While Duluth, MN mulls over testimony from both sides of the recreational nicotine debate club, the opinions and educated guesses spill out into the local media. One such collection of “educated” opinions comes from today’s Duluth News Tribune. There’s no comments section, so I’ll take to the blog-o-sphere to voice my dissent.
Allise Wuorio writes a relatively civil perspective piece on the pending ordinances in Duluth that are geared at regulating the sale and use of electronic cigarettes. So, there’s that. However, and as usual, there are some misinformed points of view that deserve a response. At the very least, more discussion.
So, here we go:
- “First, e-cigarettes are not regulated… China manufactures many e-cigarettes and distributes them to the U.S.; yet that country has banned the sale and marketing of them to its own citizens. Raise a red flag?”
Practically everything we use in the modern world comes from China. In fact, it’s likely that a substantial portion of our fancy electronic devices used to lob these opinions at each other were produced in China. China regulates access to the internet for it’s own citizens. So, yeah, there are red flags all around. However, this isn’t a strong argument for stifling innovation of these products here in the States. Heavy handed regulation would do just that.
- ”E-cigarettes also are not approved for smoking cessation. There are many options, including similar nicotine inhalers, that are proven to help people treat their addiction. Switching to e-cigarettes is not quitting.”
On the other hand, there is this little number from New Zealand that goes a long way toward confirming the experiences of millions of e-cig users around the world: ”Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial” (The Lancet, 9/7/13).
- “Allowing e-cigarette use — “vaping” — indoors normalizes the behavior and undermines current smoke-free air laws.”
- “E-cigarette advocates argue that by allowing vaping inside local businesses, people will become less confused about e-cigs. Do we really want this to become our community’s new normal? The public health community knows that healthy defaults work. Creating environments in which the healthy choice is the easy one empowers individuals to improve their health. It would be a shame to create a community in which continued nicotine addiction is enabled, youth are exposed to unhealthy behavior, and newly quit smokers are subjected to visual triggers that can result in relapse.”
E-Cig and Vapor Shop, OKC
Easy points and free kudos for mentioning “triggers”, but that’s about it. What’s really at stake here is the retail experience that could be destroyed by an overreaching indoor clean air ordinance. Vapor Shops in areas subject to such ordinances are working at a disadvantage. Clients (of legal smoking age) are not allowed to experience these new products in the shop and are left to purchase them on faith. Or, they’ll need to step outside to sample the product. Imagine, if you will, the free sample stand at the grocery store. Now, imagine wanting to try a new snack from the table only to be escorted outside to take a bite. Kinda messes with your whole “shopping flow”, right? This is exactly what happens in Vapor Shops in New Jersey. As a result, it’s taken longer for e-cigs to catch on around here (despite the fact that a few manufactures are based here) and hundreds of thousands of New Jersey smokers continue to purchase traditional cigarettes at almost $10/pack (not including the down the line medical expenses they’re sure to endure).
Vaping indoors doesn’t actually “undermine” any smoke free laws for the simple fact that there is no smoke involved. Additionally, there is virtually no risk from sharing a room with someone using an electronic cigarette (the whole second hand vapor thing should be put to rest by now: http://publichealth.drexel.edu/SiteData/docs/ms08/f90349264250e603/ms08.pdf ).
So, really, the only argument left is that vaping looks like smoking. Ok, then consider this: In the right glass, water looks like vodka; where’s the outrage there? You know, there are millions, Millions, of recovering alcoholics out there getting sweaty palms and fire in their brains at the sound of ice cubes jingling in a rocks glass, the sight of a beer pouring into a pint glass, or even the scent of bread proofing in the kitchen. Some of them will take a breath and wait for the cravings to pass. Some will pick up the phone and call their sponsor. Others will substitute an alcoholic beverage with a sugary, carbonated one. Maybe a cup of coffee will do the trick. The question here is: should any of these less harmful substitutions be made more difficult for someone in recovery to access just because they mimic the behavior they’re desperately trying to avoid? And since when is ginger ale a gateway beverage to alcohol (sorry, that’s for another discussion)?
Also, you really need to give recovering addicts more credit. There’s no disputing that visual triggers exist (I have first hand experience with this in relation to other substances as well as tobacco), however, you need to consider the total experience of standing in the same room as someone vaping. While the visual cues might be present, the smell is not. Smell, above all other senses is the one most linked to memory and, therefore, triggers. A recovering smoker, although potentially triggered by the sight of someone vaping, would probably be more inclined to ask about the device and try one out as opposed to rushing out the door to buy a pack of smokes. And trust me, ask any vaper about their gear and you’ll get more information than you’d bargained for – probably a business card and referral to boot.
- “Failure to regulate e-cigarettes is a win for the tobacco industry, not for Duluth.”
Actually, as we discussed above, heavy handed regulation would be a net Win for big tobacco. No one is better positioned to slide right into compliance with tobacco regulations than existing monolithic tobacco companies. They have the money, the manufacturing facilities, and all of the other infrastructure in place to meet the demands of federal and state regulators. On the other hand, small retailers, local manufacturers, and consumers stand to lose the most with the passage of indoor vaping bans. This does nothing but hand the industry over to the giants that helped get us into the smoking mess in the first place. Do you really want nicotine liquid (e-liquid) coming from a Big Tobacco Lab? The same laboratories that brought us reconstituted tobacco?
- “…new e-cigarette designs are very attractive to young people, causing them to possibly initiate on these products rather than traditional tobacco. …One new product, Innokin’s iTaste134, is being referred to as a vaping weapon…”
iTaste 134 (Vaping Weapon)
Have you actually held one of these in your hand? Have you seen the price tag on this thing? It’s $170.oo (not including batteries and charger), it weighs almost a pound, and it’s HUGE! Since I received mine, it’s left my desk once so I could show it off at work. As far as I’m concerned it’s a collectors piece that happens to be functional. It’s the Jaguar of PVs. If kids are initiating on iTaste 134s then we’ve got bigger problems, I assure you.
What kids are “initiating” on or experimenting with are more likely to be “Cig-a-likes”. The most likely source of these products are convenience stores/gas stations. If you want to make it harder for kids to get their hands on them, pass an ordinance prohibiting the sale of e-cigs to minors and ENFORCE IT! Parents could have conversations with their kids about drug seeking behavior, and while we’re at it, art, music, and science funding to schools could be increased. There are a handful of more effective routes to take that won’t end up restricting access to these products for Existing Adult Smokers.
And here’s the other side of your coin: advocating for regulation that restricts access to these products will ultimately prove to be irresponsible and detrimental to public health. Studies are coming out seemingly every month that confirm not only the relative safety of electronic cigarettes but their efficacy in helping people quit smoking as well. And yes, it is QUITTING! Even by the FDA’s standards, continuing to use a nicotine replacement therapy, even if that means continuing to use nicotine, is as good as Quitting Smoking!
Vape’em if You’ve Got’em & Thanks for Reading!