Wednesday, November 20, 2013
E Smoking Ending Cigarette Paradigm
As can be expected, regulators and politicians are years behind the market. That market has already reached two billion dollars. So let us get smart about this.
Had cigarettes never existed, just how would this vaporizing device have been handled? It should be obvious that it would be a harmless consumer item that could also be used to vaporize risky drugs.
Better yet, it solves the whole health problem associated with traditional methods of inhaling nicotine which are obviously a bad idea and obviously dangerous. The developing loser happens to be the cigarette industry whose market will now contract with a vengeance and essentially disappear unless you are up for a rare cigar.
That it will also widen the market to other harmless flavors should be encouraged.
This will mean a major loss of tax revenue that has never been offset by the losses incurred even at government levels in health care in particular. This will not be initially understood unfortunately.
The cigarette paradigm lasted about a century and it is long overdue for replacement. The e smoker is cool enough and has ample safe flavors without the nicotine to allow everyone to participate as well. After all we all know how to drink a beverage masquerading as alcohol. You do not even need to light this toy.
How e-cigarettes have become a ‘very wild west’ industry in Canada
Armina Ligaya | 16/11/13 |
On the third floor of a midtown Toronto low-rise building, above a sushi restaurant and an acupuncture clinic, is a cramped, greyish room where anyone can walk in and freely buy something the Canadian government has deemed illegal.
Looking more like an insurance office than a retail store, this is home to a roughly 7-foot-tall black and opaque glass cabinet filled with e-cigarettes that dispense nicotine — devices strictly banned by Health Canada.
The cigarette-shaped electronic devices convert a liquid nicotine mixture into vapour, delivering a smoke-like hit of nicotine, without the actual smoke. In this back room, e-smokers can choose from a variety of “e-liquid” flavour cartridges — from banana cream and Earl Grey tea to an ersatz version of du Maurier cigarettes — and their preferred strength of nicotine. All without the dangerous cocktail of 4,000 chemicals, such as carbon monoxide and arsenic, found in real cigarettes.
“We’re very busy,” says the salesman manning the AMK Trading showroom, who adds the electronic device has helped him to kick his own heavy smoking habit for the past three months.
But here, Health Canada has not approved nicotine e-cigarettes, creating a regulatory grey zone, forcing manufacturers and sellers to either flout the law, or steer clear of the country altogether.
E-cigarettes with non-nicotine liquid — another popular variety — are legal. But “no electronic cigarettes with nicotine … have been authorized by Health Canada,” the agency, which regulates nicotine under the Food and Drugs Act, said in an emailed statement. “Currently, the importation, advertisement and sale of these products is illegal in Canada.”
Unhealthy cigarettes you can buy at the corner store; but to get a vastly safer nicotine product that has helped countless people finally quit smoking, you have to break the law with underground shops or online sellers. Ideally, everyone would simply quit nicotine, says Arthur Slutsky, a Toronto-based pulmonary physician and co-founder of a non-electronic cigarette replacement device Nico-Puff. But, he says, it makes no sense to block healthier alternatives to cigarettes — “the dirtiest delivery system for nicotine that we know of.”
“For those people who can’t stop smoking, I don’t think there is any question that switching to something, a cleaner nicotine delivery system, is definitely beneficial.”
While Health Canada prohibits any advertising or sales, the underground e-cigarette market is thriving. Andrea, a Toronto woman in her 30s who requested that her last name not be published, says the electronic devices have helped her to stay away from traditional cigarettes since she bought an e-cigarette kit online a month ago.
“I used to smoke about half a pack to a third of a pack a day,” she says. “I haven’t bought a pack of cigarettes since then.”
The e-cigarette was created in 2003 by Chinese inventor Hon Lik. Most devices are sleek barrels, resembling a cigarette, cigar or pen. They typically use a battery-powered heating element to convert a liquid made of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine (two common food additives) and nicotine into vapour. A puff (also called “vaping”) produces something that feels like and resembles smoke — similar enough to keep many smokers content — but vanishes instantly, and leaves no odour.
E-cigarettes are cheaper than real cigarettes, too. The kits range in price from $30 to as much as $100. A 30-millilitre bottle of e-liquid — which might last a pack-a-day smoker a month — can cost around $15 to $20.
It’s impossible to determine how large the market for e-cigarettes is in Canada, with much of the market comprised of small, privately owned companies who don’t report their sales.
“We’ve ended up with this very ‘wild west’ sort of market, where we’re keeping out the legitimate players,” said University of Ottawa law professor David Sweanor, who works on tobacco control and health issues.
But in the U.S., where nicotine e-cigarettes are legal, sales will approach $1.7-billion this year, according to Wells Fargo analysts. There, major tobacco firms such as Altria are getting in on the game, and e-cigarette firms like NJOY have drawn high-profile investors, such as Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame. Celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Katherine Heigl, have been flashing the devices at parties and on talk shows, lending a cool factor that has not been associated with public puffing in some time.
The public health community has found itself divided over e-cigarettes, with some welcoming the potential to help smokers quit a far more dangerous habit, but some anti-tobacco activists pointing to a lack of rigourous scientific study on the risks of e-cigarettes or their success in weaning smokers off cigarettes.
“You’re talking about inhaling a chemical stew into your lungs,” said Melodie Tilson, policy director for the Ottawa-based Non-Smokers’ Rights Association. “It’s not just water vapour. It’s propylene glycol, which is generally recognized as safe for oral consumption, but it doesn’t mean that it’s safe for inhalation.” Still, she says, Canadians should be able to legally buy e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, provided there are limits on things like marketing to minors. “We don’t think it makes sense that these products not be available,” she said.
Carl Phillips, an epidemiologist and former professor at the University of Alberta, where he researched tobacco harm-reduction, says there is plenty of evidence showing that e-cigarettes are “99% less harmful than smoking.”
At least 25 studies over the years examined the chemical effects of e-cigarettes, and “we do know enough to be confident that they are low risk,” he says.
“Where it ranks among hazards, it’s down in the range of eating french fries or eating dessert or not getting quite enough exercise,” says Mr. Phillips, who is based in New Hampshire and is the scientific director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association. “Not necessarily good for you, but in the range of everyday hazards that we accept without too much worry.”
He estimates that the device has helped millions of people to quit smoking worldwide, and thinks there is an “urgency” to Canada ending its ban on nicotine e-cigarettes. About 37,000 Canadians every year die from smoking tobacco, according to the Lung Association.
By prohibiting a smoker from switching, Mr. Phillips says, “you’ve done more harm in terms of putting that person at risk of dying prematurely, than could possibly done by the actual use of the product itself.”
The e-cigarette market is building with a speed that makes it difficult for study, and regulation, to keep up. But Canada’s response has been particularly slow: Last month, the European Union considered new regulations for e-cigarettes, and opted for a lighter touch than the pharmaceutical-style restrictions that were originally proposed. The American Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to regulate them under the Tobacco Act.
In Canada, however, the regulatory environment remains — at least officially — unresponsive, and hostile.
“Health Canada warns Canadians not to purchase or use electronic smoking products, as these products may pose health risks and have not been fully evaluated for safety, quality and efficacy by Health Canada,” the government says.
You can smoke in the car, smoke in your bed, you could smoke it at the bar, without having the smell of it
Daniel David, president of the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association, says his own company, Evape, has received as many as six Health Canada cease-and-desist notices from Health Canada, but he has yet to face any repercussions.
He responds to each one with a letter arguing that he is not making any health claims or smoking-cessation claims. He further argues that his product shouldn’t fall under the Food and Drugs Act, because of the minimal nicotine content, and should instead be treated as a legal smoking alternative, he says.
“I do send fairly detailed letters back really explaining our position, and usually what happens is they just drop it.”
But the confusion and hefty expense to satisfy Health Canada’s requirements have prompted other Canadian cigarette-replacement companies to focus on markets beyond our borders, instead.
Montreal businessman Vincent DeBlois says he moved his company, Zen E-Cigarettes, to Maine last year after getting into a legal tussle with Health Canada over the devices.
Dr. Slutsky says his product, Nico-Puff, which is still in development but uses dry powder rather than electronics, doesn’t have the thousands of chemicals cigarettes do. But the process to sell it in the Canadian market is too costly, and lengthy, at four to five years, he said. When the product is ready to launch, it won’t be in Canada.
“Something’s wrong with that from a health perspective,” he says.
Presumably Health Canada is anxious about studies that show minors are taking up “vaping” as well as adults, sparking worries that the devices could serve as a gateway for cigarette use. Last month, U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that the percentage of high school students who reported ever using an e-cigarette rose from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012. But Mr. Phillips says there is no evidence that e-cigarettes lead people to smoking. Teens, he said, are trying them — perhaps instead of trying cigarettes — because more people are becoming aware of the devices.
E-cigarettes recently helped Steffen Hem quit smoking, but he too is cautious about the devices.
“It doesn’t give off bad breath, doesn’t stick to your clothes,” says the 29-year-old Torontonian. “You can smoke in the car, smoke in your bed, you could smoke it at the bar, without having the smell of it. And you could smoke it at your desk at work.”
Mr. Hem used e-cigarettes for about six months, slowly weaning himself off nicotine by gradually reducing the strength.
“It just doesn’t seem healthy… The smokers, we don’t know what we’re smoking, when we’re smoking the stuff. And if the government would actually regulate it, we would know what’s in there.”
When his e-cigarette broke a month ago, he was able to finally go cold turkey — it was his eighth time quitting his nicotine habit entirely since he picked up smoking at 14.
Health Canada is being incredibly risk-averse when it comes to e-cigarettes, says Mr. Sweanor. That cautiousness is not only keeping smokers away from a less-harmful alternative, it is also holding back Canadian entrepreneurs from participating in a booming industry, said Mr. Sweanor, who figures the market here may be already worth more than $150-million.
“The global market for cigarettes is $800-billion, and most of those smokers don’t want cigarettes,” says Mr. Sweanor.
“We could have a self-financing public-health revolution, that could make billions of dollars. This could create companies that make Google and Facebook look poor by comparison. We have stymied the ability of Canadians to take part in this.”