Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Other Anti-Smoking Groups Would Condemn a Million Ex-Smokers to Return to Cigarette Smoking, Causing Countless Deaths

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has joined a number of other anti-smoking groups in calling for a ban on electronic cigarettes and an immediate removal of these devices from the market. In a press release issued last week, the Campaign wrote: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has acted to protect public health from so-called electronic cigarettes by seeking to block importation of these products and, during a press briefing today, informing the public about the potential health risks of these products. ... We look forward to the FDA taking additional action to stop the marketing and sale of these unapproved products. ... Smokers concerned about their health should utilize approved smoking cessation medications and counseling rather than unapproved products. As the World Health Organization has concluded, until electronic cigarette manufacturers have conducted the necessary scientific studies and gone through the appropriate regulatory process, 'WHO does not consider it to be a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit.'"

The Rest of the Story

What the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other anti-smoking groups are saying is that they would rather have one million or more ex-smokers who have successfully quit using electronic cigarettes return to cigarette smoking than continue staying quit by using the e-cigarettes.

Ironically, the precise action that the Campaign and other groups are urging the FDA to take in the name of public health protection would condemn at least one million individuals to return to smoking conventional cigarettes. This would lead to increased morbidity and countless deaths among these individuals, many of whom have experienced a drastic improvement in their health since switching to electronic cigarettes.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anti-smoking groups would want smokers to return to conventional cigarettes rather than to stay quit with the use of electronic ones, which deliver the nicotine without the more than 10,000 other toxins and high levels of carcinogens found in conventional cigarettes.

While the Campaign is urging electronic cigarette users to switch to nicotine replacement products or other approved drugs - like Chantix, which we know has potentially deadly adverse effects - the reality is that the overwhelming majority of these one million or more users will return to cigarette smoking, as they have found these other methods for smoking cessation to be unsuccessful. In fact, that is precisely the reason why they tried e-cigarettes in the first place.

While nicotine replacement products can address the pharmaceutical aspect of the smoking addiction, they do not address all the other behavioral aspects, such as the role that the act of smoking plays in providing the pleasurable response that smokers experience. The beauty of electronic cigarettes is that they simulate most aspects of the smoking experience. This is why many vapers have found electronic cigarettes to be far more effective than the "approved" smoking cessation drugs.

If electronic cigarettes had not yet been introduced to the U.S. market, it would not be unreasonable to ask that the products go through the regulatory channels required of drugs and devices before being placed on the market. But it's too late. The cat is out of the bag. And the reality is that there are well over one million electronic cigarette users, according to sources within the industry.

It is ludicrous to take the product off the market and force the million or more e-cigarette users to return to cigarette smoking.

In the past few days, I have received countless testimonials from e-cigarette users, thanking me for exposing the rest of the story regarding these products. Here are just a few of them, but they are typical of the many responses I have received. They demonstrate that these products, in the eyes of many users, are far superior to traditional, approved NRT and other smoking cessation products, that the use of these products has led to dramatic health improvements in users, and that forcing these people to return to regular cigarettes would be criminal:

"I just read your response to the recent FDA warning about electronic cigarettes, and I'm writing to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your continued efforts to keep these devices available. I smoked for more than 30 years and tried everything to quit (patch, gum, hypnosis, cold turkey). I failed every time. In 2005, I took care of my mother as she died of lung cancer from years of heavy smoking. I remember thinking, "If this doesn't make me quit, nothing will." didn't make me quit, and every time I lit up, I felt like a doomed failure."

"Five months ago I purchased an e-cigarette, and to my utter astonishment, completely quit tobacco cigarettes within the first week. I have no desire to resume smoking, and my health has improved immensely. I've weaned myself from high- to low-nicotine content and plan to eliminate it entirely over the next couple of months. As you all know, there are thousands of stories just like mine. And with the continued efforts of compassionate souls like you, I'm convinced that thousands can become hundreds of thousands. You are doing great, important work--and you have my sincere gratitude."

"Thank you so much for standing up on behalf of e-cig users like myself. I have been smoke-free for 51 days, thanks to e-cigarettes, after 40 years of being a smoker (2.5 packs per day for the past 10 years or so). Even in such short a time, I can laugh again without breaking into a coughing fit. I can make my bed and mow my lawn without running out of breath. I can wake up in the morning without spending the first hour hacking up crap from my lungs."

"Nevertheless, because of the recent FDA press conference, people who once congratulated me for turning to e-cigs (or who had never even heard of e-cigs prior to the announcement) are now telling me that they are likely to kill me. And they say as much just before stepping outside public arenas to light up a real cigarette."

"Why is the FDA doing this? Why does our government want to kill people? I don't understand."

Well I don't understand either. I certainly don't have an answer to that question.

It is clear from these responses that the FDA's recent action has scared many e-cigarette users and if the FDA takes the anti-smoking groups' advice and follows through with its own threatened actions, it will lead to perhaps more than one million e-cigarette users returning to conventional smoking. How in the world is that possibly an action that is in the interests of protecting the public's health? The only entity whose interests that serves is Big Tobacco, who loses money every time someone uses an e-cigarette.

By the way, for many more testimonials, click here and here.

It is startling to me how electronic cigarette policy is being informed by so much misinformation. Why don't the health groups and authorities want to actually examine the extent of e-cigarette use and talk to a large number of users to assess their experience, before they pull these truly life-altering devices from the market?

Perhaps the best example of the kind of misinformation out there is a Huffington Post column by Karen Stabiner which supports a ban on electronic cigarettes on the basis that the tobacco industry - which manufactures and markets these products - cannot be trusted.

Stabiner asserts that: "the companies that push nicotine [the tobacco companies] make it so easy for me to vent; over 40 years after the first health warnings, they're still looking for ways to build their customer base, still dismissing the latest research, still pursuing my lovely, clean-breathing daughter, all of her friends, and all of their younger siblings. The latest gimmick is the electronic cigarette. Yes, the bipolar tobacco industry, which pretends it wants you to stop smoking even as it invents new ways to keep people hooked, has invented a plastic tube that looks like a cigarette, delivers nicotine like a cigarette, and runs on a battery--supposedly to keep the user from inhaling some less life-affirming ingredients. ... I have no sympathy for an industry that exists primarily because it's wealthy enough to take on and trounce all comers. ... Go make some good news for yourself; log on to the FDA site and tell them just how you feel about a business that kills not only its customers but unlucky second-handers who spend too much time with those customers."

The entire premise of the column is that electronic cigarettes are the newest ploy by Big Tobacco to get people hooked to its products. The truth, of course, is that electronic cigarettes are not produced or sold by tobacco companies and that they in fact represent a huge threat to Big Tobacco. As Emily Litella would say: "Never mind."

The reality is that electronic cigarettes have been on the market for about three years and we don not have reports of adverse effects (in contrast with Chantix, where we have reports of thousands of adverse effects, including hundreds of deaths, but the FDA still approves the product). As Jacob Sullum pointed out in a Hit & Run column, the FDA press conference last week urged people to call in with complaints about the adverse effects of e-cigarettes because the FDA doesn't have any after three years of widespread use of the product, but is desperate to generate some evidence to support its pre-determined decision to ban the product.

Sullum writes: "The statement closes by soliciting consumer complaints about "serious adverse events (side effects) or product quality problems with the use of e-cigarettes," possibly because the FDA does not have any yet and needs them to justify removing the product from the market. It seems clear that the FDA already has decided to ban e-cigarettes and is now seeking evidence to back up that decision. This approach, which replaces science and consumer protection with puritanism and bureaucratic pigheadedness, sacrifices the interests—and possibly the lives—of smokers who could dramatically reduce their disease risks by switching to e-cigarettes."

Anti-smoking groups, and the FDA itself, has displayed a complete lack of perspective in dealing with the issue of electronic cigarettes. They would have us believe that electronic cigarettes are the true threat to the public's health, when the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that e-cigarettes are not the threat, the real ones are.

An electronic cigarette user summed up the implications of the FDA report better than anything I have seen, as follows: "The problem with the FDA's statements are not that they contain untruths, but that they lack perspective on the truths they uncovered. The FDA didn't uncover danger; it found potentially dangerous substances. There's a big difference. Viewed in proper perspective, the FDA's findings do not show a health hazard in e-liquid any greater than any approved NRT product. That's the point we need to hammer home, as some have begun doing."

Perhaps Dr. Murray Laugesan said it best, as quoted in an article on a New Zealand television web site: "The carcinogens that we have found have been in very, very small quantity, just above the level of detection. ... They're not going to die from an e-cigarette. But they could die tomorrow from a heart attack due to their smoking."

That the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other supposed "health" groups would prefer that these individuals die from heart attacks due to smoking while we wait the 8 years or so that it takes to conduct the tests necessary to gain FDA approval for new devices than that they stay off the most toxic conventional cigarettes is a travesty.

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