cancer.

    I don’t see logic in this. A person should be free to do what he wants to do even if it leads to death. What if you saw your grandfather die from skydiving? Would you vote to ban that? What if he died from driving to work? (I’d vote to ban that.)

  28. Ban going to work that is. 🙂

  29. Talk to a cariologist. Nicotine is like glue in the system. While it doesnt cause blood clots on its own, it will cause people that would normally not get a clot to get one.

    Its a “Straw that broke the camels back” type of deal.

    That said. It’s our god given right to kill ourselves slowly for a little fun now.

  30. fwiw, I roll my own. Top tobacco costs me $7.95/can. It comes with 200 rolling papers. It takes me about two and a half weeks to smoke a can.

    You Sir are my hero! Of this thread.

  31. fwiw, I roll my own. Top tobacco costs me $7.95/can. It comes with 200 rolling papers. It takes me about two and a half weeks to smoke a can.

    Likewise, but I splurge on Drum, which is $15/can.

  32. My point about watching my grandfather die of cancer after smoking Lucky Strike unfiltereds for 57 years has nothing to do with personal choices and responsibilities. I support everyone’s decisions to evaluate risk and engage in behavior that doesn’t hurt anyone else.

    But there’s a deeply personal relationship between me and people I care about, where I am driven to try to pester them about their bad habit– because of what I saw as I saw my grandfather waste away in hospice. The way it emotionally devasted his wife, children, and grandchildren. The way he cried and told us how much he wished he had given up smoking long ago. His mind was sharp, his body was being eaten alive. Yes, you could die of skydiving, life is hard, etc.

    I don’t care about some jackhole on the street corning smoking. I care about my family and friends, and don’t want them to have to make the same mistakes others made without fully understanding some of the ramifications that they may have have previously considered.

  33. I care about my family and friends, and don’t want them to have to make the same mistakes others made without fully understanding some of the ramifications that they may have have previously considered.

    That’s admirable, but anyone who doesn’t know the risks of smoking today doesn’t want to know. It’s their life; they’ve made their choice. Leave them alone.

    As to voting for smoking bans, dude, I’m voting to revoke your libertarian club membership.

  34. “As to voting for smoking bans, dude, I’m voting to revoke your libertarian club membership.”

    Please place your decoder ring and red pills in the box as you’re leaving. Have a nice day.

  35. I’ve got one of these. They’re great. I smoke it in bars, the grocery store, at my desk.

    A few smokers I know have them as well.

    If, as we fear, the anti-smoking jackasses try to regulate these I suggest we reason with them using their own methods- with a punch to their teeth.

  36. Sorry, but I think you pegged the anti-smoking nanny crowd all wrong on this one. I’d consider myself among them, and I’d be thrilled if these things took off.

    I’m sick of being forced to smoke other people’s cancer sticks. I don’t give a damn what nicotine addicts do to their own bodies, but the rest of should not have to inhale it, indoors or out.

  37. Curious,

    I’m four square against finger licking. No, really. It spreads disease, it sounds and looks disgusting, it smells, it’s uncouth, etc. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that second hand finger licking has killed more people (by levels of magnitude) then second hand smoke.

    How many times has a finger licker had a cold/respiratory illness/strep and passed it on to people with compromised immune system or to people in the medical field or a caregiver for the infirm or elderly.

    When I see people lick their fingers it makes me nauseous. Yet, I don’t say a thing. I don’t try to have it outlawed. I even allow it in my house. Of course if they’re too noisy I tell them to get a room so they can make love to their fingers in private.

  38. (Continued from the calorie display thread.)

    JW

    It seems to me that there is a gray area, where people can reasonably disagree, about when disclosure is necessary. You drew a hard distinction between food risks and risks from things like pharmacueticals and cigarettes. But there are still common themes between the two (Consumers face a trafe-off between risk avoidance and enjoyment/other benefits, having more specific information may affect what some people decide to do, etc.).

    And maybe my cyanide analogy involved a very large difference in degree; but the difference is much smaller when you compare calorie count displays to cigarette pack labeling.

    If you don’t like the practice of non-disclosure of any restaurant, you are free to not dine there. Do you demand to know the caloric content of your steak at at the local bistro, or do you jut assume that it has high content and other things which the calorie-mided should avoid?

    Get enough people who feel the same way you do, lobby the businesses to do so and they will change their practice if they know it will benefit them. Otherwise, it’s just you and a few of other obsessed whiners who think that the tidal wave of the already publicly available nutritional information and research (not to mention the family doctor’s advice that you have received your entire life) just isn’t enough to educate them on healthy eating. No, it takes a state-mandated chart on the menu to do that.

    To answer your question, I don’t ask for specific calorie counts. I have a general idea that certain foods are high in calories or otherwise unhealthy and I use that non-detailed understanding as a basis for action.

    If I decided that I wanted to base my actions on more precice information, and I had a hard time finding a restraunt that displayed such information, it would not be a big deal. It would just mean I would be slightly inconvenienced by having to get the information elsewhere.

    Similiarly, if I owned a restraunt, and a law was passed requiring me to display the number of calories in my food, it would not be a big deal. It would simply mean a slight inconvenience. It is only an abridgement of my freedom in the sense that sellers of food in grocery stores have their freedom abridged by requirements that they include nutrition facts on the label. After all, the default assumption is that companies have the right to decide what the packages of their product will look like, as long as they don’t blatantly lie.

    That’s admirable, but anyone who doesn’t know the risks of smoking today doesn’t want to know.

    Thats true. So does the existence of such common knowledge mean that mandatory cigarette warning labels is an affront to liberty?

  39. I’m sick of being forced to smoke other people’s cancer sticks. I don’t give a damn what nicotine addicts do to their own bodies, but the rest of should not have to inhale it, indoors or out.

    Then don’t stand close enough to get thei smoke. Pretty easy solution. Is that reall too complicated for you?

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