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Rotten Apple with Welsh Sticker to reflect Wales stance on e-liquid flavours.

Banning Flavours in Wales: An Open Letter to Public Health Wales

Since this post we’ve had the opportunity to put our point of view to BBC News. Read/view the story here!

Enjoy sweet e-liquid flavours?

If you’re in Wales, you could be soon left with a sour taste.

Public Health Wales recently announced that while e-cigarettes were safer than tobacco cigarettes, confectionary flavours should be banned.

We’ve seen many comments from vapers since then saying they like sweeter e-liquid flavours.

So we’ve invited Public Health Wales to visit one of our shops so they could speak to vapers.

Below is a copy of the letter we have sent…

Dear Sir

I am writing to you in regards to your recent statement on confectionary e-liquid flavours, in particular your statement:

You can buy bubblegum, candy floss, jam doughnut flavour e-cigarettes and they are only aimed at one audience – and that’s about recruiting children.

We were surprised to hear that you believe Welsh vaping businesses are targeting children, and as a result we’d like to invite you to one of our shops for a day.

This will give you the chance to:

  • Speak to our customers, and see first hand the flavours adult vapers are using
  • To see our Challenge 25 policy in action, a policy where anyone under the age of 25 is required to prove their age

We would suggest Swansea as our busiest shop, with high sales of the premium e-liquid you wish to ban, and we’d love to meet you there. However, you are welcome to visit any of our shops, and you wouldn’t need to give any advance warning.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Kind regards

James Dunworth

Chairman
ECigaretteDirect.co.uk

Background to Public Health Wales Announcement

The Public Health Wales announcement followed an attempt by the Welsh Government to ban vaping in public places.

The policy would have forced vapers out with smokers, devastated e-cig shops and sent a clear negative message to smokers.

The ban was defeated by one vote after Plaid Cymru did an about turn, allegedly because Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews said a previous deal with Plaid Cymru was a ‘cheap date’.

A New Position: Ban Confectionary E-Liquid Flavours

Public Health Wales has now released a new position statement.

In a significant step forward, they do now state:

If you are a smoker who is unwilling or unable to stop smoking now, switching completely from smoking tobacco to using e-cigarettes will significantly reduce the risks to your health.

However, they also believe that e-liquid confectionary flavours are attracting children to e-liquid.

The problem is that many vapers, especially those who have been vaping for longer, prefer non-tobacco flavours.

One survey, conducted by ECigarette Forum, found almost 19% preferred confectionary flavours, while a further 4% liked candy flavours.

Pie chart showing the different flavours vapers prefer.

By restricting choice, PHW are reducing the attraction of vaping to smokers, and increasing the likelihood that vapers will return to smoking.

PHW would also be hammering Welsh retail and manufacturing businesses, and the thousands of jobs they support both directly and indirectly.

After all, why would vapers shop at Welsh shops and websites when they could get the flavours they want from English websites?

Think of the Children… What Research Says About Young Vapers

Despite all the regulations, children have always managed to get their hands on cigarettes, and it’s inevitable that some will try vaping.

Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence that only young people who have previously smoked regularly vape.

As the IBVTA (Independent British Vape Trade Association) have pointed out, research has found out that while children who try cigarettes are 50% more likely to become smokers, the same research has found no evidence that children are more likely to become addicted to vaping.

This has been backed up by several other studies, including a study funded by the Welsh government, and a study released today of over 32,000 secondary school students in Wales.

So, why aren’t young people becoming addicted to vaping?

It could be because electronic cigarettes, which do not contain other addictive compounds found in tobacco, do not appear to be nearly as addictive as tobacco cigarettes.

Swansea beaches could become vape free zones.

Swansea Mulls Outdoor E-Cig Ban

Yesterday I followed a link from Twitter to a consultation on a ban on smoking outdoor places.

The consultation asks whether smoking should be banned in places like beaches (presumably because of the passive smoking danger to cockles) and parks.

The questionnaire even asks you if smoking outside pubs should be prohibited, which sounds like the final nail in coffin for Swansea’s suffering pubs! (UK pubs are currently closing at the rate of 29 a week.)

Some of the questions are quite difficult to answer, and I nearly quit on one page.

Take this for example:

A ban on smoking outdoors.

Now I don’t know about you, but I feel smoking around food and smoking around drink are completely different things.

To me, smoking when you have good food seems sacrilegious.

I still remember, as a pot washer in Gower hotel and restaurant Fairyhill, getting shouted at after walking through the kitchen with a cigarette in hand.

More recently, I remember Greek e-cig retailer Dimitris vaping at a back street restaurant in Paris we were visiting during the Paris Vape Expo. He’d already got permission to vape in the restaurant, but when the owner put his food down and he carried on vaping, she told him to stop.

“I vape instead of eating, this is how I lose weight,” said Dimitris.

“You smoke, no problem. But I put food in front of you, you eat, not smoke.”

Smoking and eating may not go so well together, but drinking and smoking go together like, well, the Welsh government and knee-jerk paranoid reactions.

Sneaking E-Cigs Into The Public Ban

But I digress.

Because hidden in the survey I found a question on banning e-cigs:

Suggested ban on e-cigs in public places.

I’m not sure what they mean by a voluntary ban on e-cigs, and it’s not clarified in the questionnaire. Is it banned unless you feel like not obeying the ban, and then it’s okay?

Could this seemingly innocuous question later be used as ‘evidence’ to ban e-cigs in public places?

Of course, this is just a consultation. But I’m suspicious about consultations.

For example, Wales consulted about a ban on e-cigs in public places.

The result?

A majority of respondents AND The Royal College of Physicians, Action on Smoking and Health, Cancer Research, Cardiff University, The British Heart Foundation, Tenovus and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies told them it was a bad idea.

So they went ahead anyway.

Attacking the Swansea E-Cig Industry

The ironic thing is, there’s a huge e-cig industry in Swansea. My company alone employs around 23 people in the Swansea area (all paid more than the Living Wage, and most of them in a rural area where there are bugger all other jobs other than farming and complaining). There’s also Decadent Vapours, whose factory is based in Swansea, and the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, as well as many others.

It’s an export and manufacturing industry as well as a retail industry, and we export as far away as Australia.

But aside from undermining local businesses, there’s simply no reason to ban e-cigs outside. It sends the wrong message (that e-cigs are bad for you and other people, when Public Health England says there are 95% better than smoking) and removes another motivation for switching away from tobacco cigarettes.

So if you have a few minutes, do take the time to fill in Swansea’s consultation form.

Bad apples from wales

Welsh vaping policy leaves bad taste

The Welsh government may have failed to ban e-cigs in public places, but they’re determined that if you do use e-cigarettes to get off tobacco cigarettes, you’re not going to enjoy it.

In its latest attack on vapers,  Public Health Wales has stated:

confectionary-like flavours of e-liquid should not be permitted, in order to reduce the appeal of vaping to children and young people.

According to Ashley Gould from Public Health Wales (PHW), only children like sweet flavours and vaping companies who sell sweet flavours are deliberately targeting children.

You can buy bubblegum, candy floss, jam doughnut flavour e-cigarettes and they are only aimed at one audience – and that’s about recruiting children.

Yet both these statements are completely at odds with all the available evidence and industry trends.

What’s the problem?

1. E-liquid flavours are important

As we reported in Ten Tips For Switching to E-Cigarettesflavours can be important. Here’s what one user said:

Turns out, my key (besides a satisfying setup) was to get away from tobacco flavoured e-juice. So I started looking for tobacco with other flavours mixed in. Kept moving tobacco flavour out and other flavours in. One day I ran into Sweet Dreams, a strawberries and cream with no tobacco. And that was it. Kept finding other flavours and never looked back. Can’t stand tobacco flavours anymore.

In fact, many experienced users have completely stopped using tobacco flavours, and in one survey over 30% reported using fruit flavours while 18% reported using confectionary flavours.

Flavour survey

By banning a range of e-liquid flavours, the Welsh government will be making it more difficult for vapers to switch, and giving the tobacco industry another boost!

2. E-cigs are not leading to addiction in children

Images showing the percentage of smokers and non-smokers who use ecigs.

Survey after survey has shown that while some children experiment with e-cigs, it’s not leading to addiction.

And recently as October 2016 Ash reported:

more young people are now aware of, and have tried e-cigarettes but regular use is still rare and confined largely to those who currently smoke or have previously smoked.

SourceNew research by ASH finds use of electronic cigarettes remains low among young people

It’s in stark contrast to cigarettes, where initial experimentation can lead to a lifelong smoking addiction.

Perhaps that’s because of the growing evidence that e-cigs are just not as addictive as tobacco cigarettes. And perhaps that’s also why, according to Cancer Research UK, youth smoking rates are hitting an all time low.

Graph showing child smoking rates.

Yet Another Attack on the Thriving Welsh Vape Industry

The e-cig industry is huge in Wales. And it’s not just the retail jobs – it’s brought manufacturing back to Wales and delicious Welsh-made e-liquids are sold all over the world.

Yet while the Welsh government spends fortunes on other industries, the Welsh e-cig industry has faced battle after battle with the Welsh assembly.

And unlike other industries, they can’t get loans from the Welsh Development agency.

This latest proposal would be a major blow.

Now Welsh companies, already handling the huge expense of new EU regulations, and the investment required to put in place age verification systems on their websites, are going to face yet another burden on their business.

A Billion Lives stamped with wprds censored.

How Vaper Pressure Overturned Facebook Censorship

Facebook might seem like a goliath, but pressure from the vaping community recently got them to reverse a decision to censor vaping film A Billion Lives. Director Aaron Biebert told us what happened.

First could you tell us a little bit about the film?

A billion people are projected to die this century from smoking. Despite those sort of sobering predictions, the status quo is being preserved in very corrupt ways. Despite nearly all scientists acknowledging that vaping and snus are healthier than smoking, there is a clear and concerted effort to demonize them. Why?

Our film answers that question.

The film focuses on the history of vaping and the system of corruption that is lined up against it. More specifically, we investigate government failure, Big Pharma, Big Charity, and how money is involved. We’ll also clear up the health related misinformation that is being spread around.

We’re making this film for the general public. Interviews for the film consist primarily of doctors, scientists, and health leaders from 5 continents. There are also interviews with some of the early vaping industry pioneers, including Hon Lik.

When did you start promoting it?

We’ve been promoting the film since May, when we began filming in Peru.

When did Facebook censor your ads?

The first image which was censored.

Facebook blocked us from “boosting” three of our posts in a row this week.

When we inquired why the first one was blocked, they responded by informing us they did not allow advertising of tobacco products. Obviously we are a film, so we responded with an explanation to them, assuming they would fix the situation. They did not. Instead, they sent back an email telling us that our ad was against their advertising policies and their decision was final.

The post we were boosting was a West Virginia sunset. It made no sense.

How important were the ads for you – was this more a matter of principle for you than the need to promote via ads?

Facebook has this program called Edgerank, which decides what posts show up in Facebook user’s news feeds. Unfortunately, non-personal pages like ours are penalized and do not show up in many news feeds unless we pay to boost them. Essentially, if you don’t pay, you won’t be seen. This diminishes our community and makes it harder for our actual supporters to see our updates.

What happened next? 

We were understandably upset, so we sent out a whiny tweet in protest.

A tweet against the censorship.

It was retweeted 100 times and many people were reporting that they’ve had similar issues when posting about advocacy or events. I knew we had to do something, so I wrote that letter and updated our email subscriber list about the situation.

There was mass outrage. The letter was shared almost 700 times and was seen by nearly 50,000 people. The announcement video was shared in protest nearly 1000 more times. People were angry. We were all angry.

Why do you think Facebook backed down? Do you have any idea who was behind the decision?

Facebook chose to change their minds because of the noise the community was making. We also were dealing with someone higher up, who had more sense. They are a big company and are not interested in picking fights. Plus, this fight made no sense. Rather than fight a losing battle, they chose to approve all our posts and make changes to how they handled future posts.

We did have a lady reach out to us and she was very helpful.

I get the feeling that Facebook’s decision not to allow ads probably backfired, and that you may have got more publicity from the decision than from the FB ads themselves. Was that the case?

Thankfully, the fight did wake a lot of people up. To get that kind of attention, we would have had to pay thousands of dollars to Facebook. So, yes, they definitely missed out.

Public health u-turn on e-cigs - parliamentary committee report. .

The Public Health U-Turn on E-Cigs

A Report on the All Party Parliamentary Committee on E-Cigs (September 9th)

The All Party Parliamentary Committee on e-cigs met again yesterday (you can see details of the last one here). Clive Bates and Oliver Kershaw of E-Cigarette Forum were the main speakers, and the committee focussed on the Public Health England report and its impact.

I’ve put together these notes for interested vapers and activists. As always, any mistakes are my own, and due to the pace of the meeting I haven’t been able to cover every single point raised.

The Public Health England Report: Impact

Clive Bates, former director of Action on Smoking and Health, told us this was an evidence review, a synthesis of the evidence that exists.

“It’s unique, the 1st open minded, objective evidence based review that has lead to evidence based conclusions.”

Clive emphasised that the studies finding included that:

  • e-cigs are primarily used by adults
  • there are no signs that it is a gateway to smoking
  • rapid falls in smoking have coincided with the rise of e-cigarettes

In addition, there have now been thousands of measurements of e-cig vapour, and we can conclude that harmful constituents in tobacco smoke are either not present/detectable or are only present in very low levels. So, Clive believes, it’s safe to assume that e-cigs are 95% safer than smoking.

Some have asked why we should make this claim. Clive argued that the claim sets the risk in the right ball park, and enabled smokers to understand the relative risk of using electronic cigarettes.

He also stated that while e-cigs are a market-lead phenomenon, in this case Public Health England has acted to support e-cigs in a ‘groundbreaking, landmark study.”

Oliver Kershaw, founder of E-Cigarette Forum, believed that the PHE review will be viewed as a turning point. It’s also a clear U-Turn for some in public health who were originally opposed or agnostic about e-cigarette. He believes that the industry now needs to be involved with Public Health England to enable it to achieve its objectives.

Mark Pawsey (Chair and Conservative MP) asked if anyone disagreed whether e-cigs were than 95% safer than cigarettes. There was silence until Tom Pruen of ECITA said that e-cigs could well be safer and that 95% mis-represented the residual risk.

Clive Bates sort of agreed, but argued that we can say that e-cigs would be at least 95% safer than cigarettes, although we would perhaps be better giving a range of 95 – 100%.

Martin Dockrell, head of tobacco control at PHE and the person who commissioned the study, clarified that 95% is a “reasonable estimate”. He also told us out that when he met the anti-nicotine, anti-vaping fanatic (my words, not his) Stanton Glantz, even Stanton estimated vaping to be in the region of 80% safer than cigarettes.

One attendee questioned the impact of flavours upon vaper’s health.

Docherty referred the questioner to Professor Peter Hajek, who agreed that there could possibly be some residual risk in the flavours which will need continued vigilance. Katherine Devlin of ECITA pointed out there is a lot of ongoing work into the toxicology of flavours, while Oliver Kershaw argued that the UK is streets ahead of the US in this area.

Later discussion (in the pub!) revealed that lots of work has been carried out in toxicology, however much of this has not been put in the public domain.

E-Cigs on the NHS

Earl Cathcart shared a lovely personal story how he had managed to go from 50 cigarettes a day to zero with the help of e-cigarettes. However, he wondered why the government should subsidise smokers with NHS e-cigs when they are already saving such a huge amount of money by switching to e-cigs.

Lorien of the New Nicotine Alliance believes that if the NHS supply e-cigs it would reassure smokers that e-cigs are safer than tobacco cigarettes.

She also pointed out that a decent e-cig kit would set some smokers back a week’s worth of tobacco. Coupled with a worry about whether e-cigs are safe or not that would stop a lot of smokers from trying them. If e-cigs were supplied on the NHS, smokers could take the risk of using them without losing a week’s worth of tobacco.

Louise Ross of the NHS stop smoking service, who we interviewed here, also suggested that the NHS could give out free samples to get smokers started on e-cigs. However, further discussion suggested that it was unlikely that the MHRA would ever approve a medical licence (necessary if the NHS is going to prescribe e-cigarettes):

  • the technology doesn’t exist to comply with medical licensing
  • the MHRA is being incredibly difficult and unhelpful
  • even large tobacco companies with huge budgets are failing to make headway

Update on the Tobacco Products Directive

Clive Bates argued that the TPD had been a massive failure in policy making, saying:

Every rule in the book has been broken.

Clive still has hopes for the Totally Wicked case, which might be heard soon. He believes there is a reasonable chance of success but the problem is that the European Court of Justice is very political. He still hopes for reasonable implementation of the TPD by UK government.

Other speakers noted that the ECJ has a very poor record of over-turning EU legislation.

Martin Callanan, (former leader of EU cons, now member of house of Lords), stated that the:

  • TPD was a “total balls up, a mess of a procedure”
  • End of process saw a massive compromise.
  • There is no prospect of it being changed.
  • ECJ – doesn’t have a strong history of overturning legislation.

Martin said he can only apologise – he managed to win some improvements in the legislation but not much.

However, as we noted at the time Martin Callanan orchestrated a strong resistance to e-cig components of the TPD with little support and despite political headwinds, and managed to get a majority of UK MEPs voting against it.

Martin also pointed out that MEPs at the time were bombarded with obscure gateway product studies with little (at the time) evidence to refute them, much of it orchestrated by Linda McAvan. The UK government at that time was not helpful, and the EU officials had a Taliban attitude to smoking and anything connected to it. (No mention was made of the UK government minister who accidentally voted to ban e-cigarettes).

Katherine Devlin asked if there were any mechanisms by which the UK gov could refuse to implement article 21?

Martin Callanan said no, with Clive Bates agreeing.

The Need to Involve More MPs

While there were at least two MPs and two lords present, it was noted that more MPs needed to be present at the meeting and involved in the debate. The MPs present promised to raise parliamentary questions and to try and get more MPs involved, but as David Dorn pointed out later we also need to contact our own MPs and get them involved.

Conclusion

There now appears to be cross party, cross house support for e-cigs, however, we do need to get our MPs involved. So please do contact your MPs and ask them to get involved.

While there was lots of complaints about the tobacco products directive, we do need to get past what’s been done and focus on implementation. Despite the impact of the tobacco products directive, we are more fortunate than the rest of the EU in that we have a government which appears to be focussed on providing a positive interpretation of the TPD and supporting e-cigarette retailers.

(In fact, Clive Bates illustrated this by pointing me towards a positive blog on e-cigs written by the Chief of the UK Civil Service. . With the whole of the UK’s civil service to run, he found it amazing that Sir Jeremy Haywood cared enough about e-cigs to find time to write a post on a government website in their support.)

Interesting fact of the day

Speaking to Gordon McFiggans, who is Professor of Atmospheric Multiphase Processes at Manchester University, I found out that from a scientist’s perspective the vapour from vaping is not vapour, or smoke, but clouds. He has promised me an interview to explain this further in the future.

10 E-Cigarette Exaggerations

10 Outrageous E-Cig Exaggerations That Keep Smokers Smoking

Journalists, scientists and public health experts have all had a lot to say about electronic cigarettes recently.

As you’d expect when a subject’s as controversial as this one, what they’ve been saying covers a wide spectrum of accuracy.

Some of it’s highly reliable, some might benefit from a less biased interpretation and of course quite a bit is just wrong.

And then there’s some that has a kernel of truth but has been blown up to alarming proportions.

Here are ten of the wilder vaping-related exaggerations that are doing the rounds – and are sending smokers to an early grave:

1. E-Cigarettes contain more carcinogens than the real thing!!!

Confused e-cigarette
Most vapers are probably familiar with Peyton and Pankow’s formaldehyde research by now.

If you’re not, it caused a bit of a fuss early this year when it appeared in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (although as a letter to the editor, not a published paper).

The claims they made about the levels of carcinogens in e-cigarette vapour attracted quite a lot of attention; articles like this, for example, or this. Traditional print media covered it widely and it also made a big splash in online news sources.

Hundreds of millions of people probably read the story.

Unfortunately they didn’t read the whole story. Peyton and Pankow weren’t testing e-cig vapour for all the carcinogens in cigarette smoke. They were only looking at one – formaldehyde.

This is found in smoke, and it is a carcinogen, but in the context of smoke it’s a minor one; your chances of surviving all the other stuff in cigarettes long enough to get cancer from the formaldehyde are pretty slim.

Any headline that highlighted the cancer danger of formaldehyde was missing the fact that cigarette smoke also contains arsenic, isoprene, beryllium, vinyl chloride, polonium-210 and almost 30 other known carcinogens – which e-cig vapour either contains at trace levels only (i.e. the same levels as air, water and everything else contain them) or, in most cases, doesn’t contain at all.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, almost no reporting mentioned how the experiment was conducted.

The researchers tested their e-cigarette at two power levels – normal, and maximum voltage. At maximum voltage, where the high formaldehyde levels were detected, the old CE4 clearomiser they were using couldn’t keep up and was dry-hitting repeatedly; the acrid, burnt fumes it produced would have been completely unvapeable.

At normal voltage it produced no formaldehyde at all.

2. The tobacco industry is taking over!!!

Tobacco Cigarettes
This is a constant claim by e-cigarette opponents – that the tobacco industry is moving into the market in a big way and dominating sales.

Some alarming figures get thrown around, such as that Big Tobacco e-cigs make up 80% of those sold in US convenience stores. This is actually true – but what percentage of vapers buy their gear in convenience stores? It’s not very high.

The tobacco companies sell large volumes, but that’s because they’re mostly selling expensive disposables. Their actual market share is modest and declining; five years ago the entry-level e-cig was a cigalike, but now it’s an eGo.

Ironically the tobacco industry could take over; if the EU TPD, and FDA deeming regulations, go ahead then tobacco companies will be the only ones with deep enough pockets to get a product to market.

3. More teens vape than smoke!!!

E-cigarette young girl
The “gateway effect”, where young people start vaping then move on to actual tobacco cigarettes in search of lower prices, a better taste and increased social acceptability, has been a frequent argument against electronic cigarettes.

Repeated studies by Action on Smoking and Health have failed to find any evidence of it, but the worry hasn’t gone away.

Many opponents of vaping remain convinced that, at some time in the future, we’ll see a legion of new smokers who’ve been ensnared into nicotine addiction by e-cigarettes. So you can imagine how they reacted to the news that vaping is now more popular than smoking among American young people.

This news is definitely interesting, and the facts are indisputable – according to the latest data from the USA’s National Institute on Drug Abuse 17% of 12th-graders have used electronic cigarettes, while only 12% have smoked.

Among younger teens the difference is even more dramatic, with more than twice as many vapers. Naturally the media has reported this, often in alarming terms.

What the reporting hasn’t done is provide much context for this. One key point they usually miss is that teen smoking rates in the USA went into a dramatic nosedive around five years ago and are now at the lowest levels ever – just half what they were 15 years ago.

It’s impossible to be sure if there’s a relationship here but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that vaping isn’t encouraging smoking – it’s replacing it. That’s backed up by CDC figures which show that, while teen vaping has increased, total use of nicotine products has fallen.

It’s also important to remember that figures for “ever use” don’t tell us a lot about how many teens are actually regular vapers (or smokers). If you’ve had one puff on an e-cig in the last 30 days, you’re counted as a current user.

4. E-Cigarette vapour contains metals!!!

Vapers and polluted cities: Quote from Professor Polosa.

Yes, it often does. Metal components degrade slowly over time, and molecules from the tank can end up suspended in your liquid. Tiny particles often detach from the coil through thermal stress, and if there are soldered joints in the atomiser (common in disposable cigalikes) that can add metals too.

The presence of metals doesn’t really mean much though. What matters is the level they’re present at, because metals – like everything else – obey the first rule of toxicology: “The dose makes the poison”.

In fact some of the metals found in e-cigarette vapour, such as copper, are toxic at high levels but essential nutrients in smaller amounts. The quantity of metal in vapour is far below the amount your body actually needs to absorb every day, and nowhere near that required to be toxic. In fact they’re between ten and 50 times lower than the permitted level for an asthma inhaler.

Also see: Metals in e-cig vapour – should vapers be concerned? (Interview with Professor Riccardo Polosa)

5. E-Cigarettes are as addictive as tobacco cigarettes!!!

Cigarette in mouth
Recently it was reported that electronic cigarettes are just as addictive as actual cigarettes.

That’s an alarming claim, and also a puzzling one because it doesn’t fit well with many people’s experience.

6. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine!!!

Quitting cigarettes v. quitting nicotine.

It’s a widely accepted fact that nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs in existence. A lot of that simply comes down to its association with smoking. Most of the research on nicotine has been done in the context of lit tobacco, and there’s no doubt that tobacco smoke is highly addictive.

It’s not as easy to say the same thing about nicotine though. Firstly because there just hasn’t been anywhere near as much research on pure nicotine, and secondly because the studies that have been done don’t exactly suggest it’s very addictive.

There are ethical issues that make it difficult to test addictiveness on humans; you can’t risk turning all your test subjects into addicts. There are some hints in the scientific literature though.

For example one study tested the effectiveness of nicotine for slowing age-related cognitive decline, which meant the test subjects (who were all never-smokers) wearing high-dose nicotine patches every day for six months. At the end of the experiment none showed withdrawal symptoms or continued to use nicotine. In other words, they hadn’t become
addicted.

Animal studies have come up with similar results. It’s possible to get rats addicted to cigarette smoke, but if you then give them a choice of sugar cubes infused with nicotine and sugar cubes flavoured with tobacco they go for the tobacco taste almost every time.

Essentially, the addictiveness of pure nicotine is unclear. When combined with other chemicals found in smoke, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, it’s highly addictive. On its own? That’s an open question. And if science doesn’t even know if it’s addictive there’s an obvious problem with quantifying how addictive.

Also seeWhy everything they told you about nicotine addiction could be wrong…

7. Poisonings from e-liquid are rocketing!!!

e-cig poison centre calls
Source: Clive Bates

This claim is often heard from lower-level politicians or local health departments, and it’s almost entirely based on data from American poison control centres. Enthusiasts point to graphs that show the number of calls about e-liquid rising sharply. This is correct; it is rising sharply – because e-cigarette use is doing the same.

So how much of a problem is this?

It’s important to make a distinction between calls to poison control centres about e-liquid and actual cases of e-liquid poisoning.

This is rarely done, because there doesn’t seem to be much data about actual poisonings. A cynic might suspect that this is because there haven’t been very many, and in fact it’s impossible to find more than a handful of reported cases. The best publicised, a fatality, actually involved nicotine base rather than e-liquid and the circumstances are murky to say the least.

Another thing to bear in mind is that, even if there’s been a rise in calls, the number is still insignificant compared to many other common household products.

8. E-Cigarettes are a fire hazard!!!

E-Cigarette Battery Safety
There’s been quite a lot of media coverage about the fire risk from electronic cigarettes, following some spectacular blazes. Fire brigade chiefs have weighed in with some (usually very sensible) safety advice, and it’s been cited as a hazard of vaping by such well-researched and reliable sources as Wikipedia.

There definitely is a risk that an e-cig could cause an explosion or fire, and the tabloids have painted this as a serious hazard. Are e-cigarettes particularly dangerous, though?

The answer to that question lies in the power source that e-cigs use. This is, in almost every case, one or more lithium-ion batteries. These have revolutionised most consumer electronics over the past few years – they’re why an iPhone with a big screen and huge music library has a longer battery life than that pocket FM radio you had back in 1982.

Lithium ions have an incredible energy density; they pack lots of electrical charge into a small space. The trouble with energy is that, whatever form it’s in, it always seems to want to turn into heat.

As long as a battery discharges energy in a controlled way everything’s fine, but if control is lost a lot of heat can be generated, very quickly. That vaporises the electrolyte in the battery and can cause an explosion – if the battery is in a sealed case it definitely will. The electrolyte is also flammable, so it’s likely to catch fire. Short circuits are a common cause of uncontrolled discharge; so is physical damage to the battery. Incorrect charging can also cause a thermal runaway.

So yes, lithium-ion batteries can be a fire hazard. Is this confined to electronic cigarettes though?

No it isn’t. Mobile phones and laptops use exactly the same battery technology – take a laptop battery apart and you’ll find it’s just a plastic box stuffed with 18650s. And you won’t be surprised to hear that mobile phones and laptops sometimes catch fire, too.

If you are worried about the danger of e-cigarettes exploding, make sure you check out this E-Cig Battery Safety Infographic. 

9. There’s been no research on e-cigarettes!!!

Vaping Marker Pen
There certainly hasn’t been as much research on electronic cigarettes as there has been on actual cigarettes. They haven’t been around for anywhere near as long, and it took some time before researchers started taking them seriously enough to investigate them.

How much research is there, though? Is it very little, as some opponents claim?

Firstly, e-cigarettes have been on the market in the UK for around eight years. That’s also how long it’s been since the first PubMed-indexed paper on them was published. Eight years is a fraction of the time that tobacco cigarettes have been studied but it’s not actually insignificant. For example long-term clinical testing of most drugs lasts only five years – sometimes seven, in exceptional cases. There’s more long-term data on e-cigarettes than on most licensed medicines.

The pace of research hasn’t exactly been slow either. A PubMed search for “e-cigarette” pulls up 1,390 results; that’s an average of about one paper every two days since 2007. If that isn’t enough research, it’s reasonable to ask what would be.

Also see: 20 Top E-Cig Studies to Silence The Doubters

10. E-Cigarettes contain antifreeze!!!

anti-freeze
E-liquid contains propylene glycol, and so does antifreeze. Therefore e-liquid contains antifreeze.

Well, not exactly. E-liquid (usually) contains nicotine, and so do aubergines, but that doesn’t mean e-liquid contains aubergines.

It’s quite correct to say that e-liquid and antifreeze share an ingredient, but does that actually say anything useful? Not really. If you buy a cake from the supermarket it almost certainly contains propylene glycol, but it’s safe to say that your bottle of RY4 does not contain cake.

There’s actually a very good reason why propylene glycol is used in antifreeze; it’s because it’s non-toxic.

For decades children and pets, attracted by the sweet taste of ethylene glycol, have occasionally drunk antifreeze and been poisoned – often fatally. Antifreeze made with propylene glycol can be legally described as “Non-toxic”.

Conclusion

Exaggerations are a fact of life in modern society. After all, dry scientific facts may be more correct, but they don’t sell newspapers.

And let’s not forget e-cigarettes are a disruptive industry, threatening many billions of pounds in cigarette sales, nicotine cessation aids and tax revenue. We can expect some of these billions to be spent on spin doctors and damaging PR.

But these exaggerations have a very damaging effects – ensuring that smokers maintain a habit likely to send between a third and a half to an early grave.

In fact, Public Heath England revealed that the number of people that believe e-cigs are at least as harmful as tobacco cigarettes have increased as a result of scaremongering stories.


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