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Electronic cigarettes don't smoke
March 24, 2009 3:02 AM   Subscribe

The e-cigarette may be soon be outlawed with an imminent crackdown looming. But are e-cigs really that dangerous?
posted by twoleftfeet (67 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It doesn't sound to me as if the goal is solely to outlaw the e-cigarette. From the article:
But the device, which is sold over the Internet and at select mall kiosks, needs to be tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it is deemed safe for general use, [Sen. Frank]Lautenberg wrote in a letter to the FDA on Monday.

“Manufacturers and retailers of these products claim that e-cigarettes are safe, and even that these products can help smokers quit traditional cigarettes,” he wrote.

“However, there have been no clinical studies to prove these products are effective at helping smokers quit, nor have any studies verified the safety of these products or their long-term health effects.”
Nicotine is a toxic substance. 40-60mg can kill a human being, and smaller doses can make you very ill. If we're talking about a device that sprays a fine mist of poison into your lungs, I'd hope that the bare minimum of clearance such a device needs to pass through is FDA testing. Doesn't sound that unreasonable to me.

Incidentally, if you absolutely must inhale your nicotine, and don't want to settle for dermal, sublingual or gum forms, you can get nicotine inhalers and even nicotine nasal spray.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:32 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If we're talking about a device that sprays a fine mist of poison into your lungs, I'd hope that the bare minimum of clearance such a device needs to pass through is FDA testing. Doesn't sound that unreasonable to me.

The FDA doesn't actual cigarettes, though they want to, and some legislators do to. This is all just stupid. Can't trade one horribly dangerous product for one that might be horribly dangerous? Dumb, dumb, dumb. Dumber than laws that ramp up cigarette taxes for revenue while claiming "public safety" is the motivation. All the while these taxes are disproportionately applied to the poor. Has there been a sudden spate of nicotine overdoses that I don't know about?
posted by IvoShandor at 3:37 AM on March 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


missing word between "doesn't" and "actual" is "regulate". Ack!
posted by IvoShandor at 3:38 AM on March 24, 2009


The FDA doesn't actually regulate cigarettes, though they want to, and some legislators do to.

They do regulate nicotine medication, though. Which is what it sounds like the e-cig is.

I can't really see the harm in testing a device that sprays an addictive, toxic substance for consumption. What's the worst that could come of it? At best, it'll make a safer product that can proudly display that FDA seal of approval, and probably get more doctor recommendations or customers in general. And we'll have an independent body testing the safeness.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:44 AM on March 24, 2009


At best, it'll make a safer product that can proudly display that FDA seal of approval, and probably get more doctor recommendations or customers in general.

That is, of course, if you consider the FDA a reliable source for what is safe and what is not. It certainly isn't as black and white as it may seem on the surface.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:48 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


That is, of course, if you consider the FDA a reliable source for what is safe and what is not.

I consider the FDA the best we have, and feel very little enthusiasm towards the idea of life without it, considering the crap manufacturers get away with even with the regulations in place.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:51 AM on March 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


On a side note, I got an email yesterday from RJ Reynolds stating that the government wanted to make cigarettes taste like lard.

It stated: "Do you want the cigarettes and other tobacco products you use to taste like “lard”?

That’s what supporters of the bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over regulating cigarettes say they want to do.

The bill would give the FDA the right to make virtually any change they wanted to in the way tobacco products are made, flavored, packaged, advertised and priced. They could make products taste terrible, and jack up the cost even more.

Adults who use tobacco products NEED TO CALL their legislator TODAY to try to stop this bill.

Call 1-877-857-8074 (free call) and you can be connected to YOUR legislator’s office. All you need to know is your zip code and the operator will connect you to the right office.

Or you can go to www.NoCigTax.com and send an email to your legislator – all you need to enter is your zip code and you’ll be connected to the right office.

Tell your legislator to vote AGAINST Representative Waxman’s bill that would give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco.
"

This issue, I don't care about. Full disclosure: I smoke, but am readying for another attempt at quitting. What I do care about is unending government hypocrisy. How on earth are e-cigarettes more harmful than unregulated arsenic filled real cigarettes?
posted by IvoShandor at 3:52 AM on March 24, 2009


Answering myself, I guess they aren't, one is powered by big tobacco though, that is the real difference here, and probably while one regulation will pass and the other will die a slow committee-assigned death.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:00 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I do care about is unending government hypocrisy. How on earth are e-cigarettes more harmful than unregulated arsenic filled real cigarettes?

Because one product's dangerous, another should run un-checked through the markets? That's some specious logic there. Besides, cigarettes have been well-studied, and we know exactly how much poison they're spraying into lungs. It'd help to at least test these e-cigs a bit more to have a better idea, and validate the claim that they're an alternative.
posted by explosion at 4:07 AM on March 24, 2009


That's some specious logic there. Besides, cigarettes have been well-studied, and we know exactly how much poison they're spraying into lungs

Just seems to me that the product can't possibly do what cigarettes have done to me. Maybe I'm wrong. But I can't afford the cocktails of pharmaceuticals that may make me suicidal while they help me quit. I'm just looking for an out, and they want to take this one away.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:13 AM on March 24, 2009


Good on them.

E-cigarettes are a gateway drug to cigarettes. And E.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 AM on March 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


I've been using the Nicorette sublingual tablets for ... more years than I like to admit. They work surprisingly well. There are also inhaled forms of nicotine medication, whether inhaled into the mouth through a stubby zeppelin-like device, or even sprayed into the nose. There's the gum and the patch, too. There are numerous options available, including options that are nearly identical to the e-cig in implementation and were FDA tested. They're not trying to "take it away from you"; they just want to test it for safety. I'm really confused where the objection to this lies.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:17 AM on March 24, 2009


I'm guessing the problem is due to the ostensible purpose of e-cigs. The FDA will not approve any drug for a non-medical i.e. recreational purpose, regardless of their safety profile - Alcohol and tobacco have been grandfathered in - whereas most nicotine containing products are marketed as smoking cessation aids i.e. a medical use. In order to go the FDA route, e-cig manufacturers may have to repurpose their products, whereas they likely just want to substitute for cigs in the long run. The fact that the use modalities are the same for the e-cig is what attracts smokers and worries the anti-smoking lobby, like this excerpt shows:
The product's aficionados say that because it contains no tobacco, it can be used in bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other public places where states and localities have banned tobacco use.

But anti-smoking groups say that's exactly the problem. They fear that it will reintroduce a "smoking culture" into places where people no longer are used to seeing wisps of smoke and cigarettes hanging from people's mouths.

"I understand why people use the nicotine replacement aids," said Serena Chen, regional tobacco policy director of the American Lung Association in California. "But I don't understand why people want to pretend that they're smoking."

Chen believes that many ex-smokers will conclude that the e-cigarette is harmless and be lured back into the smoking trap.

"If you had a serial killer who liked to stab people, would you give him a rubber knife?" Chen asked. "This just boggles the mind."
And I suspect herein lies the real reason behind the push for the FDA route. Either an outright rejection of the product (unlikely) or the now-medically-used product straitjacketed by imposed marketing/distribution restrictions. Of course, a more mundane reason could simply be the testing costs for the e-cig industry.
posted by daksya at 4:40 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If you had a serial killer who liked to stab people, would you give him a rubber knife?"

If, say, stabbing a mannequin with a rubber knife satisfied his homicidal itch & prevented him from stabbing a real person with a real knife, then hell yes, why on earth wouldn't you?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:51 AM on March 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


*sucks pipe*

I say!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:58 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It makes smoking into a private, rather than publicly shared, vice. Even if it was exactly as harmful as cigarettes to the user, it's a major step up of harm reduction for other people.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:03 AM on March 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


What if I wanted my cigarettes to taste like lard? What then, RJ Reynolds?

I wish I had something more to say but this morning's fearmongering seems to have come early and put me off my schedule. This FPP is enlightening, though, and I'll be reading up on these e-cigarettes because I had thought they were referring to online retailers of regular cigarettes that didn't perform age checks or somesuch.
posted by Spatch at 5:16 AM on March 24, 2009


To sum up my earlier rambling:

1) Government hypocrisy about tobacco all drugs is astounding.
2) Tobacco taxes suck, they are an example of the above.
3) Solutions for problems that don't exist are dumb.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:41 AM on March 24, 2009


"On a side note, I got an email yesterday from RJ Reynolds stating that the government wanted to make cigarettes taste like lard."

Did the subject line for this email start with "re: re: re: FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW re: re: re:"?..
posted by clevershark at 5:43 AM on March 24, 2009


Did the subject line for this email start with "re: re: re: FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW re: re: re:"?..

lol.

Really though, it was:

Stop FDA from making your tobacco products taste like "lard"!
posted by IvoShandor at 5:45 AM on March 24, 2009


I can't really see the harm in testing a device that sprays an addictive, toxic substance for consumption. What's the worst that could come of it?

The FDA decides not to approve the device for questionable reasons (i.e. a confluence of pressures from anti-smoking groups and the tobacco lobby) and thus a basically safe device that could save millions of people from cancer is prohibited, with all the attendant needless agonizing deaths.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 5:46 AM on March 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


A couple problems I have with these e-cigarettes, are 1) Is this propylene glycol really safe to deliberately inhale? And 2) Is the amount of nicotine in the product adequately controlled?

As for the criticism: I find it interesting that while smoking restrictions are said to be about the dangers of second-hand smoke, now people want to complain about being offended by the mere appearance of something cigarette-like, hanging from someone else's mouth. WTF?

I've been a smoker almost continuously for 40 years. I think an e-cigarette might be a major improvement in what remains of my life. If I have to wait for FDA approval, it isn't unlikely I'd die before that happens. On the other hand, damn, these things are made in China?! Maybe Marlboros are safer.
posted by Goofyy at 5:50 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dumber than laws that ramp up cigarette taxes for revenue while claiming "public safety" is the motivation.

In fact, raising the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective public health interventions*, particularly among young people. Those laws are neither dumb nor unmotivated by public health concerns.

* Cf Hopkins &al, Reviews of Evidence Regarding Interventions to Reduce Tobacco Use and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke, Am J Prev Med 2001 (pdf here); Ch 12 of this NCI monograph from the tobacco research branch; & many other studies which you can find via google/pubmed.
posted by Westringia F. at 5:54 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


In fact, raising the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective public health interventions*, particularly among young people. Those laws are neither dumb nor unmotivated by public health concerns.

Those laws are about revenue. Banning cigarettes would be about public health.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:56 AM on March 24, 2009


I don't like the hypocracy involved. Cigarettes are at the moment completely outside the jurisdiction of the FDA, and unless a dramatic change takes place will likely never be regulated by the FDA. Big Tobacco lines the pockets of enough politicians that their product (known to be a health hazard) remains unregulated.

But thanks to the puritan ethic of the same bribed politicians any *NEW* recreational drug is not only regulated, but outlawed.

That ain't right.

We need the same, objective and non-grandfathered, standards for all drugs. Which we're not going to get anytime soon I think, but that still doesn't make the double standard involved here right.
posted by sotonohito at 6:08 AM on March 24, 2009


Goofyy do you smoke Marlboros? I'm addicted specifically to Marlboro cigarettes, which leads me to believe it's something besides or in addition to nicotine makes Marlboros so . . . compelling. Other brands of cigarettes, cigars, pipe and chewing tobaccos, nicotine gum, don't have it, whatever "it" is. To quit, I'd need a patch or an inhaler with that.
posted by Restless Day at 6:21 AM on March 24, 2009


Is this a bad time to say, "So just quit already"? I know it's not easy ("Quitting smoking is easy -- I've done it a hundred times." - Mark Twain). If you really want to change an industry based on selling a dangerous, addictive product, stop using that product. It's the logical expression of a free market!!
posted by sneebler at 6:33 AM on March 24, 2009


sneebler I've got a friend who quit both cigarettes and cocaine. He reports that the coke was much easier to quit than the cigarettes.

Not that people don't quit smoking, but it ain't easy. I'm glad I never started, I really doubt I'd have the willpower to quit.
posted by sotonohito at 6:48 AM on March 24, 2009


I'm a non-smoker who loves smokers, but hates being around them when they're smoking, or after they've just smoked anytime in the last 24 hours, or anyone who has been around smokers who have been smoking.

I'm really annoyed that they're not considering that the GREAT reduction in harm to non-smokers that this device delivers.

Think how these all these people would benefit. Think how all the children of smokers would benefit. How about all the families lost when a house or apartment building burns down due to smokers falling asleep with a lit cigarette?
posted by marsha56 at 6:49 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having never heard of e-cigarettes before, my initial thought was "Oh, great! They're taking away our e-cigarettes now?!? How long before they try to put a stop to online shitting?!? They can have my e-toilet when they pry it from my cold, dead bottom."
posted by brandman at 6:54 AM on March 24, 2009


Banning cigarettes would be about public health.'nt work

Fixed.

Seriously, like, Prohibition for cigarettes?
posted by kingbenny at 7:16 AM on March 24, 2009


I think one of the big concerns is not for current smokers. Yes, this seems like it would be great for people who now smoke and can't/won't quit. But these things are being sold in mall kiosks. Do we want a whole new generation hooked on e-cigs? Remove the health problem and how do you get kids to not smoke? (Or "smoke"?) As stated above, it's not like nicotine's good for you.

Then again, I drink too much coffee, so maybe there's not much difference. At least there's no "Big Coffee" lobby influencing health policy...
posted by rikschell at 7:45 AM on March 24, 2009


Well, I think part of the problem could be if the cigarettes as marketed as helping you quit smoking. That would make them a medical device and subject to FDA approval. On the other hand as a purely recreational device, I don't see why they shouldn't have the same legal standing as regular cigarettes. And they probably don't smell nearly as bad.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 AM on March 24, 2009


The FDA decides not to approve the device for questionable reasons (i.e. a confluence of pressures from anti-smoking groups and the tobacco lobby) and thus a basically safe device that could save millions of people from cancer is prohibited, with all the attendant needless agonizing deaths.

Because no other nicotine products exist. Especially not ones that are FDA approved, and extra-especially not ones that allow you to inhale a fine mist of nicotine through a fake cigarette-ish thingy.

Please. It's friggin' nicotine. Anything that dispense nicotine for human consumption should be tested by the most reliable review we have. And by that I mean the FDA, not the company who makes the product and turns their battle for profit into some sort of "individual rights" crusade. This isn't a political issue; it's a health issue.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:53 AM on March 24, 2009


This is worth repeating:

Nicotine is a toxic substance. 40-60mg can kill a human being

Hell yes, these things should be studied before general availability to the public. I would have this opinion even if they were the only alternative nicotine delivery device, which they aren't. The other ones already have their safety verified.
posted by grouse at 7:59 AM on March 24, 2009


When you have a top company executive using these facts:

- the product has been on Fox News
- the product has been on The Howard Stern Show
- we have Jose Canseco and Danny Bonaduce as spokesman

as indicators that the product is safe, effective and that criticism is irrational.

Hmm, maybe running the product by a regulatory body is kind of a good thing.
posted by pixlboi at 8:03 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we ban people from smoking in their cars yet? It's easy to catch a whiff of their nasty smelling budget brand cigs when their windows are open at the traffic light and my car's A/C is ventilating outside air. If people want to smoke anywhere outside of their own, hermetically sealed homes, then there should be dark holes in the ground with airlocked double doors for them to occupy.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:10 AM on March 24, 2009


The ostensible purpose of indoor smoking bans was to eliminate second-hand smoke, and prevent non-smokers from having to inhale smoke just as a condition of visiting a club, bar, or restaurant.

However, it's becoming more and more clear that the real purpose was exactly what the bans' detractors said it was: a bunch of nannying neo-prohibitionists trying to boss other people around and control what they put into their body.

Here we have a cigarette that doesn't produce second-hand smoke, which ought to please everybody: smokers get to have their fix without standing around like lepers, 15 feet from the nearest outside door, and non-smokers don't have to inhale smoke or otherwise get nicotine forced on them. It looks like a win/win.

As a non-smoker I'm happy to be able to spend an evening in a bar (partaking of my vice of choice) without coming out smelling like an ashtray. But there's a pretty ugly side to the anti-smoking lobby, a part that -- not dissimilar to many pro-life organizations -- sees their cause as more important than others' right to choose what to do with their own bodies.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:11 AM on March 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


Well, yeah, I agree that it should be tested for safety. But, it sounds like that's not what's going to happen. It sounded to me like they just want to ban these regardless of whether or not they can be proven safe.

And that's what's so frustrating. That these would be a great benefit to those who live with and are around smokers. We can't have e-cigarettes, but at the same time we will continue to allow regular cigarettes which are already known to have serious consequences to the health and safety of non-smokers who often have little or no choice in their exposure, especially in the case of children.
posted by marsha56 at 8:19 AM on March 24, 2009


Can we ban people from smoking in their cars yet?

Yes, it would be horrible to experience air pollution when you're running a car.
posted by Skot at 8:24 AM on March 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


The problem with the anti-smoking lobby is that it's long ago become an anti-smoker lobby, in much the same way as MADD quickly fell under the control of neo-prohibitionists. Instead of pushing the education side of things its emphasis has long been on denormalizing smoking and marginalizing smokers. Given the push to take smoking out of any indoor building (and, in an increasing number of cases, away from any sort of covered outdoor space) I wouldn't be surprised at all if anti-smoking groups pushed for local bylaws mandating that if you smoke you must do it standing in the middle of a road. And only if the road has traffic in it. And even then you'd probably have to put up with these same assholes coming up to you and giving you some bullshit pretend cough so you know how much you're "oppressing" them.

Back when RJR was developing a smokeless cigarette anti-smoking groups were its biggest opponent. The e-cig is basically the same concept, so it must be opposed too...
posted by clevershark at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Goofyy do you smoke Marlboros? I'm addicted specifically to Marlboro cigarettes, which leads me to believe it's something besides or in addition to nicotine makes Marlboros so . . . compelling. Other brands of cigarettes, cigars, pipe and chewing tobaccos, nicotine gum, don't have it, whatever 'it' is."

I used to smoke, like a lot, smoked for over 20 years straight. I really loved it and still miss it, even though it's been almost four years since I quit. What you say is true of a lot of brands. Have met a lot of people who feel the same way about whatever brand they smoke. For me, at first it was Camel Filters. But eventually I moved over to menthol (I know). Any major brand menthol would do, as long as it wasn't light. When I quit, however, I never used any patch or nicotine replacement. Bought a package of gum and never opened it. Quitting was very hard, but I felt that continuing to ingest nicotine would just prolong the agony, so cold turkey was it. I had many reasons to quit. That helps a lot.

But I'm not sure outlawing the e-cigarette will achieve the goal they're working towards.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:55 AM on March 24, 2009


I find Marlboros taste terrible when compared to my current brand (Davidoff gold), but that's a matter of taste.

My favorites were the Eclipse smokeless cigs, but I think I'm in a very tiny minority there. AFAIK they've been out of production since 2006.
posted by clevershark at 9:00 AM on March 24, 2009


"My favorites were the Eclipse smokeless cigs, but I think I'm in a very tiny minority there."

God, those were awful. I'd rather eat the tobacco.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:09 AM on March 24, 2009


This isn't a political issue; it's a health issue.

Of course it's a political issue.

Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled that the FDA's decision to deny the oral contraceptive Plan B to girls younger than 18 was an "arbitrary and capricious" decision, driven by "political and ideological" motivations instead of health considerations.

Cigarettes are to liberals what birth control is to conservatives. Any FDA testing of e-cigarettes is going to bear an enormous component of political pressure, potentially enough to ban them or make them prescription-only.

Propylene glycol is a well-studied food additive that's metabolized by the body and has long been designated as Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA itself; the effects of nicotine are equally well-known. Meanwhile, an estimated 400,000 people die each year due to the carcinogens in cigarettes. Some may want extensive testing on a novel combination of approved chemicals to put their minds at ease, but it will be a profound tragedy if this provides a window for lobbyists to kill the e-cigarette, and potentially millions of human beings along with it.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 9:31 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another ex-smoker here. I have to say that I was addicted to Marlboros. No other brand would quite hit the spot like a Marlboro, in fact even though I haven't had a single cigarette in coming on for five years I can still remember the physical feel of a Marlboro. Still, I have to say that I don't miss smoking at all.

Anyway, after my preamble I've never heard of these things before, but if they can help people quit or if it means that I can have a conversation with smoker friends in a bar without them having to fuck off every fifteen minutes, then that's fine by me. Of course these things need to be tested, nicotine is nothing to trifle with.
posted by ob at 9:31 AM on March 24, 2009


But anti-smoking groups say that's exactly the problem. They fear that it will reintroduce a "smoking culture" into places where people no longer are used to seeing wisps of smoke and cigarettes hanging from people's mouths.
Nice moving goalposts there. Before it was all about second-hand smoke, but I guess that was just a (pardon) smokescreen, much like MADD and alcohol. Fuck these people.
posted by cj_ at 9:31 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a non-smoker who loves smokers, but hates being around them when they're smoking, or after they've just smoked anytime in the last 24 hours, or anyone who has been around smokers who have been smoking.

No, you don't love smokers. You love people who conform to a standard of behavior which you have set. That is not love, it is control. Worse still, you've extended your hate control at least one iteration outward from the people behavior you seek to change. What is next, a plea to "please, think of the children?"

Oh, wait... Think how all the children of smokers would benefit. You already went there.

I quit smoking 15 months ago, and couldn't be happier about it. I used the gum, viewed the process as a behavior modification exercise with the extra burden of substance addiction, and decided I was a non-smoker (not ex-smoker) from the day I started on the gum. Had a few struggles, but haven't looked back.

Still, I refuse to walk through my life putting 24-hour "acceptability" timers on everyone around me.
posted by hippybear at 9:36 AM on March 24, 2009


Can we ban people from smoking in their cars yet? It's easy to catch a whiff of their nasty smelling budget brand cigs when their windows are open at the traffic light and my car's A/C is ventilating outside air.

Sorry for the double post, and for echoing Skot above, but...

You don't even smell your car anymore, do you? It's completely lost any noxious quality to the fumes it produces every time you turn the key. Easy to "catch a whiff" of cigarette smoke above the diesel and gasoline fumes, not to mention the smell of hot asphalt on a warm day, or the urine and rotting trash of alleyways in major cities...

Why can't we think of the children's noses?!?!?
posted by hippybear at 9:46 AM on March 24, 2009


But there's a pretty ugly side to the anti-smoking lobby, a part that -- not dissimilar to many pro-life organizations -- sees their cause as more important than others' right to choose what to do with their own bodies.

ERROR: TYPE MISMATCH
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:49 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


You don't even smell your car anymore, do you?

I thought it was pretty clear I was joking, but defensiveness makes it even funnier to me. Seriously though, the smell is what bothers me, especially with those awful cheap (pre-tax that is) cigarettes. I could care less about the air pollution aspect.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:48 AM on March 24, 2009


Propylene glycol is a well-studied food additive that's metabolized by the body and has long been designated as Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA itself; the effects of nicotine are equally well-known.

It's precisely because we know the effects of nicotine that a product that dispenses it to human beings that has not been tested by the FDA, needs to be tested by the FDA, just like every other nicotine med.

Meanwhile, an estimated 400,000 people die each year due to the carcinogens in cigarettes. Some may want extensive testing on a novel combination of approved chemicals to put their minds at ease, but it will be a profound tragedy if this provides a window for lobbyists to kill the e-cigarette, and potentially millions of human beings along with it.

I'm perplexed as to why you keep saying this. The e-cig is not the only nicotine-dispensing device. There are plenty of alternatives, and some of them even do the exact same thing the e-cig does. And they're all tested by the FDA. Why the e-cig should be given some sort of free pass on this is beyond me.

As an ex-smoker who relies heavily on nicotine medication, I might try one of these e-cigs. Granted, it would have to be without the tacky pseudo-cherry. But I think I'll wait until it's been, you know, TESTED.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:33 AM on March 24, 2009


Restless Day- several years ago I read a report or a newspaper article stating that Marlboro had effectively combined chemicals in their cigarettes to do the equivalent of freebasing nicotine while the cigarette burned. Ammonia was the key ingredient. So you would be getting a kick you don't get elsewhere.
posted by pointilist at 11:39 AM on March 24, 2009


Thank you pointilist.
posted by Restless Day at 12:27 PM on March 24, 2009


It's precisely because we know the effects of nicotine that a product that dispenses it to human beings that has not been tested by the FDA, needs to be tested by the FDA, just like every other nicotine med. ... Why the e-cig should be given some sort of free pass on this is beyond me.

Maybe because the e-cigarette isn't a "nicotine med"? It's a device for taking recreational doses of nicotine. Just like, you know, cigarettes. Because some people enjoy doing that, and they ought to be allowed to do that if they want to as long as they're not forcing anyone else to participate.

If they're marketing this as a medical device, then sure -- throw the FDA at them. But that doesn't seem to be what they're going for. It's being marketed pretty clearly as a smokeless cigarette, not a help-you-quit aid. I can understand perhaps forcing them to submit to the same labeling and age-restriction requirements as regular combustible cigarettes, but it's stupid to require that they go through FDA testing when what they're trying to emulate obviously doesn't.

I could understand the forced-medicalization (which is really just a ban in disguise) angle if it was coming from a bunch of fascist-Right leaning "drugs are bad, mmkay" types but it's a little odd here on Metafilter given the usual pro-drug-legalization angle. The e-cig is a great example of harm reduction: it lets people who want to do a particular drug do it, while not forcing it on friends/children/employees/etc.

There's certainly a place for help-you-quit drugs and devices, and those should be tested and regulated by the FDA (and shouldn't be subject to age restrictions), but there's also a place for unregulated recreational drugs, for use by consenting adults in ways that ideally don't affect anyone but themselves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:38 PM on March 24, 2009


Maybe because the e-cigarette isn't a "nicotine med"? It's a device for taking recreational doses of nicotine.

So is the Nicorette inhalator. Or any nicotine med, really. The intent isn't so much the issue as the active ingredients. I think using a regulated substance for whatever reason warrants the FDA stepping in. Like if I invented ibuprofen-laced chewing gum. Yeah, that would need FDA approval.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:53 PM on March 24, 2009


The intent isn't so much the issue as the active ingredients.

Well, I guess I'm just going to flatly disagree with you there. It's all about the intent.

Ibuprofen isn't really a good example because it doesn't have any effect or use besides the medicinal one. There's no recreational use case for it; nobody would buy it except to use it for a medical purpose, because the only thing it does is act as an analgesic. (At least I'm pretty sure there isn't...) It's not really a "dual-use" substance. Admittedly a lot of modern synthesized drugs fall into this category, but a lot of naturally-occurring or older drugs do not.

Caffeine is a good example of a drug where there are substantial uses on both the medical and recreational ends of the spectrum. You can go down to Starbucks and buy a pound of beans which probably contains several grams of caffeine in total. If you wanted to, you could probably make yourself pretty ill (if not dead) with them. But thankfully, nobody is seriously calling for their regulation, even though caffeine is also used medically. Medical producers of caffeine are held to a completely different standard than the barista at Starbucks: they fall under the FDA's umbrella, and rightly so. It's the same substance, but the intent of the producer puts it under two very different regulatory regimes: if it comes out of a coffee cup and is meant for recreational use, it's regulated one way, if it comes out of a vial or IV bag and is meant for medical use, it's regulated in another.

Heck, even sugar gets regulated differently when it's a medical product: you can go into any grocery store and buy a bottle of glucose (aka dextrose, corn syrup), but practically the exact same thing, when it's sold for use as a treatment for hypoglycemia or just diluted down in an IV bag, has to meet vastly higher standards. As well it should.

This makes sense and isn't hypocritical: there's a burden on the recreational user to do their homework and consider what they're ingesting, and what effect that's going to have, that we don't put on someone using a medical product.

You could probably spend all day coming up with a list of substances that receive this treatment, and nicotine ought to be dealt with the same way. It has legitimate, important medical uses, but also is used recreationally by millions of people. Both are valid, and it makes little sense to try and force both into the same set of regulations when the circumstances surrounding their use are so vastly different.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:33 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, the FDA does regulate coffee. But while coffee has a known caffeine content, the e-cigs haven't even been tested by the FDA, let alone been regulated.

The FDA defines nicotine as a drug. Anything dispensing said drug is therefore subject to FDA regulation. I don't think it would be very wise for the FDA to take the position that, unlike every other product that dispenses nicotine - whether the consumer is purchasing them to quit smoking or for "recreational use" (or both, really) - the manufacturers of the e-cig should have carte blanche to sell their product, which dispenses a highly addictive, poisonous drug that is already subject to regulation, without any testing from the FDA. That would be extremely irresponsible and out of step with why we have food and drug regulations in the first place.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:42 PM on March 24, 2009


I'm perplexed as to why you keep saying this. The e-cig is not the only nicotine-dispensing device.

Other nicotine devices are mere cessation aids. There's no danger of them supplanting the tobacco cigarette or reviving some version of "smoking culture".

The e-cig is controversial because it provides a visual, tactile, and sensual experience very similar to smoking a traditional tobacco cigarette. That's threatening to a lot of anti-smoking groups -- as evidenced by the words of Serena Chen, above. It's also threatening to state and federal legislators who have become dependent on revenue from punitive cigarette taxes, and to Big Tobacco because it lowers the barriers to entry.

I'm not debating whether the FDA has the legal right to assert an interest in regulating the e-cigarette, I'm debating whether the e-cigarette can survive that process even if the devices are safe as houses. Before it's all over, my hunch is that e-cigs will be demonized like horror comics were in the late 1940s. There's just too many forces gearing up against them.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 3:19 PM on March 24, 2009


I'm not debating whether the FDA has the legal right to assert an interest in regulating the e-cigarette, I'm debating whether the e-cigarette can survive that process even if the devices are safe as houses. Before it's all over, my hunch is that e-cigs will be demonized like horror comics were in the late 1940s. There's just too many forces gearing up against them.

That's an interesting point, albeit a speculative one. I'd add that you could also speculate they'll become the new edgy "I'm giving society the finger" symbol. I never underestimate authority's ability to inadvertantly give products of our culture greater staying power just by demonizing them.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:30 PM on March 24, 2009


I never underestimate authority's ability to inadvertantly give products of our culture greater staying power just by demonizing them.

Hard to have much "staying power" if the FDA proclaims it a prescription-only medical device. There's a sad irony in the notion that millions of people may die from cancer in the name of public health.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 4:00 PM on March 24, 2009


There's a sad irony in the notion that millions of people may die from cancer in the name of public health.

You seriously need to drop this trope. E-cigs are not the only nicotine-providing device out there. There are numerous options. Why you seem to be willfully ignoring all the other nicotine meds out there - including ones that do the exact same thing e-cigs do - is beyond me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:11 PM on March 24, 2009


E-cigs are not the only nicotine-providing device out there.

I'm not talking about cessation devices like Nicorette, or even cessation-oriented pure nicotine inhalers, because I'm not talking about cessation. I'm talking about people who switch their daily nicotine intake from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes over the long term -- people who simply switch from smoking to "vaping".

If the e-cig is made more difficult to obtain than traditional cigarettes, then there are hundreds of thousands of people who will never use it, and thus have an enormous likelihood of dying from cancer. And yes, there is an irony in making a product more difficult to obtain in the name of public health when the result is more people will die from cancer because of it.

I hope that's not what happens, but I won't be surprised if it is.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 4:42 PM on March 24, 2009


If the e-cig is made more difficult to obtain than traditional cigarettes, then there are hundreds of thousands of people who will never use it, and thus have an enormous likelihood of dying from cancer.

Or, they'll try the inhalator. Or the patch, the pill, the gum, the nasal spray, meditation, jogging, etc. You see where I'm going with this. The false dichotomy of "allow the e-cig to be sold OR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS WILL DIE" is just flat-out incorrect.

Also, despite the speculations about how damaging it would be from a marketing point of view to let the FDA test it, it is, to my mind, a fully responsible move. We don't gauge whether or not to test a product based on how it would hurt sales. Fortunately.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:03 PM on March 24, 2009


Or, they'll try the inhalator. Or the patch, the pill, the gum, the nasal spray, meditation, jogging, etc.

I gave up smoking just over a year ago using a combination of the patch and the gum. Both of these were unpleasant to use and provided exactly zero of the enjoyment I got from smoking. They mitigated the withdrawal symptoms, however, which was the whole point. I wouldn't have considered using them long-term.

The various methods you mention are designed for people like me, who want to stop smoking completely. But there are a significant number of people who, while they aren't interested in (or possibly capable of) quitting, would like to reduce the harm associated with their habit. It's not about replacing the nicotine, it's about getting that nicotine in an enjoyable way. That seems to be the selling point of the e-cigs.

We don't gauge whether or not to test a product based on how it would hurt sales. Fortunately.

Except for dietary supplements, which are regulated like foods and therefore aren't tested by the FDA unless people are actually getting sick. This is mostly because the nutritional supplements industry really, really wanted to not have to get their products tested. Because having your product turn out to have no significant effect on health would, uh, hurt sales.

But anyway, e-cigarettes aren't really foods, drugs or medical devices. They're not a treatment for any medical condition. Legal and quasi-legal recreational drugs also exist in this ambiguous state and are often sold as novelty items or as incense or "not for consumption". There really isn't any regulatory framework for them. Whether this is something that would be desirable is another matter. But if society can't be bothered to protect the health of people who smoke salvia or consume kratom or use any of the myriad products sold as herbal highs, it seems a bit hypocritical to take this stance on e-cigarettes. The move towards regulation doesn't really strike me as motivated by concern for the wellbeing of the people who use the product.
posted by xchmp at 6:11 PM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


It was one of those nights, the kind of night when you just want to find the nearest bottle of whiskey and curl up inside it, forget about the dame who just walked out.

"I need a real man, Joe," she'd said. "It's these drugs you do. You're so... dependent. I need someone who can look after me." And then she was gone, like a cloud of fine, thick smoke from an unfiltered cigarette.

I saw her across the bar, a redhead with lips like candy and a body like dessert. She noticed me watching and smiled. Knowing I was following her every move like a hungry dog, she slid a foil blister-package out of her bra, removed a red square of Nicorelle gum from it, and slowly, exquisitely, placed it in her mouth. From the brand, I knew she was a class act. From the way she chewed the gum, I knew she wanted me.

"Two more, Sammy," I said to the barkeep. "I'll take them over there."

She watched me approach, looking amused, like I'd just told a good joke. She was playing with me.

"Those things'll be the death of you, sweetheart," I said.

"Funny, that's what they said about the patch."

"They don't know what they're talking about. If you don't mind the skin irritation, the patch'll do you for a good long time." Sammy delivered the drinks, and I clinked glasses with the redhead. "Name's Joe, by the way. But that gum, that's bad news. What you want are these." I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a plastic bag.

"Lozenges?" she gasped, her blue eyes wide with fear and a kind of helpless lust. "But they outlawed those when some kid mistook them for cough drops. Died of nicotine poisoning."

"Plenty of places you can find this stuff. If you know where to look." I unwrapped a lozenge, held it up in front of her. "Go on baby. Try it. You'll never go back."

Slowly, hesitating, she took it and put it in her mouth. Her eyes got even wider. "Rootbeer!" she exclaimed.

"They have seven other flavors, too, including lemon-lime. Come back to my place, doll, I'll show you."



Afterward, we lay in the dark, our naked bodies entwined. "Oh, Joe," she said. "I never realized nicotine cessation programs could be so amazing."

I reached way over to the drawer of my nightstand, popped a cartridge in my nicotine inhalator, and another one for her. Settling back against the pillows, we both inhaled deeply. Say what you want about the long-term health consequences, but after a good roll in the sack, nothing hits the spot like a hit of atomized nicotine.
posted by logicpunk at 6:26 PM on March 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's not about replacing the nicotine, it's about getting that nicotine in an enjoyable way. That seems to be the selling point of the e-cigs. ... But anyway, e-cigarettes aren't really foods, drugs or medical devices. They're not a treatment for any medical condition.

I'll say it again - nicotine is a substance regulated by the FDA. You cannot reasonably expect to create a product which dispenses said product to people and not have the FDA at least test the thing. It doesn't matter if it's for quiting smoking, recreation, or to look cool and sophisticated. If the active ingredient of your product falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA, congratulations, you're eligible for testing.

I can appreciate the "recreational" angle and to be honest, a big part of the reason why I use nicotine tablets is recreational. I also think it would be great to see people fake-smoking plastic cigarettes with glowing LED cherries on them. But I also think that given the toxicity of nicotine, and the fact that it's already regulated by the FDA, I'd feel better seeing the product tested for safety, and I imagine a lot of potential customers would, too.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:34 PM on March 24, 2009


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