Apr 30, 2013

Dear Abby: Please Check Your Facts on E-Cigarette Safety

Dear Abby Got the Facts Wrong on E-Cigarette Safety

Dear Abby is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Who doesn’t love hearing easy answers to other people’s problems? 

But whoever is writing the Dear Abby column got it all wrong when it comes to e-cigarette safety. She forgot to do one, very important thing before she answered her reader: check her facts. 

Dear Abby got it only half right. E-cigarettes harm no one.
Not the secondhand breather. Nor the vaper. She simply got her facts wrong.

Dear Abby: E-Cigarettes harm the smoker, but not secondhand breather
Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 19:06 PM. 

DEAR ABBY: I work in a small office with two former heavy smokers who have now transitioned to vapor/e-cigarettes. My concern is that they “smoke” their e-cigarettes in the office constantly, and I don’t know what chemicals I am now breathing secondhand.
 Both of them are senior to me in rank and age, and they pooh-pooh the notion that anything but water vapor is being exhaled. Am I making something out of nothing, or should I be worried about this? — CLEAN AIR

DEAR CLEAN AIR: You don’t have anything to worry about, but your co-workers may. In 2009, the FDA announced the findings from a laboratory analysis that indicated that electronic cigarettes expose users to harmful chemical ingredients, including carcinogens. However, those elements were not detected in exhaled vapor. 

Here’s the response from Helping Addicted Smokers, the Facebook page by the American Council on Science and Health: 

Dear Abby gets it half-right. . . While she's wrong about the "dangers" the vapers face, I guess she can be excused temporarily for listening to the persistent and pervasive FDA deception based on the fallacious unscientific and misleading analysis and press conference of 2009. I hope to convince the FDA to correct or at least pull off the web that disastrous allegation. 

Here’s my comment to Dear Abby:

You're giving out incorrect information about e-cigarettes. Next time, please do your research and check www.CASAA.org (Consumer Advocates for Smokefree Alternatives) or www.ACSH.org (American Council on Science and Health) for the facts on e-cigarette safety. You could help women who are addicted to cigarettes to switch to a better, healthier alternative. 

E-Cigarette Safety: The Undisputed Facts 

The fact is that since 2007, over a million people have used the e-cigarette over a billion times without a single incidence of harm from an off-the-shelf e-cigarette product. 

Here's our little videobite we created to help women understand the clear-cut facts about e-cigarettes and e-cigarette safety:

Here are a few more UNDISPUTED facts (Thank you, TVECA.org): 
  • Not one study has found a single chemical or toxin at harmful levels, out of the 20-odd e-cigarette scientific studies.
  • The FDA’s own e-cigarette study found not a single incidence of harm. The FDA regulates the e-cigarette as a tobacco product because nicotine is derived from tobacco.
  • FDA reports over 200 suicides and 1,500 attempted suicides from FDA-approved Chantix.
  • Nicotine is NOT regarded as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It’s a stimulant, like caffeine. Its bad reputation comes from the fact that it’s in cigarettes, which contain 4,000 chemicals and 57 known carcinogens.
  • Several organizations, including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and Tobacco Free Kids are seeking to ban e-cigarettes, despite the fact that they, too, have not found a single incidence of harm. These organizations receive funding from Big Tobacco. (Think perhaps they’re a little biased?) 
A few more facts about e-cigarettes and “second-hand vapor:” 
  • E cigarette vapor was tested for over 50 cigarette smoke toxicants and none were found. (Laugesen 2009)
  • “Lacking any active ingredient or any gaseous products of combustion, the PG mist or ‘smoke’ is not harmful to bystanders.” (Laugesen, 2008)
  • Electronic cigarettes tested did not expose users to “measurable levels of nicotine or carbon monoxide, although both suppressed nicotine/tobacco abstinence symptom ratings.” (Eissenberg, 2010)

Apr 18, 2013

Sex, E-Cigs & Rock 'n Roll

Abstinence Doesn't Work for Sex Any More Than Cold Turkey for Smoking

The argument against e-cigarettes often reminds me of the argument against sex education in high schools. Some people would love to ignore the fact that students in high school (and younger) are having sex. 

Abstinence! That's what we should be teaching our young people! 

Teaching students safe sex can help prevent STD's and unwanted pregnancies.
It just makes sense.

Thankfully, most people realize that many students are going to have sex before they graduate from high school, whether they like it or not. Many parents talk with their kids about the dangers of having unprotected sex, but not all do. Schools are in an excellent position to educate students on how they can protect themselves from STD's and unwanted pregnancies. 

Smoking is like Sex -- Common in High Schools

Smoking -- like sex -- is also a common activity among high school students. 
Over 80 percent of smokers started smoking when they were teenagers, beginning as young as age 15. 

Each day in the U.S., around 3,800 young people under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette (over 19 percent of all high school students). Nearly one-third of them go on to become daily cigarette smokers. Over 80 percent of smokers started when they were teenagers. 

Why do young people start smoking when we continue to barrage them with information about the dangers of smoking? 

Most smokers started smoking when they were teenagers.
Perhaps it was because they thought they looked "cool," or it was their way of rebelling.

It could be that they're attracted to the 'image' they associate with smoking -- they think they look tough, cool, sexy or sophisticated. 

It could be a form of rebellion, so the more we adults try to persuade them not to smoke, the more they'll want to smoke (I well remember those years when my daughters were teenagers!). 

Or perhaps it's because they want to fit in -- if their friends are smoking, they want to smoke, too. Unfortunately, in some communities, smoking is still widely accepted. 

Denial & Misinformation 

The problem is: denying he fact that young people are having sex and smoking cigarettes at young ages doesn't get us anywhere. We need to get off our moral high ground and DO something. 

"Part of the opposition to nicotine products comes from the same moral absolutism that we see in other abstinence-only efforts on issues concerning such things as alcohol and sexual activity," said David Sweanor, J.D., Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa. 

"Campaigns based on making better people rather than making people better are driven by moral concerns rather than public health concerns," he said. 

Whether not you are morally against sex before marriage or smoking at a young age (or any age) doesn't really matter. What DOES matter is that we need to arm young people with the facts and the tools to protect themselves -- whether it's a condom or an e-cigarette. 

E-Cigarettes - Like Condoms for Cigarettes 

E-cigarettes are a little like a condom for cigarettes. If people want to stick something in their mouth to look tough, cool, sexy or sophisticated, they now can, without exposing themselves to the 4,000 chemicals and 57 known carcinogens in cigarettes. 

It's a form of protection against the harmful effects of smoking. (However, at this point, e-cigarettes -- even e-cigarettes with no nicotine are only sold to people over age 18.) 

The best e-cigarettes and e-cigarette starter kits have been on the market since 2007. For all the brouhaha about e-cigarette safety, we should at least educate young people about the fact that safe is relative. There's no such thing as completely "safe sex:" there's always a chance that the condom will break, and even birth control pills have a 3 percent failure rate. 

I love this quote from Mr. Sweanor on e-cigarette safety: "Everything has risks, so simply pointing out that something is ‘not safe’ shows a person to be either ignorant or disingenuous. 

The key issue in looking at safety is that it is a relative concept; we need to look at safety of any activity compared to some alternative. 
"Rather than the unattainable standard of ‘safe’ we should be thinking in terms of ‘safer’. 

"Despite the risks associated with soccer, I would, for instance, prefer my children play soccer rather than play with live hand grenades." 

I must say: I totally agree.

Apr 9, 2013

Employers to Smokers: Don't Bother Applying Here

Going from Smoke-free Workplace to Smoker-Free Workplaces

Are you looking for a job? Here's an important interview tip: do NOT go into your interview smelling like smoke.

Most workplaces are now smoke-free – you can’t smoke in your cube, the bathroom or even inside the building. In fact, many buildings prohibit smoking within 15-25 feet of the doorway.

The latest trend? Smoker-free workplaces. If you smoke (or go into an interview smelling like smoke), you risk not getting hired by companies that are increasingly aware of the healthcare costs of hiring smokers.

Move Up Another Rung?

An article in the March 2013 New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Conflicts and Compromises in Not Hiring Smokers” argue that it’s time we looked at moving up another “rung” on the ladder (see the below chart), from simply creating smoke-free workplaces and offering smoking-cessation and counseling to providing financial incentives or even disincentives such as not hiring smokers.

Proposed ladder of interventions to reduce tobacco use
Source: New England Journal of Medicine
The authors conducted a trial to compare what would happen when employers offered financial incentives for smoking cessation/counseling (rung 5), compared with employers who simply offered smoking cessation/counseling but no incentives (rung 3).

The initial results were dramatic: in the first 12 to 18 months, employees in the incentive group had a quit rate that was approximately three times the quit rate of employees who received no incentives. 

Unfortunately, even employees who received incentives didn’t stick with it; follow-up after 18-months found that only 9 percent were still not smoking. So even with an aggressive system of rewards, 91% of employees who wanted to quit could not.

“We believe that the severe harms of smoking justify moving higher up on the ladder when lower-rung interventions don't achieve essential public health goals,” the authors concluded.

“We recognize that these hiring practices are controversial, reflecting a mix of intentions and offering a set of outcomes that may blend the bad with the good. We know that many companies will want merely to continue their current level of anti-tobacco efforts, but given the threats that tobacco presents to our communities and institutions, we believe it's time to climb another rung on the ladder.”

Awareness is NOT Enough 

Smoking is responsible for over 400,000 deaths in the U.S. every year (about one in five deaths). That's  more than the combined total from HIV infection, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders. It's even more than the number of American servicemen who died during World War II. 

Unless you’re living in a cave somewhere, you’re already aware of the fact that smoking kills. And so does secondhand smoke. Yet the current rate of smokers has not dropped very much in the last few years; currently, around 20 percent of Americans (one in five) still smoke. In fact, I’d argue that the rate could be higher, because many women I know who are “social smokers” don’t consider themselves to be “real” smokers.

We've known about smoking's dangers for about 50 years.
Yet in the last decade, the rate of smokers has only dropped from 26 to 24 percent. 
I believe that awareness is not enough. Smoking cessation programs and counseling aren’t enough. We need real solutions and tools to help people who want to quit smoking.

Smokers are not just addicted to nicotine; they’re addicted to the habit. That’s why an e-cigarette starter kit can help. The smoker gets the sensation they’re smoking, but without the 4,000 chemicals and 57 carcinogens in cigarettes. They can still “light up” their e-cigarette battery at work, in their car, when they’re stressed out or just in the mood.

I don’t think it will be long before other employers will join the likes of the Cleveland Clinic*, Geisinger, Baylor, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System in establishing a policy of not hiring people who smoke. These employers are taking a strong stand against a voluntary habit that causes death and disability not only to the smoker herself but to others who are subjected to her secondhand smoke.

And they’re taking action that will reduce healthcare costs and lost productivity by thousands of dollars every year for their employer group. Sure, these policies may be controversial. But in 2013, we've been aware of the dangers of smoking for at least 50 years, and the dangers of secondhand smoke for at least half that time.

Policies such as this could save lives. And they could cause smokers to take action, and join the 21st century and light up the new way with an e-cigarette, without having to take a ciggie break or expose their co-workers to secondhand smoke even as far as 25 feet from the building.

*The smoking rate in Cuyahoga County (where the Cleveland Clinic is located) decreased from 20.7% in 2005 to 15% in 2009, while the overall rate in the state decreased only slightly, from 22.4% to 20.3%.

Apr 4, 2013

Anti-Smoking Ads are Good; Solutions Are Better

Anti-Smoking Ads Are OK. But Smokers Need Real Solutions - Like the E-Cigarette

We’ve seen a lot of anti-smoking ads come and go over the years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just launched a new series of ads to help smokers quit.

Many of the women I talk with consider themselves to be just “social smokers,” and not “real” smokers. They just like to smoke a little when they drink. There’s no harm in that, right? Well, actually there is a lot of harm being done, even if you smoke as little as one cigarette a day.

I commend the CDC and other anti-smoking organizations for creating impactful ads that show the dangers of smoking, such as this interview with Terri Hall, who speaks in a deep, throaty rasp after cancer ravaged her voice box, teeth and upper palette.

Terri Hall -- before and after her life as a smoker
Terri Hall started smoking casually when she was 18, after she stopped competing as a cheerleader. She wanted to fit in with “friends” at parties. (Many “social smokers” smoke for the exact same reason.) “I felt I was being left out, because I didn't do what they did. I didn't smoke. I didn't hang out,” Hall said, remembering why she started smoking. “Today, I'm not friends with any of those people.”

Terri’s casual habit eventually turned into an insidious, two-pack-a-day, full-blown addiction. No surprise here, since nicotine is highly addictive (some say it’s as addictive as heroin).

At age 40, she was diagnosed with throat cancer, and doctors removed her larynx. She now speaks through a device through a hole in her neck. She says she doesn’t even remember what her own voice sounds like, and regrets that her grandson will never hear her real voice.

A Spike in Calls During the Campaign

These in-your-face ads are "literally lifesavers," says Tom Frieden, CDC director. In fact, Hall attracted so much attention (last year’s ad on YouTube now has over 1.4 million views) that she appears in the CDC’s second ad campaign, which launched late last month.

Last year’s ad campaign, featuring real people with real stories, doubled calls to their quit line: 800-QUIT-NOW.

But the impact of the ads may be short-lived. Last year, after the ads ended, so did the calls to the quit line.

And that’s why we need to create more than simple awareness. We need solutions. Long-term solutions that help people realize there’s an alternative. It’s called vaping an e-cigarette.

Unfortunately, even the very best e-cigarettes on the market can’t be promoted as a smoking cessation device. It’s too bad. Because many women (and men) have used the e-cigarette as a crutch – a bridge – to a smoke-free life. Even if they don’t quit smoking, they’re trading the 4,000 chemicals and 57 known carcinogens in cigarettes for just four main ingredients in e-cigarettes (the main base, PG, is the same stuff in asthma inhalers).

Terri and other women who smoke know that it’s very difficult to quit. Terri said she even smoked during radiation treatments for oral cancer. It was only after surgery to remove her voice box that she finally quit smoking. “I went into my bedroom, picked up a cigarette and lit it, then I looked at myself in the mirror. I saw what I was doing and realized what a fool I was,” she said.

But what if she had switched to the e-cigarette, long ago, before her smoking habit had ravaged her voice box? It’s too early to tell what the long-term effect will be when more and more people switch to e-cigarettes. We can only hope that it will prevent other people from going through what Terri and other smokers go through in their struggle to quit.

We do know one thing: while ads like the CDC’s impactful ads may create awareness, the e-cigarette offers an alternative -- a real solution.

Apr 1, 2013

Smoke-Free College Campus? Try Vaping!

More College Campuses Are Going Smoke-Free. 

If you’re not already on one of the many smoke-free college and university campuses in the U.S, you could well be soon. Over 1,100 campuses in the U.S. not only don’t allow smoking in dorms or indoors – they even ban smoking outside on the entire campus.

For students or faculty who smoke, it’s becoming more difficult to find safe and convenient areas to light up.

Students who disagreed with the smoking ban implemented last November at George Washington University chain-smoked for hours in protest. But while chain-smoking, they were exposing themselves to 4,000 harmful chemicals and 57 known carcinogens. What’s so cool about that?

“Social Smoking.” It’s Still Smoking. 

In fact, studies have shown that even so-called “social smokers” or light smokers who smoke as little as one cigarette a day – double their chances of sudden death.

“Social smoking” is NOT harmless fun. It’s a little like intercourse without using proper protection and precautions. When you engage in risky behaviors, you take serious risks with your health.

Freedom of speech is one thing. But the freedom to smoke is being limited for darn good reasons: because smoking harms not just the smoker, but anyone around them who is exposed to their secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke (SHS) is no joke – it kills more than 600,000 people worldwide every year and sickens millions more. Non-smokers who breathe in SHS take in nicotine and other toxic chemicals just like smokers do. And the more SHS they’re exposed to, the higher the level of these harmful chemicals in their body.

Out with the Old, In with the New 

Very few if any college students listen to music on an 8-track player, because we now have much better ways to listen to volumes of music. Isn’t it time for cigarettes to take their rightful place in the scrapheap of failed products?

There’s now a new and better alternative to “cancer sticks.” They’re called electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

Vaping is so much cooler than smoking. Plus, you can vape inside many bars and restaurants!

E-cigarettes are allowed inside many bars, restaurants, hotels, airports and even smoke-free college campuses – because they don’t expose others to secondhand smoke.

Compared to the 4,000 harmful chemicals in cigarettes, e-cigarettes have just four main ingredients. The main base is propylene glycol (PG) – the same ingredient that’s in nebulizers and asthma inhalers to produce the vapor.

There’s also FDA-approved, food grade vegetable glycerin (VG), flavoring and various levels of nicotine, from zero to 18 mg, or about the equivalent to a regular cigarette. Some people enjoy vaping an e-cigarette with no nicotine, because it satisfies the habit of smoking, and can even be a no-calorie substitute for snacking.

Plus, e-cigarettes can even be cheaper than smoking traditional cigarettes.

Prices on the best e-cigarettes are dropping; a single battery e-cigarette starter kit can cost as little as $29.95 (with an e-cigarette coupon) or less than a carton of cigarettes in most states. The single battery e-cigarette starter kit also comes with two “cartomizers” which is roughly equal to about 10-16 cigarettes. As long as you don’t buy a disposable, one-time use kit, your rechargeable e-cigarette battery will last for many months.

Then, if you want to continue vaping, you simply purchase cartomizers that retail for around $2 each. (Each cartomizer is roughly equal to about five to eight cigarettes).

For more information on the best e-cigarettes, e-cigarette safety, or how to vape on college campuses, visit VapingVamps.com.