Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, March 03, 2014

E-Cigarettes...Positive? Negative?

"[A]n electronic smoking product delivering nicotine is regulated as a New Drug under Division 8, Part C of the Food and Drug Regulations ... In addition, the delivery system within an electronic smoking kit that contains nicotine must meet the requirements of the Medical Devices Regulations. Appropriate establishment licences issued by Health Canada are also needed prior to importing, and manufacturing electronic cigarettes."
2009 Health Canada statement

A photo of 117mm e-cigarette Nicotine delivery device, or tax collector? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"[We've seen] significant decreases in smoking rates, especially among youth. The last thing we need to do from a public-health perspective is [to] have a product like e-cigarettes re-normalize smoking behaviour."
Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer, Nova Scotia

"...There is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns ... Exposures of bystanders ... pose no apparent concern."
Literature review, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia
The device delivering satisfaction to people attempting smoking cessation, or those who simply look to find themselves a less-threatening avenue to get their nicotine fix, was invented in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist. By the following year the market exulted that it had a new product that people would flock to use. The devices have proven extremely popular. Euromonitor International has estimated that e-cigarette sales may reach global sales of $7-billion by the end of 2014.

When these devices first appeared on the market and consumers took to its appeal, very little research was available on how or whether they would affect peoples' health. Nor is there all that much around now, eleven years after their invention. The time period of use simply is not long enough for that kind of evaluation. Longitudinal studies on long-term health consequences of the usage of e-cigarettes will have to bide their time.

Other scientific research does exist with a majority of related studies concluding there is little doubt that their use is far less harmful than using regular tobacco, inhaling over 10,000 chemicals known to permeate nicotine, including dozens of known carcinogens contained within tobacco smoke. Six million of the over billion smokers on Earth will be destined to die from smoking-related diseases on an annual basis.

So, if, as is assumed by research studies, e-cigarettes reduces the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, they can be extremely useful. Health Canada released a statement in 2009 that electronic cigarettes "fall within the scope of the Food and Drugs Act", and as a result "require market authorization prior to being imported, advertised or sold in Canada." Despite which, retailers have been defying the law and stocking the product for sale to their eager customers.

Manufacturers are expected, under Canadian regulations, to obtain approval before nicotine-containing e-liquid (which turns into a water vapour in simulating the sensation of smoking) can legally be sold in Canada. Leading to Canadian businesses receiving warning letters from Health Canada, their shipments held up at the border and confiscated.
In its simplest form, an e-cigarette is a cartridge filled with a nicotine solution and a battery powering a coil that heats the solution into vapor, which one sucks in and exhales like smoke. Typically, it looks like a regular cigarette, except the tip, embedded with an LED, often glows blue instead of red. The active ingredient in e-cigarettes is the same nicotine found in cigarettes and nicotine patches.
Various jurisdictions across North America think that the inclusion of electronic cigarettes in their public smoking bans presents as a very good idea, protecting the public from their own poor lifestyle choices. There have been fears expressed that the ubiquity of e-cigarettes will prove irresistible to teens, who have largely been weaned off smoking through public education campaigns. If e-cigarettes are given a clean bill of health there might be scant reason for young people not to adopt them as the next item on their 'cool' agenda.

Extending the fear is the concern that e-cigarettes, less immediately harmful, but possibly having longer-range consequences, may also present as a gateway to haul youth back into regular tobacco use. And not just teens, but anyone else who becomes dependent on them. Big Tobacco like Philip Morris and all those other cigarette manufacturers who denied ill-health effects would ever result from smoking until they no longer could, and still used lifestyle advertisements to tempt users, is heavily involved here.

They see the potential for their market to expand, and any time Big Tobacco becomes involved, it's not on behalf of the public weal, but their bottom line which has been hamstrung in the last decade. Authorities are such party-poopers. Goods manufacturers are such greedy sons-of-guns, nothing constrains them from selling a product well proven to be injurious to public health, costing governments untold sums in ameliorative care.

Here's an opinion from a group who should know of what they speak:
"I hope Health Canada will rebuff the urging of those who want to see tobacco companies in the driver's seat as we move forward in an era of e-cigarettes and other "safer" alternatives to cigarettes. An e-cigarette is certainly less dangerous than inhaling the smoke from burning tobacco. But it is far from proven that a country with a free market in e-cigarettes has less disease, fewer deaths or reduced health-care costs than one with a market where these products are not available for sale.
"Vaping may be as likely to sustain smoking as it is to replace it. Last fall, investment advisers at CITI group looked at how these products were actually used and concluded that only 10% to 20% of regular e-cigarette users stopped smoking the conventional product, and that twice as many as that did not even cut down on their cigarette consumption.
"Health Canada urgently needs to be brought into a modern era -- one that accelerates an end to nicotine use while facilitating reduced harm to those who are addicted.
"A mostly-free market in nicotine is a dangerously wrong approach."
Cynthia Callard, executive director, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

New York's city council has decided that vaping around others is as unacceptable as smoking, The Wall Street Journal reports. In a 43-8 vote, the council passed a bill expanding the city's public smoking ban to e-cigarettes, meaning that they won't be allowed in public places like bars, subways, or parks. The council has been debating the measure since late November, with e-cigarette opponents saying they just wanted to close a loophole in New York's stringent anti-smoking laws. They say allowing e-cigarettes but not their traditional counterparts causes confusion, and that children aren't able to tell the difference, leading them to see smoking as socially acceptable. And this isn't the only smoking crackdown of the winter: last month, New York became the first major city to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.

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