Drug Policy

Will People 'Mistakenly Perceive' Health Benefits From Not Smoking?

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In an NPR story about electronic cigarettes (the subject of my column last week), American Cancer Society scientist Thomas Glynn calls the product, which delivers nicotine vapor without burning tobacco, "intriguing" and says it has "a lot of possibilities." But he quickly adds that "it needs to go through some rigorous testing before the public health community would be comfortable with it." If that testing is anything like what the Food and Drug Administration traditionally demands for new drugs, the requirement probably would be prohibitive. Even if one or more e-cigarette companies decided it was worth jumping through the FDA's regulatory hoops, the product would be taken off the market in the meantime. In essence, then, Glynn's position is that e-cigarettes, which eliminate almost all the hazards associated with smoking, look very promising, could save a lot of lives, but should be banned for the forseeable future, even while far more hazardous conventional cigarettes remain on the market with the FDA's blessing (assuming the Senate approves a bill favored by Glynn's organization that would authorize the agency to regulate tobacco products). 

The FDA is still mulling what to do about e-cigarettes, but the clueless comments of an official quoted by NPR are not encouraging:

"We're concerned about the potential for addiction to and abuse of these products," said FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle. "Some people may mistakenly perceive these products to be safer alternatives to conventional tobacco use."

Mistakenly? There are legitimate questions about the long-term health effects of nicotine consumption and the success rate for people who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking; the same questions also apply to FDA-approved nicotine products. But it is beyond serious dispute that inhaling water vapor containing nicotine and propylene glycol is much less hazardous than inhaling smoke containing nicotine along with myriad toxins and carcinogens. It makes no sense to worry about "the potential for addiction" in the abstract, without regard to the harm it causes. 

"If there is anyone who believes cigarettes are no more hazardous than e-cigarettes," says harm reduction advocate David Sweanor, "I'd recommend a remedial course in basic sciences." In a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who wants the FDA to ban e-cigarettes, Joel Nitzkin, who chairs the American Association of Public Health Physicians' Tobacco Task Force, says that, in terms of health hazards, e-cigarettes "should be seen as generic equivalents of the pharmaceutical nicotine products," promising "a risk of illness and death less than 1% of the risk posed by cigarettes."

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  1. Only racists smoke these days.

  2. Brett, this is Jemaine speaking.

  3. “We’re concerned about the potential for addiction to and abuse of these products…”

    Who is going to use this without already being addicted to nicotine?

  4. There’s no way any tobacco prohibitionist will ever surrender on anything remotely related to cigarettes. Anti-tobacco zealots are every bit as irrational as religious fundamentalists. You can’t reason with someone who holds faith higher than science.

  5. That’s the FDA for you: killing thousands of people every year since they got the power to tell you what you can put into your own body.

    -jcr

  6. Well, with the taxes and all, cigs are doomed anyway.

    I want to play the “statist banning” game too! I personally despise dogs kept in apartment buildings. It’s neither physically or emotionally healthy for the dogs, and feces left on street curbs and in parks in disease ridden, smelly and unsightly.

    I propose a $10,000 fee each year to get a dog license within city limits!

  7. Shut the fuck up, government.

  8. Well, with the taxes and all, cigs are doomed anyway.

    I went to the drug store the other day – and they were between $5 & $7 a pack. I wonder how long it will be until people start growing their own tobacco.

  9. BP: My cousin, who is just an occasional recreational smoker anyway, buys American Spirit loose tobacco and rolls his own. MUCH cheaper. I think you’ll see more people doing that.

    The taxes are on the cigs, not the tobacco.

  10. Unfortunately Episiarch The federal tax increase hurt loose tobacco more than any other kind, except maybe little cigars. The federal tax on loose tobacco went up 22 times. A pouch that used to cost me 4.35 before the increase now costs 9.30. Fucking assholes.

  11. “It makes no sense to worry about “the potential for addiction” in the abstract, without regard to the harm it causes.”

    Statements like that are heresy in the public health community. Addiction is bad, therefore addictive substances must be banned. Any discussion of harm (or, God forbid, relative harm) is irrelevant.

  12. Epi – Before I quit (about 15 years ago), I used to smoke Drum. Not only cheaper, but much better tobacco – without the ammonia and other shit they put into pre-rolled smokes.

    When I went to London in 2003, it was common to see people rolling (tobacco) cigarettes. I think you’re right – it’ll soon be common to see people here in the states do it. If Thanzor’s right (and I have no reason to doubt Thanzor), then perhaps people will start growing their own tobacco plants.

  13. But Thanzor, you are engaging in a vice that other people don’t like so it’s OK to ream you.

    without the ammonia and other shit they put into pre-rolled smokes

    American Spirits have no additives. Once you’ve had those, having a “regular” cigarette (like the eternally vile Marlboro Light) is impossible, at least for me–all you taste are the chemicals. But luckily for me I just smoke when drinking.

  14. Lautenberg was one of the major forces behind the attempt to ban model rockets. He has a lot to answer for.

  15. …all you taste are the chemicals

    There was no comparison between Drum and the shit pre-fab smokes for taste. Also, even with filters, Marlboro/B&H/whatever were much harsher. I’d have to imagine American Spirit is the same as Drum in that regard.

    I’d also wonder about the restriction of choices in alternatives to cigarettes. That could be a response of a government that sees funding sources drying up, and doesn’t want to lose the cash cow that is tobacco tax. Thing is though, these people have proven their stupidity time and again, so them making something illegal that could potentially save thousands of lives doesn’t fire off my paranoia neurons.

  16. B&H? Come on, BakedPenguin, unless you’re a Jewish grandmother making brisket, you have no business smoking B&H.

  17. Thanzor | April 14, 2009, 7:57pm | #
    Unfortunately Episiarch The federal tax increase hurt loose tobacco more than any other kind, except maybe little cigars. The federal tax on loose tobacco went up 22 times. A pouch that used to cost me 4.35 before the increase now costs 9.30. Fucking assholes.

    The tax goes so little children can see a doctor now and then,you know,like when they’re SICK!

    You rich people can certainly afford to roll your “boutique” cigarettes.What is $9.30 on earnings of over 250k+ a year?

  18. People will not grow their own tobacco when the tax gets too high. They will buy contraband cigarettes, sold by illegal drug dealers, as is the case in Manhattan, where at least one marijuana delivery service is offering multiple brands of cigarettes by the pack at $6.50, well below the $9-$10 going rate.

    While there is a reduction in use with a rise in taxation that can be expected in the early application of the method, we appear to have exceeded the threshold of what dedicated users will bear, with the latest tax increase. It will not reduce tobacco use as effectively as prior increases, and instead will foment an illegal, untaxed trade in the commodity.

  19. TAO – if I was smoking a pre-made cigarette, it was because I’d run out of my own, and was bumming off someone. I don’t remember ever cadging one off of a Jewish grandma, though. There weren’t too many of those at the clubs I used to frequent.

    Socdoc420, point taken for city dwellers. I doubt anyone would grow in urban areas, but suburbia (south of the Mason Dixon line) could be a different story. Especially since tobacco plants have pretty flowers that could justify their presence in a garden.

  20. “Some people may mistakenly perceive these products to be safer alternatives to conventional tobacco use.”

    Some people may mistakenly perceive that you’re an educated adult with an IQ above room temperature. Unlike e-ciggie users, they would be wrong.

    This may be the most phenomenally stupid thing I’ve heard from a government official this year. While on its own that characterization of Rita Chappelle’s statement is fairly damning, add in the fact that I live in Detroit and follow the local news religiously and you have an idea of how contemptuous I am of this woman’s intelligence.

  21. Benson & Hedges are kosher?

    I’d have to imagine American Spirit is the same as Drum in that regard.

    American Spirits have no additives, and they’re all from leaf tobacco–no stems or sheet tobacco. So it’s a premium beyond the no chemicals.

  22. Cut Frank Lautenberg some slack He is in competition with Chuck Schumer for the Biggest Senatorial Douchebag Cup. That is some serios competition. The neighboring states thingee just adds to the douchebad rivalry.

  23. Remember the SNL skits from the early 80’s where Joe Piscopo had that annoying character who would constantly say “I’m from Jersey!”?

    That’s Lautenberg.

  24. I mean it. This is an Olympus Mons of idiocy in a Himalayan range of bureaucratic imbecilic statements.

  25. Really, neither lonewacko nor lefiti would utter a statement so chock full of stupid.

  26. Some people may mistakenly perceive that you’re an educated adult with an IQ above room temperature. Unlike e-ciggie users, they would be wrong.

    The real problem these folks have is people makin choices they don’t like, but that’s old news. If some good luck/karma can occur they will ban e-cigs and face a backlash. Most folks don’t care though.

  27. Holy crap, Thanzor wasn’t kidding. The 5.29 oz tins of Drum (about 200 cigs) that I used to buy for about $7 are now selling for $21.

    …an Olympus Mons of idiocy…

    Or just moralizing douchebaggery. Alternatives to drugs are wrong – even if they’re much safer – because anything other than complete abstinence is wrong. Kind of like the vile bureaucratic shit excuse for a human who decided that $10 Narcan nasal spray should not be readily available because she thought the danger of fatality might act as a deterrent to opiate use.

  28. Lautenberg is my senator. I just sent a strongly worded e-mail opposing the e-cigarette ban.

  29. Uhh, folks. Just Google “growing tobacco”

    Google is your friend…

  30. Roll-your-own tobacco
    Was $1.0969 per pound
    Now $24.78 per pound
    That’s an increase of $23.6831 per pound or 2231%. Yes, that’s over a two thousand percent increase. What was happening was that as cigarette taxes went up and up, more and more people of modest means started rolling their own and the government rackets weren’t getting their protection money.

    But since most all smokers of roll your own tobacco make more than $250,000 a year, Obama has not broken his promise to spare the middle and lower classes from any tax increases. Ain’t that right, Dem fanboys?.

    Fuck, it took George HW Bush more than a years to break his tax promise.

    A link.

  31. I wonder if, botanically, tobacco and MJ make for a good companion planting. Add some Salvia and you can replace the three sisters with the three duuuudes….

  32. Is it just me or have all the team blue fanboys been fading into the background?

  33. Silly Reason! The federal and state governments can’t allow a ciggy-butt competitor – too much of their revenue comes from tobacco taxes and extortion proceeds.

  34. nuthugging has its downside when your team/guy/ideology lets ya down

  35. aix – Salvia? How about papaver somniferum instead?

    For the pretty flowers, of course.

  36. Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Treasury shall conduct a study concerning the magnitude of tobacco smuggling in the United States and submit to Congress recommendations for the most effective steps to reduce tobacco smuggling. Such study shall also include a review of the loss of Federal tax receipts due to illicit tobacco trade in the United States and the role of imported tobacco products in the illicit tobacco trade in the United States.

  37. lol, I should see what can be extracted from the poppies the previous owners left me. I think they’re eye-rainians….

    They are pretty. And I do enjoy our prescription free Acetaminophen mit codeine up here in the Canaders. hmmmm.

  38. From the Canadian Biodiversity info facility:

    Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is an ornamental flower that can still be found around some older homes. The plant persists by setting seed each year. This plant is the source of pharmacological and recreational drugs, as well as the poppy seeds that are used for oil and as a condiment on bagels, cakes, and other foods.,

    I am going to join some Garden exchange groups and keep an eye out!

  39. The government’s job is to ensure that people are not mistaken, even after all relevant information is made available.

  40. I should see what can be extracted from the poppies the previous owners left me.

    If you do, make sure first that they’re papaver somniferum and not, say papaver orientale or bracteatum. Those varieties only contain thebaine, which you do not want to ingest.

  41. Do these things make non-smokers choke and stink up the clothes of everyone around the user? If not, then give all the bailout money you were going to give GM to this company and get these things out there now!

  42. Some Guy – you’re not around many smokers, are you? I can tell you (I’m now on seven days with no cigarettes) that being around smokers (when outdoors) does not “stink up the clothes of everyone around the user”. If I don’t smoke, I don’t smell like it, even if I’m around ten of them.

  43. Yeah why should the public have to go into a smoky bar or pool hall and be forced to inhale second hand smoke. Who the hell are these people to subject me to that. Why my rights trump theirs. My rights trump the owner of any establishment that permits smoking.

    Now that we’ve settled that why do we allow babies in movies? Ban them. Why do we allow women to wear perfume in public because it annoys me. Ban it?

    Isn’t this what you folks mean by freedom?

  44. I almost want to order one and just “light” it up in the middle of a bar, restaurant or hell, in the middle of class and DARE someone to say something about it. You know some self-righteous twat (I use that term as a gender-neutral one) is going to say something ignorant the instant you exhale the “smoke”.

  45. Isn’t this what you folks mean by freedom?

    If I’m not free from offense, then I might as well go on a decapitation spree. I see no viable alternative. I’m between a rock and a hard place here.

  46. SomeGuy – I sat next to a guy in a bar smoking an e-cig in Denver. I wouldn’t doubt there’s a faint aroma but I didn’t notice it at all.

  47. I can tell you (I’m now on seven days with no cigarettes) that being around smokers (when outdoors) does not “stink up the clothes of everyone around the user”. If I don’t smoke, I don’t smell like it, even if I’m around ten of them.

    Wait six months or so, until you can smell again. Neither my wife nor I have ever smoked. Any time she interviews someone who smokes (she’s a reporter) I can smell it on her as soon as she comes in the door. Outdoors does minimize the effect, depending on the conditions.

    Lautenberg was one of the major forces behind the attempt to ban model rockets.

    He also wrote the Lautenberg Amendment, making a family violence misdemeanor a permanent ban on firearm ownership, retroactively. Lot of cops and soldiers lost their careers over that one.

  48. I can smell it on her as soon as she comes in the door

    That’s the smell of freedom. One day you’ll miss it.

  49. When I went to London in 2003, it was common to see people rolling (tobacco) cigarettes. I think you’re right – it’ll soon be common to see people here in the states do it.

    Rolling papers are, of course, drug paraphernalia, so I suspect we’ll see them outlawed soon.

    I can smell it on her as soon as she comes in the door.

    And you believe her when she claims the smoke on her clothes was third-hand smoke from a guy she sat in room with for half an hour? Suuure.

  50. There’s no way any tobacco prohibitionist will ever surrender on anything remotely related to cigarettes. Anti-tobacco zealots are every bit as irrational as religious fundamentalists. You can’t reason with someone who holds faith higher than science.

    I don’t understand. Don’t the anti-tobacco zealots tolerate nicotine gum? I guess what drives them batshit crazy is that the e-cigs *look* like the dreaded cancer sticks. It’s the same thing to ban “assault weapons” that are defined by their scary appearance.


  51. I don’t understand. Don’t the anti-tobacco zealots tolerate nicotine gum?

    Yes, but the gum has gone through the FDA approval process to be sure it is safe and effective, e-cigarettes have not. Also, there is the concern that the e-cigarettes may be addictive and may prevent smokers from completely quitting.

  52. He also wrote the Lautenberg Amendment, making a family violence misdemeanor a permanent ban on firearm ownership, retroactively. Lot of cops and soldiers lost their careers over that one.

    Sometimes unintended consequences are a good thing.

  53. Is it just me or have all the team blue fanboys been fading into the background?

    Go easy on ’em. I voted for Dukakis and to this day it shames me every time I think of it. I can hardly imagine how I would feel had he won.

  54. The anti-smoking crusade is not and never has been based on science.

  55. You really ought to have some idea of whether something is safe or dangerous before sucking it into your lungs, right? Who would argue with that? The American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, American Heart Assn and American Lung Assn — all respected — all agree that electronic cigarettes should be pulled off the market. The World Health Organization says they may be highly poisonous and that the product makers are committing fraud by using the WHO logo and name in advertising and packaging. The makers of e-cigs claim that they are safe but have absolutely no scientific studies to back up their claims. No evidence. No proof. Just their word “hey suckers,believe us so we can make money”

    Ethic Soup blog posted an excellent article on the subject at:

    http://www.ethicsoup.com/2009/03/hey-hey-fda-whaddaya-say-are-ecigarettes-safe-eh.html

    The cost of stopping your cigarette habit does not have to be breathing toxic poisons into your lungs from a pretend cigarette!

  56. The cost of stopping your cigarette habit does not have to be breathing toxic poisons into your lungs from a pretend cigarette!

    By “toxic poisons,” I presume you’re talking about DHMO vapor?

  57. Also, there is the concern that the e-cigarettes may be addictive and may prevent smokers from completely quitting.

    Prevent them from quitting smoking real cigarettes or prevent them from quitting ingesting nicotine? I don’t see how the former is even likely, since the e-cigs can deliver all the nicotine an addict is likely to want. If the former, then who cares, since the nicotine isn’t carcinogenic. (Oh, that’s right: it speeds up the user’s heart rate. Big deal. (That reminds me, I need to go get another cup of coffee, or else my heartbeat is likely to slow down to 8 beats a minute.))

  58. FDA need to SEE that e cigarettesare not bad for your health. There deluded.

  59. E-cigarettes are almost certainly more heathy than traditional cigarettes. Nicotine is addictive, but it’s very similar to caffeine and its risk for cardio disease minimal. E-cigarettes should be regulated but they do help people quit smoking by reducing nicotine levels over time. The toxins in traditional cigarettes is much more severe!

  60. this is really cool , i would love to stope smoking too

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