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?