May 6, 2014

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

The FDA has finally weighed in on e-cigarettes with its deeming regulations.

But the FDA’s proposal fails. Miserably. Because their proposal is based on the wrong premise: that e-cigarettes should be regulated under the Tobacco Control Act.

Let's not confuse e-cigarettes with the products that
kill a half million Americans every year. They're different. 
Dear FDA: 

Since when is a sheep the same as a wolf? 

E-cigarettes are NOT tobacco products. They do not contain tobacco. They’re technology products. And they should be regulated as such. 



We’ve been waiting patiently since April 2011 when the FDA first announced its plans to regulate e-cigarettes. To say that their proposed regulations disappoint doesn’t even begin to touch how those of us in the industry feel.

Clearly, the FDA doesn’t understand the entire point of e-cigarettes. The reason e-cigarettes were invented was to mitigate the harm caused by cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products.

Putting them in the same category as tobacco products is like calling a sheep a wolf. One grazes and bleats. The other kills and eats.

E-cigarettes have grown overnight into a $1.2 billion industry because they address a key problem. One in every five – about 42 million Americans – still smokes, despite the well-known health risks. And that number hasn’t budged in years.

At least half of all smokers try to quit at least once – and many try to quit several times. But many are unsuccessful, because nicotine, which is NOT a carcinogen, is highly addictive. Quitting cold turkey is hard. The nicotine patch doesn’t work, for obvious reasons. Smokers are addicted to nicotine, but they’re also hooked on the habit.

The e-cigarette is a game changer in the smoking cessation market. (Yes, I just said “smoking cessation.” Please don’t report me to the FDA.)

All of the anecdotal evidence from millions of people who have switched to the e-cigarette is that they’ve reduced or eliminated smoking cigarettes altogether. They’re no longer taking in 4,000 chemicals and 60 known carcinogens into their lungs.

And while nearly a half million people have died every year of smoking-related diseases, not one person has died from e-cigarettes.

Sure, there have been some mishaps. Sure, we have a ways to go to ensure that these products and the e-liquids are as safe as possible. We also welcome and will propose regulations to prevent e-cigarettes from falling into the hands of minors.

However, I continue to laugh at the assertion that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, given the fact that vaping is not just safer; it’s also cheaper than smoking. I don’t know one person who would switch to a product that will cost them more – do you?

I have a lot more to say about the FDA’s pending regulations. But I’ll save that rant for another day.

Apr 10, 2014

E-Cigarette Poisonings: A Drop in the Bucket

The latest news about the e-cigarette has unfortunately been largely negative: e-cigarette poisonings are on the rise as kids get their hands on bottles of e-juice.

It seems like long ago, but my 20-something-year-old daughters were once of the age when everything went into their mouths. When she was two, my daughter Emma (who later quit smoking using the e-cigarette and was the inspiration behind my founding Vaping Vamps) swallowed almost a whole bottle of children's Tylenol. She crawled up on the counter and was able to get the child-proof cap off of the bottle. Before I knew it, she had downed the entire bottle.

Fortunately, I was prepared and after calling poison control to confirm what I should do, I gave her syrup of Ipecac so she could eject what was in her stomach, and ultimately brought her into an urgent care center. She was fine, but it was a scare I'll never forget.

Kids are exposed to all sorts of hazardous things in our homes. Some of them look more attractive to them than others.

I won't argue that a bottle of e-juice looks more attractive than a bottle of bleach. But as responsible adults, we need to make sure than anything that's hazardous is kept far, far out of the hands of our kids, and especially young children who love to put everything in their mouths.

But does this give us reason to vilify e-cigarettes? Hardly! It should just remind anyone who has young children in the house to treat bottles of e-juice like you would anything that could be poisonous if ingested.

(At Vaping Vamps, we only sell pre-filled cartomizers, so there is no risk of poisoning.)

Nicotine is NOT a Carcinogen!

News reports about e-cigarette poisonings are a great reminder that we must be careful not to let our e-cigarettes or e-juice bottles fall into our kids' hands.

But these reports really lose me when they blow this way out of proportion. In 2012, America's 55 poison centers received over 3 million calls; the calls ranged from fear of exposure to carbon monoxide to food poisoning to kids who swallowed the wrong stuff.

But let's put these e-cigarette poisonings into perspective: the CDC reports that there were 215 calls to poison centers about possible e-cigarette poisonings in Feb. 2014. Slightly over half were about children who had been exposed, but 42 percent involved people who were over age 20. Multiply that by 12, and you get 5,580 calls a year -- out of 3 million calls. I just did the math, and that's only .00186 -- a very, very small fraction of the total calls to poison control. Call me crazy, but I would bet there were way more calls about kids who swallowed medicines than those who injested e-liquids.

You know what really flummoxes me? Two things: 1) The fact that some don't seem to realize that e-cigarettes do NOT usually include more nicotine than traditional cigarettes. In fact, about 20 percent of our sales are of e-cigarettes with NO nicotine.

And 2) Nicotine is NOT a carcinogen. Yes, it's addictive, which is why Big Tobacco has been increasing the level of nicotine in cigarettes by about 1.6 percent every year according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. In fact, they even put additives in cigarettes to increase the absorption of nicotine.

But one of the great things about e-cigarettes is that you can order cartomizers with various levels of nicotine -- from zero nicotine to low, medium and high -- or 18 mg. -- or about the same as in a traditional cigarette. That's the highest level of nicotine we sell at Vaping Vamps.

And we also sell the industry's only "Tri-Level" kit which offers three levels of nicotine so you can slowly reduce your nicotine consumption.

Let's keep our focus on the big picture here: the bad guy here is traditional cigarettes, which claims the lives of about a half million people a year.

And then look at the overwhelming benefits of e-cigarettes rather than the .002 percent of mishaps.

Apr 4, 2014

"Just Say No" Doesn't Work

I had never heard of Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), but as soon as I read this quote by the French writer and philosopher, I immediately liked him:

"Of all sexual aberrations, perhaps the most peculiar is chastity."

Go Remy! I couldn't agree more. We are meant to love one another and show our love in physical ways.

It all starts when we're teenagers. Our hormones are on overdrive. As Ingrid Michaelson puts it simply, "Girls chase boys chase girls."

"Let's not make it harder than it has to be," Ingrid sings. And thus it continues for most of our lives. We humans are driven by the need to be desired, loved, cherished.

Denying the fact that we're sexual beings just gets us into trouble. "Just say no" may work up to a certain point, but eventually, the vast majority (95 percent) of young women and men have premarital sex.

And the age when they have sex for the first time is dropping; as of the last report, the median age was 17.6 years.

The study's author, Lawrence Finer, said this about the findings: "Abstinence programs face an extremely high hurdle. Is it really feasible to make it normative behavior to have everyone wait until they're married to have sex?"

In fact, the study was used to evaluate the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Dr. Doug Kirby, a giant in the field of adolescent sexual health who served as director of research for Advocates for Youth in the 1980's, reviewed 115 sexual education programs to determine which were the most effective.

He couldn't find one abstinence-only program that was effective. What was most effective were programs that supported both abstinence and contraceptive use. And despite what the nay-sayers want to believe, Dr. Kirby found that none of these programs led to increased sexual activity or earlier onset of sex.

Let's take a chapter out of that book when it comes to educating teenagers about the dangers of tobacco. None of us want to promote teenage sex, drinking or tobacco use. But we must educate them to how to experiment wisely and not take unnecessary risks with their health.

Teenagers are going to experiment with cigarettes and e-cigarettes, now that they're out there and in the hands of over 3 million people.

A CDC study found that the number of high school students who had tried an e-cigarette doubled between 2011 and 2012. That's not at all surprising. But the CDC failed to ask how many had actually purchased an e-cigarette and using it on a regular basis. My guess would be that the numbers would go down dramatically.

The other argument that really slays me is making a claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to the real thing. I mean, who would switch to something that they know is way worse for you and that costs a lot more? Certainly no teenagers or adults that I know!

We all have our temptations and like most humans, we give in to them. Remy said, "Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called."

But when we give into our demons, let's be smart and safe about it.

And let's also arm our teenage kids with information about how they, too, can be smarter. And safer.

Apr 2, 2014

I Loved Lucy. But Lucy Loved to Smoke.

I loved Lucy.

But Lucy loved to smoke.

Born in 1911, Lucy started smoking as a pre-teenager, probably sometime in the mid to late 1920's. Her father died of typhoid fever when Lucy was only four and her mother was pregnant with Lucy's brother. Perhaps the stress of her home situation caused her to start smoking. Or perhaps she just wanted to look cool, like most teenagers. Who knows?

Of course, back in those days, the dangers of smoking were not yet known. Lucy continued smoking most of her life. One of her early jobs was as the Chesterfield cigarette girl.

Phillip Morris was the key sponsor of her famous "I Love Lucy" show. One day during rehearsals, she was smoking her favorite Chesterfields in the corner of the set when a representative from Phillip Morris' ad agency pulled her aside. After that, Lucy reportedly carried her beloved Chesterfields in a Philip Morris tin box.

Her husband and co-star Desi Arnaz was famous for smoking several Cuban cigars every day for years. In 1986, over 25 years after they had divorced, Lucy called him up on what would have been their 46th wedding anniversary. Desi had been diagnosed with lung cancer just a few months earlier. He died two days later.

As incredibly funny as Lucy was, the circumstances around her last years were far from funny.

Several years before her death, her doctor advised her to give up smoking. But the years of heavy smoking has already taken their toll. Lucy died of an aortic dissection, which is associated with hypertension or high blood pressure.

Smoking and heart disease are inextricably related. Smoking increases blood pressure, and smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to develop hypertension and heart disease.

In fact, about 30 percent of the deaths from heart disease are directly related to cigarette smoking.

And your risks of a heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke. Women who smoke a pack or more a day more than DOUBLE their risk of heart attack.

Young women are NOT unsusceptible. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills dramatically increase their risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

The good news is that if you quit smoking or switch to the smarter, safer, sexier alternative (we're talking e-cigs, baby!), you may reduce your risk of heart attack and prolong your life.

And in addition to getting healthier on the inside, you'll also look better on the outside: you'll prevent wrinkles, stop staining your teeth, and you'll also smell and taste better.

Which makes me wonder: do you think Lucy would have switched to e-cigarettes if she had had the chance?

Mar 26, 2014

Coffee & Cigarettes, Caffeine & Nicotine

I love coffee, and I'm not awake until I've had a cup.

I was recently in Jamaica, famous for its Blue Mountain coffee. I love having a nice fresh cup of coffee, with just a little cream and dark brown sugar. I shot a little video in the courtyard of the little cottage where I stayed.

Coffee & cigarettes, caffeine & nicotine
Your coffee break can also include a little nicotine! Nicotine is not the deadly
culprit in cigarettes. It's all the other chemicals that are so harmful. 
Caffeine is a stimulant and it’s addictive. I tried giving up caffeine once and just got killer headaches. Now I try to limit myself to just one cup in the morning.

Nicotine is also a stimulant and it’s even more addictive than caffeine. But nicotine is NOT carcinogenic. A surprising 40 percent of doctors think nicotine is the deadly culprit in cigarettes. How dumb are they?

When you smoke, it releases almost 5,000 chemicals, including tar, lead, arsenic and about 60 chemicals linked to cancer. 

Nicotine is what makes it so hard to give up cigarettes. But with the e-cigarette, you don’t have to give up nicotine. You can vape nicotine, without worrying about how bad smoking is for you.

(Of course, if you're like me, you might also just like vaping with no nicotine. We also sell non-nicotine e-cigarettes at Vaping Vamps!)

The main ingredient in e-cigarettes is the FDA-approved stuff (propylene glycol) that’s in asthma inhalers, nebulizers, fog machines and even drinks and cake mixes. Add a little vegetable glycerin and flavoring and that’s all that’s in an e-cigarette.

So now you can have your coffee and figgie break guilt-free every morning. You, too, can be a Vaping Vamp!

Mar 18, 2014

Cigarette Butts are Ugly Butts

I recently was on vacation in Negril, Jamaica, home of the famous Seven Mile Beach. It's easily one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, if not the entire world.

Unfortunately, this beach is like many all over the world: it's littered with cigarette butts. Ugly, filthy, disgusting cigarette butts. There's nothing that makes me sadder than to see one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world littered with trash.

My first instinct was to pick up these butts. I may have looked like a fool, but who cares. I'm long past the point when I care what people think. I'm revolted by these butts, and I'm going to at least clean up my little area of the beach.

My first instinct was to pick up these ugly butts.
After I returned back to my little cottage where I worked for three weeks, I got onto my computer and did a little research. I learned that cigarettes are the most littered thing in the world. And unlike what you might think, they're not made of innocuous cotton.

Cigarette butts are actually made of thousands of plastic fibers (cellulose ace tow) that are not biodegradable. In fact, it will take decades for these ugly butts to decompose. Cigarette filters are damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal. Research has also shown that cigarette butts are toxic to fish, who will die in water that contains cigarette filters.

I got so mad reading about the fact that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year, I decided to do something about it. So I made a video. OK, I probably won't get nominated for an Academy Award. It's my first video and it's a little rough. But I tried to make a couple of points:

First, if you smoke, please, PLEASE don’t litter. Find a proper receptacle to dispose of your cigarette butt!

But in some places, I know it’s hard to find a place to dispose your butt. So then, what do you do? Well, my solution is to use the smarter, safer, sexier option: the e-cigarette, of course!

You can simply take your e-cigarette out when you want to vape and put it back in your beach bag when you’re done. A Vaping Vamp cartomizer equals 6 or 7 cigarettes, so you can bring one of our e-cigs and vape at the beach all day long!

Take a look at my video and let me know what you think. And please join me in getting rid of all the ugly butts on the beach!

Mar 13, 2014

Kids and E-Cigs: The Debate Rages On

A new study conducted by the University of California San Francisco gives the e-cigarette nay-sayers one more reason to get hysterical.

UCSF researchers examined data from middle and high school students who completed the National Youth Tobacco Survey in 2011 and 2012 and found that kids are experimenting with e-cigarettes as well as with cigarettes. Lo and behold, the same kids who tried e-cigarettes also smoked more cigarettes than non e-cigarette users. (Does any of this strike you as incredibly obvious?)

None of us want our teenagers to start smoking.
But let's look at the big picture for just a second. The survey wasn't designed to derive any insights about the possible motivation or relationship between e-cigarette use and smoking regular cigarettes.

In fact, what the survey data does show us is that cigarette smoking among teens has decreased. And the fact that we now have a better, safer alternative to deadly cigarettes is a positive thing, not a negative.

Remember: the smoking rate has not gone down in years. An estimated 42 million people in the U.S. -- about 20 percent of the population -- still smokes.

For every one of the 480,000 people who die every year from smoking-related diseases, another huge group of teenagers picks up a pack of cigarettes and eventually becomes addicted. In 2012, the American Cancer Society reported that nearly one in four male high school students smoked and nearly one in five female students smoked.

The fact that we now have a better, safer alternative is only a positive thing. The nay-sayers need to view e-cigarettes in light of the fact that it's a much better substitute for smoking, and the vast majority of people transition from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

In fact, if kids had actually purchased an e-cigarette with a rechargeable battery (not the disposable kind), my guess is that they wouldn't also be smoking, since vaping is cheaper in the long run. It defies logic that someone would switch to something they know is bad for them and that actually costs more.

Kids will be kids. And they will continue to experiment with whatever is out there. But kids are still able to access tobacco cigarettes, alcohol and whatever they can to be cool and act like adults.

Eventually, I hope that they will see traditional cigarettes as old school, NOT cool, like their mom and dad's big old Chevrolet, 8-track player and polyester suit.

The e-cigarette industry is doing its best to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors. And our industry is the first disruptive product to come down the pike that is helping to reduce the smoking rate. That trend is clearly taking off. Analysts predict that the sale of e-cigarettes will outpace the sale of traditional cigarettes in 10 to 15 years.

And that's a good thing for both kids and adults.