Mountain Vapor Blog
Welcome to the blog area of our site where we hope to keep you updated on the trends of the e-cigarette industry as well as product reviews.
According to a study conducted by Juul and presented Saturday at the Big-Pharma funded SRNT annual meeting, there is no difference between switching from smoking to Juul and quitting smoking cold turkey in terms of the reduction in biomarkers of toxic chemicals.In the study, a group of 90 adult smokers were randomized to either: (1) continue to smoke as usual; (2) stop smoking cold turkey; or (3) switch completely from smoking to Juul. After five days, the researchers measured the change in the level of nine different biomarkers for toxic chemicals, which indicates the level of exposure to these chemicals.The key finding of the study was that the degree of reduction in exposure to these toxic chemicals was identical for the group that quit smoking cold turkey and the group that switched from smoking to Juul.The Rest of the StoryThis study adds to the already overwhelming evidence that vaping is much safer than smoking. And it further emphasizes the degree to which the Pennsylvania Department of Health is lying about the relative health effects of smoking vs. vaping. As I reported last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health informs the public on its web site that: "E-cigarettes, also known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes or ENDS, are not safer than other tobacco products for youth."This study is significant because it did not show that toxic chemical biomarker reduction with the Juul was at some level between continuing to smoke and quitting cold turkey. Instead, the level of reduction was indistinguishable from that resulting from cold turkey cessation.In other words, if someone presented to a physician and the physician had to determine whether that person had quit smoking cold turkey five days earlier or switched to Juul five days earlier, the physician could not tell the difference, at least not based on the level of these toxic chemical biomarkers.This new study adds to a large body of existing research that casts severe doubt on the assertions of many tobacco control researchers and organizations, and many health departments, that vaping is really not all that much different from smoking in terms of health.Original author: Michael Siegel
Pennsylvania Department of Health Urges Parents to Lie to their Kids About the Dangers of E-Cigarettes
A basic principle of public health ethics is that we don't lie to people. Telling the truth is a critical component of the public health code of ethics. It is important not only because it is unethical to lie, but also because we greatly risk losing credibility and the public's trust if we are found to be lying. And once that public trust is lost, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to gain back.Therefore, it pains me today to have to report that the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging parents to lie to their kids about e-cigarettes in order to dissuade them from vaping. In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is lying to the public about the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes as well.The Pennsylvania Department of Health put out a tweet that read: "E-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens or vapes—whatever you call them, they are NOT safer than other tobacco products. Learn how you can help protect you child's health by talking about the dangers of vaping → http://bit.ly/2RuVOev #NoEcigs4Kids."On its web site, the Pennsylvania Department of Health informs the public that: "E-cigarettes, also known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes or ENDS, are not safer than other tobacco products for youth."The Rest of the StoryIt is simply not true that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes, or that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. At this point, there is abundant scientific evidence that vaping is much safer than smoking. In fact, smokers who switch to e-cigarettes experience dramatic improvement in their respiratory symptoms and lung function.The Royal College of Physicians concluded that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, but even if you don't agree that the risk difference can be quantified, the evidence demonstrates that e-cigarettes are a much safer product than real tobacco cigarettes. The reason for this is that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco and involve no combustion. While tobacco smoke contains more than 10,000 chemicals including more than 60 known human carcinogens, e-cigarette aerosol, at worst, contains more like 20 chemicals and perhaps 1 or 2 carcinogens. And this is only the case for e-cigarette brands that do not properly regulate the temperature of the heating coil. Studies of the aerosol of brands that have proper temperature regulation have not detected significant levels of any hazardous chemicals.There is no question that e-cigarettes are much safer than cigarettes in terms of lung damage and in terms of cancer risk. E-cigarettes have been on the market now for 12 years and have been used by millions without any identified health effects (other than some mild respiratory irritation).So what the Pennsylvania Department of Health is doing is lying to the public by telling us that vaping is no safer than smoking. Or, put another way, these health officials are asserting that cigarette smoking is no more hazardous than vaping.Were a tobacco company to make the same statement, it would be rightly accused of fraud and deception. So why can a state health department make that statement with immunity?The reason, I believe, is that most tobacco control groups no longer care about the truth and about scientific accuracy. They are more concerned with creating hysteria about vaping and scaring the public. While the ultimate goal - reducing youth vaping - may be considered to be laudable, the ends do not justify the means. Lying to kids to discourage them from engaging in a particular behavior is not the way to go. And it is not something that we condone in public health.The Department of Health's message is also deceptive because it instructs parents that by preventing their kids from vaping, they can keep their kids tobacco-free. This is highly deceptive because it implies that a youth who vapes is using tobacco. That simply isn't true as there is no tobacco in an e-cigarette. In fact, the very thing that distinguishes an e-cigarette from a real cigarette or from a heat-not-burn tobacco product is the absence of tobacco. If an e-cigarette actually contained tobacco, then it would not be an e-cigarette. It would be a heat-not-burn tobacco product.A youth who vapes is tobacco-free. They are not nicotine-free (unless they use an e-liquid that does not contain nicotine), but they are smoke-free and they are tobacco-free.I believe that one of the reasons why public health groups have been so ineffective in reaching youth with anti-vaping messages is that the kids are seeing right through these lies. Kids are not stupid. They can see with their own eyes that when someone lights up a cigarette, the health effects are immediately apparent. Smokers cough, they are typically short of breath upon exertion, they are more prone to pneumonia and upper respiratory infections, etc. But kids see plenty of other kids vaping and Juuling without any visible health effects. Today's kids are just not going to buy the lies that the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other anti-nicotine groups are selling them.Ultimately, I believe that the credibility and reputation of public health groups and agencies is going to be seriously undermined by the widespread lying and deception that is taking place regarding the relative risks of vaping compared to smoking. Disseminating false facts like this is unethical, it specifically violates the public health code of ethics, it puts the reputation of public health itself at risk, and at the end of the day, it doesn't even accomplish its intended objective of discouraging kids from vaping.If you're going to tarnish the image of public health and violate our ethical code, at least do it in a way that accomplishes some great public health objective. Lying about vaping is doing plenty of tarnishing, but nothing to protect the public's health.The rest of the story is that lying to kids isn't justified even if it did prevent them from vaping. But it is doing just the opposite, as kids see through the lies and in some ways, it makes vaping more attractive.Original author: Michael Siegel
Controversy is brewing in San Francisco this week as it was revealed that the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) accepted money from an e-cigarette company to sponsor its annual meeting which is being held this week.It was reported this morning that SRNT accepted funding from GreenSmokeKloud, an e-liquid distributor whose products are competing with nicotine replacement therapy and Chantix for a share of the smoking cessation market.Critics pointed out that sponsorship of the conference by GreenSmokeKloud presents a severe conflict of interest because its products are being used for smoking cessation and the SRNT conference involves numerous presentations dealing with the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of e-cigarettes and vaping products similar to or including those manufactured by GreenSmokeKloud.Stanley Glanton, a professor at CFSU, told The Rest of the Story that: "This is a clear-cut conflict of interest. You can't have a conference sponsored by a company that makes products which are being discussed at scientific sessions. How can we have an objective conversation about electronic cigarettes and the epidemic of youth vaping when GreenSmokeKloud signs are all over the place and conference attendees know that this company is a major sponsor of the conference?"Several tobacco control researchers pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration is actually presenting at the conference and the FDA has regulatory jurisdiction over vaping products, creating a further conflict of interest. They also pointed out that a major theme of the research being presented is what should be the appropriate role of vaping products in smoking cessation efforts and that GreenSmokeKloud has a vested interest in the outcome of those discussions."You might as well just give them a seat at the table," complained one smoking cessation researcher. "They may not be physically or consciously affecting the presentations, but subconsciously everyone knows that GreenSmokeKloud is sponsoring the conference and if we diss them in our presentations, it's unlikely that they will sponsor SRNT next year. It's inappropriate that whether SRNT can get the same sponsorship money next year may actually depend on what is said or not said in the scientific presentations."Another tobacco researcher agreed: "If the consensus at this conference is that vaping products are really not an effective smoking cessation tool and there is too much risk of youth addiction, you can bet that GreenSmokeKloud will back out of next year's conference. Let's not forget that this is a corporation whose primary goal is to make money. If their products are not cast in a positive light, they will have no incentive to return next year."Although each speaker discloses their conflicts of interest, some conference attendees have suggested that every speaker should be required to disclose that GreenSmokeKloud is a sponsor of the conference itself. According to Dr. Glanton: "It needs to be remembered that GreenSmokeKloud is casting a cloud on this entire conference. If a vaping company is sponsoring the conference, attendees should be reminded of that at the beginning of each and every presentation, especially if the talk is evaluating e-cigarettes in terms of their use in smoking cessation."The Rest of the StoryWait a minute. I apologize. I just received word that I got the story slightly wrong. GSK is indeed sponsoring the conference, but GSK doesn't stand for GreenSmokeKloud, it stands for GlaxoSmithKline, and it's not producing vaping products for smoking cessation, it's producing nicotine replacement products for smoking cessation. Also, Pfizer is another conference sponsor and they produce Chantix, a drug that is marketed for smoking cessation.Indeed, according to the official SRNT program, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer are both major sponsors of the conference.After the tobacco researchers quoted above were informed of my mistake, they all retracted their statements and told me that they saw nothing wrong with these pharmaceutical companies sponsoring the conference, even though they make products whose effectiveness is being discussed at the conference and their financial well-being depends on the consensus that may develop at the conference based on the content of the presentations that directly address their effectiveness."We don't see any conflict of interest here and the financial support of these corporations is necessary to continue to hold these important conferences," one of the researchers told me.Since being informed of my mistake, everything has calmed down and it is back to business as usual at the SRNT conference.Original author: Michael Siegel
A landmark study, published on January 25 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found no evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking among youth. The data come from the largest, longitudinal study of youth smoking initiation -- the PATH (Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health) study -- and include two waves of observations on nearly 12,000 U.S. youth.The surveys asked numerous questions about both vaping and smoking behavior, including the frequency of these behaviors. It also assessed numerous risk factors for smoking that can be controlled for in multivariate analyses of smoking initiation rate differences between various groups. The baseline survey was conducted in 2013/2014 and the one-year follow-up survey occurred in 2014/2015. The main reported finding of the study was that ever use of e-cigarettes at baseline is a risk factor for ever use of cigarettes at follow-up. This is consistent with the findings of several other studies.The Rest of the StoryBuried deep within the article is the rather startling, but most critically relevant finding of the entire study: The investigators were unable to report a single youth out of the 12,000 in the sample who was a cigarette naive, regular vaper at baseline who progressed to become a smoker at follow-up. Why? Because the number of these youth was so small that it was impossible to accurately quantify this number.Based on my own calculations from the data presented, out of the 12,000 youth, there were only 21 who were even past 30-day e-cigarette users at baseline (cigarette naive) who progressed even to ever smoking at follow-up. These youth reported using e-cigarettes only 1-5 days in the past 30 days at baseline, so it is not even clear that they were regular vapers. They literally could have tried an e-cigarette once 30 days earlier.It is possible that vaping was not a gateway to smoking for any of these 21 youth, but even if it was, they represent just 0.2% of the youth population. In addition, the study found that although ever use of e-cigarettes increased the risk of smoking initiation, recent use of e-cigarettes (within the past 30 days) did not increase the risk of smoking initiation. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that youth who try e-cigarettes and do not particularly enjoy them such that they become regular users are the ones who are more likely to try smoking, but that youth who actually become vapers are not any more likely to subsequently try a real cigarette.The bottom line is that despite the widespread claims that vaping is a gateway to smoking initiation among youth, the most definitive study to date of this issue fails to provide any evidence to support that contention. If anything, it provides evidence suggesting that vaping acts as a kind of diversion that can keep some youth away from cigarette smoking.We will certainly need to await the results from future waves of the PATH study to have a clearer idea of the trajectory of youth vaping and smoking, but at the present time, I do not believe there is any evidence that vaping serves as a gateway to smoking among youth. In contrast, the evidence to date suggests that a culture of vaping is replacing, not enhancing, a culture of smoking.Original author: Michael Siegel
Researchers Tell Public that Vaping Causes COPD as Scientific Rigor in Tobacco Control Drops to an All-Time Low
Based on the results of a cross-sectional study showing an association between using e-cigarettes and reporting that one has ever been told they have COPD (chronic obstructive lung disease), a number of researchers have essentially concluded that vaping causes COPD, and one researcher is telling the public that use of e-cigarettes increases one's risk of COPD just like cigarettes.The paper, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, reports the results of a cross-sectional study based on the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey in Hawaii. The outcome variable was reporting ever having been told that one has COPD. The main predictor variable was ever having used an e-cigarette. The key finding of the study was that: "there was a significant association of e-cigarette use with COPD among nonsmokers (AOR = 2.98, CI 1.51–5.88, p Original author: Michael Siegel
Having Health Insurance Increases Your Risk of a Heart Attack, and Other Cross-Sectional Study Foibles
Later this week, a research study will be presented at the International Stroke Conference in Hawaii that purports to show that vaping increases the risk of heart attacks. In a recent post, I showed that this research is fatally flawed because it violates the basic principle in epidemiology that correlation does not equal causation. The study found a correlation between using e-cigarettes and ever having had a heart attack. The authors conclude that vaping must therefore increase heart attack risk. However, the more likely explanation is the opposite: smokers who experience a heart attack are more likely to try to quit smoking and therefore more likely to use e-cigarettes.As an exercise, I used the same data (the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey) to show that by the same reasoning, making a quit attempt increases your risk of a heart attack.Here are some other factors that increase your risk for a heart attack, based on the 2016 BRFSS:Having health care insurance (67% increase in heart attack risk)Having a health care provider (174% increase)Going to the doctor annually for a routine physical exam (150% increase in risk)Having ever received the pneumonia vaccine (253% increase in risk)Ever having had a mammogram (52% increase in risk)So according to anti-vaping researcher logic, obtaining health care insurance, obtaining a health care provider, going to the doctor for routine exams, getting vaccinated for pneumonia, and having a mammogram all increase your risk of a heart attack.By the way, the same analysis reveals that compared to vaping only occasionally, you reduce your risk of a heart attack substantially if you vape every single day.In fact, daily vapers are at lower risk of having reported a heart attack than people who never vaped!Original author: Michael Siegel
According to the headline of a UPI news story from last week, vaping has been linked to an increased risk of having a heart attack. This research finding was reported worldwide, including a scary headline in London's Sunday Express reading: "New research claims vaping raises risk of deadly heart attacks and strokes."This finding is profoundly important because if e-cigarette use does indeed increase heart attack risk, then the role of vaping in harm reduction comes into serious question.The news headline stems from a paper that is being presented this week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Hawaii.According to the news coverage, the researchers used cross-sectional data from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and found that ever use of e-cigarettes increased the risk of reporting ever having had a heart attack, while controlling for age, gender, body mass index, history of diabetes, and smoking status. The same was true for the risk of reporting ever had a stroke.While the abstract itself does not appear to be publicly available, the news articles report that the study found a 59% increase in heart attack risk associated with the use of e-cigarettes. According to one article: "The American Heart Association has subsequently cautioned the public against using e-cigarettes."The Rest of the StoryIt is irresponsible to use the results of this cross-sectional study to conclude (or even suggest) that e-cigarette use increases heart attack or stroke risk. Why? Because the study only assessed the relationship between "ever" having used e-cigarettes and "ever" having had a heart attack. The study has no information on which came first. In other words, it is entirely possible (and in fact quite likely) that the majority of respondents who reported having used e-cigarettes and having had a heart attack actually suffered the heart attack first and then subsequently started using electronic cigarettes because they were desperate to quit smoking after experiencing this life-threatening event.A similar study (this one using cross-sectional data from the National Health Interview Survey) was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last year and is subject to the same fatal flaw: it is highly likely that people who experienced a heart attack began using e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking.Trying to Quit Smoking Increases Your Risk of Having a Heart AttackUsing the same methodology as these studies, I examined the relationship between trying to quit smoking and heart attack risk. I used the 2016 BRFSS and modeled the risk of having had a heart attack as a function of having tried to quit smoking (and succeeding for at least one day). I controlled for age, gender, body mass index, diabetes, and smoking status.The results:Making a serious quit attempt is associated with a significant increase in heart attack risk. It actually increases your heart attack risk by 41%.Obviously, what is going on here is not that quitting smoking increases your risk of having a heart attack. Instead, what is happening is that smokers who experience a heart attack are more likely to try to quit smoking.But the same reasoning used by researchers to conclude that vaping increases heart attack risk supports the conclusion that trying to quit smoking increases heart attack risk.For that matter, one could show that use of asthma inhalers is associated with an increased risk of having asthma, that use of insulin is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, or that the consumption of gluten-free food increases your risk for Celiac disease (caused by gluten allergy).For those who are curious, trying to quit smoking is associated with a 38% increase in the risk of stroke.Clearly, physicians should warn their smoking patients not to try to quit, as quitting appears to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.Sadly, we don't have to recommend that physicians counsel smokers not to try to quit -- the American Lung Association is already doing that.Original author: Michael Siegel
Does the American Lung Association Really Hate Smokers So Much that They Discourage Quit Attempts Using E-Cigarettes Despite New Clinical Trial Evidence of their Superiority to NRT?
On Wednesday, the New England Journal of Medicine published a new study that reported the results of a one-year randomized, clinical trial in which e-cigarettes were compared to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to aid smoking cessation. The study was conducted in the UK, and both treatments were accompanied by behavioral counseling. The result: "The 1-year abstinence rate was 18.0% in the e-cigarette group, as compared with 9.9% in the nicotine-replacement group (relative risk, 1.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.30 to 2.58)."This is the most definitive study yet on the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. It found that one-year smoking cessation rates with e-cigarettes were nearly twice those obtained using NRT. Although one must exercise caution in generalizing the results to the U.S., this evidence pretty much blows out of the water the claim being made by some anti-nicotine advocates that vaping actually inhibits smoking cessation.A previous clinical trial conducted in New Zealand had found that e-cigarettes were as effective as NRT for smoking cessation, but that trial used first-generation e-cigarettes that are not thought to be as effective as products currently on the market.This is great news for smokers, as it suggests that switching to vaping is another smoking cessation option that can be added to those already available. Certainly, for smokers who try to quit but fail with other therapies--like NRT--trying e-cigarettes is a strong and viable option. It may also be appropriate at this point for physicians to encourage smokers who want to quit and are open to trying e-cigarettes to make an attempt to switch to vaping even if they have not failed with other cessation approaches.The Rest of the StorySo here is what the American Lung Association had to say in response to the study:"The US Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. We only support methods that are FDA approved and regulated. Switching to e-cigarettes does not mean quitting. Quitting means truly ending the addiction to nicotine, which is very difficult."In other words, the American Lung Association is saying that despite this clinical trial demonstrating that e-cigarettes are probably much more effective than NRT for smoking cessation, they would rather smokers continue smoking than make a quit attempt using electronic cigarettes.The American Lung Association is stating that it does not "support" the use of e-cigarettes by smokers. This means that if a smoker is not willing to try NRT or a pill, then the American Lung Association would not recommend that they try quitting with e-cigarettes as an alternative.Not only that, but according to this statement, the American Lung Association will never support the use of e-cigarettes because it will only do so once the FDA approves vaping as a cessation method, which will not and cannot happen. The FDA cannot approve e-cigarettes for smoking cessation because they are recreational products and not drugs. No manufacturer has ever applied to the FDA for approval of a vaping product as a smoking cessation method, and it is unlikely that will happen any time soon.What could possibly explain why a public health organization that is supposed to be committed to improving lung health would actually discourage smokers from trying to quit using e-cigarettes, especially in the light of strong clinical trial evidence of their efficacy?The only way I can reconcile this is to question whether subconsciously, the American Lung Association has so much hatred for smoking and smokers that they would actually prefer that a smoker continue to smoke and get sick from that smoking if they are not willing to use an FDA-approved pharmaceutical product. This is, after all, exactly what the organization is expressing. And although the reasoning behind this position is clearly not conscious, the only reasoning that could possibly explain it is some sort of underlying hatred of smokers and a desire to punish them if they don't try to quit "the right way" -- the "right way", of course, being defined by the American Lung Association.It is important to note that the American Lung Association had a number of alternatives to its recommendation that smokers refrain from using e-cigarettes to quit. They could have recommended that NRT or pharmacotherapy remain a first-line approach, but that those smokers who fail to quit using NRT or pharmacotherapy may want to consider trying electronic cigarettes. They could have recommended that smokers switch to e-cigarettes and then try to wean themselves off the nicotine. Instead, the American Lung Association chose to make a blanket statement urging smokers not to try to quit using e-cigarettes.I had thought that the tobacco control movement had reached its lowest point, but I never could have imagined that it would come to this: a national tobacco control organization has told smokers that they are better off continuing to smoke than trying to quit using an electronic cigarette. I don't think we can get any lower than this.Original author: Michael Siegel
And this "Truth" Campaign "Fact" Isn't Even True One of the oft-repeated "facts" being disseminated by the "truth" campaign is that one Juul pod is equal to 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine.More specifically, the "truth" campaign claims, as its #1 most important fact about Juul that: "The amount of nicotine in one JUUL cartridge is roughly equal to the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes."Joining the "truth" campaign in spreading this factual information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose web site currently states that: "a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes." This "fact" has spread like wildfire. Just as one example, a parenting article in a news magazine writes: "Each JUUL pod contains the approximate equivalent to 1 pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs. So, if a user goes through one JUUL pod a day, that is the nicotine equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day."Similarly, the appropriately named "Scary Mommy" web site warns that: "one Juul “pod” contains 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine (that’s a pack of regular cigarettes)."It's not just scary mommy blogs that are disseminating this "critical fact" about Juul. The high tech-site "Inc." has this to say about Juul: "The secret is its uniquely potent formula--a single pod contains roughly as much nicotine as a pack of smokes."I could go on and on with examples. The Chicago Daily Herald reports that: "Most of Juul's single pods contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes." Collegiate Times tells readers that "Engineered to be much more convenient than a cigarette, JUULs are arguably more addictive as one pod is the equivalent of 20 cigarettes (or a typical pack of smokes)...". Vogue magazine reported that even "Dan from Poison Control" apparently informed one concerned caller that the amount of nicotine in a Juul pod is exactly the same as the total amount of nicotine in an entire pack of cigarettes: "Dan from Poison Control called me back to say that a fresh Juul pod has the same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarettes."One respiratory therapist warned that because a single Juul pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, a youth who vapes is in danger of dying from nicotine poisoning: "Juul, which is one of the most popular brands on the market, contains the equivalent of 20 cigarettes. Many times, a bottle of e-liquid can contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. That means kids, who might like the flavor and puff, puff, puff and go through the entire container, are taking in 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. This sudden increase in nicotine can lead to nicotine poisoning, a potentially fatal condition."The Rest of the StoryThere are two severe problems with this claim by the "truth" campaign.First, the message that it is sending to kids is that you are better off smoking 19 cigarettes than vaping one Juul pod. This comparison certainly makes it sound like Juuling is a lot worse than smoking. And if that's the case, then the clear message is that you are better off smoking than Juuling.That's clearly the message that the "truth" campaign and other anti-tobacco organizations and health agencies are sending to public health practitioners. For example, the National Center for Health Research informed its readers that vaping is no safer than smoking. A magazine devoted to asthma and allergies told its readers that e-cigarettes are no safer than cigarettes for kids with asthma.This message is a potentially damaging one from a public health perspective. It undermines the public's appreciation of the severe hazards of smoking and obviously, if any kids end up smoking instead of Juuling because of this information, it could have disastrous consequences.Apparently, I'm not the only one who sees the problem with this message. A number of young people took to Twitter with the same message:"This JUUL thing is so Dumb I wanna smoke 19 Cigarettes.""Hey guys.. time to smoke 19 cigarettes instead of a juul pod cause it’s better for you!!!!" "Okay I’ll just smoke 19 cigarettes instead of my Juul now, thank you for the advice!" "yeah f__k the juul go smoke 19 cigarettes instead."But there's a second, possibly more subtle problem with the claim:It's not true.It doesn't take an advanced math degree to fact-check this claim. We just need two pieces of information:1. The most highly concentrated Juul pod (there are two concentrations) contains 40 mg of nicotine.2. An average cigarette contains about 12 mg of nicotine.Thus, a Juul pod contains the amount of nicotine equivalent to that in about 3 cigarettes (not 20 cigarettes).Moreover, there is nothing terribly unique about the Juul in terms of nicotine content. There are hundreds of varieties of e-liquids on the market that contain 24 mg of nicotine per cartridge, with a cartridge delivering about 200 puffs, similar to a Juul pod. So in reality, the Juul contains less than twice the amount of nicotine present in many other electronic cigarettes.Focusing on the nicotine content obscures a more important factor, one which does actually separate out Juul from most other vaping products. That factor is the rate of absorption of nicotine into the bloodstream. Because of the nicotine formulation used in Juul (i.e., a nicotine salt), it is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and the pattern of nicotine levels in the blood over time mimics that of cigarette smoking. This is unlike the pattern for almost every other type of electronic cigarette on the market, which uniformly deliver nicotine quite ineffectively and therefore have a low addiction potential. By focusing on the nicotine content, rather than the formulation, the "truth" campaign and CDC are obscuring the most important information that people need to understand.This commentary is not to minimize the addictive potential of Juul, the fact that there is a high level of nicotine absorption from Juul (much higher than from almost all other e-cigarettes), or that the pattern of nicotine in the bloodstream over time produced by the Juul does mimic that of cigarette smoking. It is just to highlight that there are a lot of exaggerated claims out there and in addition to just being incorrect, some of these claims could actually do public health harm.Note: This post is dedicated to Kimberly Manor, the owner of Moose Jooce vape shops in Michigan: "Kim Shilling Manor smoked 2 1/2 packs of Marlboro reds a day. She smoked even after her husband died of lung cancer and her mother developed lung cancer. Kim quit smoking the FIRST time she tried vaping! It was life changing for her and she opened Moose Jooce so people could see just how easy it was to live smoke free!" It is because of Kimberly, and the literally 2 million other former smokers out there with similar stories, that I continue to try to reveal the "rest of the story."Original author: Michael Siegel
by Carl V Phillips
Yesterday, the first recreational marijuana facility opened in Massachusetts. Out of curiosity, I decided to check out its menu of offerings. Although I thought that this ballot initiative was all about allowing adults to use marijuana for recreational purposes, I was surprised to find a menu that is certain to appeal to youth.The Rest of the StoryHere are some menu items - tell me that they are not going to be appealing to teenagers:Strawberry-flavored chewy bitesLarge, citrus gummy bearsDelectable Belgian dark chocolate bars Assorted fruit-flavored chewsAssorted fruit-flavored cubesRaspberry flavored confectionRaspberry flavored lozengesChewy, cocoa caramel bite-sized treats Raspberry & watermelon flavored lozenges Chocolate-chip brownies.”My point here is that we are in complete hysteria because youth are using flavored e-cigarettes and health agencies want to ban e-cigarettes because they attract youth with gummy bear and cotton candy flavors, yet we are practically encouraging youth to enjoy kid-friendly flavors and varieties of marijuana, doing nothing to address the access of youth to real cigarettes in retail stores, and allowing the unfettered sale and marketing of flavored alcohol products which are used by more high school students than use the Juul and other e-cigarettes combined.I can drive to a store within 10 miles and get flavored alcoholic beverages, menthol cigarettes, and chewy, cocoa caramel marijuana, but I can't buy a Juul flavor multi-pack to help me quit smoking?This is public health in 2018?Original author: Michael Siegel
FDA to Announce Ban on Sale of Most Cigarettes in Convenience Stores Due to Addiction of Hundreds of Thousands of Youth to Cigarettes
Tomorrow, the FDA is expected to announce the strictest regulation of cigarettes sales in decades. Spurred by the data showing that nearly 8% of high school students are current cigarette smokers, the FDA will announce that from now on, with just a few exceptions, cigarettes may not be sold in any convenience store or gas station. Online sales of cigarettes will still be allowed, but it will be subject to advanced age verification procedures. The only stores that will be allowed to sell cigarettes without restriction will be those which are only open to adults (or which establish an area that is only open to adults).The FDA said it was forced to take this drastic action because it has evidence that: "a new generation is being addicted to nicotine, and we can’t tolerate that."The tobacco companies intentionally make cigarettes more addictive by adding ammonia to the product, which enhances nicotine absorption. Cigarettes are the most effective known product to deliver nicotine in a pattern that is capable of quickly initiating and then sustaining addiction.According to the CDC, every day more than 3,200 youth smoke their first cigarette. It has been estimated that it only takes four to five cigarettes for a youth to become addicted to smoking. One out of every two long-term addicted smokers will die prematurely, primarily from lung cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, or other cancers. The Rest of the StoryActually, I got it wrong.The FDA is not banning the sale of most cigarettes at convenience stores; it is banning the sale of most fake (electronic) cigarettes at convenience stores.Convenience stores and gas stations can continue to sell real cigarettes - which, despite lower smoking rates, continue to addict a new generation to nicotine - but they will no longer be able to sell electronic cigarettes (with only minor exceptions).Somehow, we have completely lost all sense of public health perspective. Every argument that the FDA is making in justifying a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations applies even more strongly for real tobacco cigarettes: you know, the ones that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Something is terribly wrong with our sense of perspective when we take the fake cigarettes off the shelf but allow the real ones to remain.So let me attempt to correct this skewed perspective.First, we need to recognize that the problem of youth addiction to electronic cigarettes is not a broad problem of youth becoming addicted to e-cigarettes; it is a very specific and narrow problem of youth becoming addicted to Juul. It is one specific product that is causing the problem.Other than Juul, all other closed system electronic cigarettes do not have high addiction potential because they are actually quite poor at delivering nicotine. Specifically, there is no nicotine spike in the blood, and the nicotine level drops off quite slowly. In contrast, the Juul uses a specially formulated nicotine salt that is absorbed much more rapidly into the bloodstream, and the pattern of blood nicotine levels from Juuling mimics that of a real cigarette. Youth are becoming addicted to nicotine not because they are vaping generally, but because there is an epidemic of Juul use occurring in middle schools and high schools across the nation.However, just four days ago, Juul announced that it would voluntarily stop selling flavored Juul products in all convenience stores and gas stations. In fact, Juul has agreed to stop selling flavored Juul products in any brick-and-mortar establishment. These products will only be available online and with age verification procedures.So this sweeping action by the FDA is not necessary. It will not result in the elimination of flavored Juul sales from convenience stores because that is already occurring.So the rest of the story is that what the FDA's action is doing is to make it much more difficult for adults who have quit smoking to continue to stay smoke-free using their favorite brands of electronic cigarettes, which will be taken off the shelves. Youth will not be able to purchase flavored Juul products from stores, but that was going to happen anyway. The other e-cigarettes that are being sold at these stores (i.e., products other than Juul) have low nicotine addiction potential. It makes no sense to take them off the shelves but to allow real cigarettes, which have extremely high addiction potential, to remain available for sale and distribution to the 3,200 youth who try these products every day.I believe this action will have a net negative impact on the public's health because it will almost certainly result in many ex-smokers returning to smoking as their products disappear from convenience store shelves.What the FDA should have done is to deal directly with Juul and demand that they voluntarily remove their flavored products from the shelf and bolster their age verification procedures for online purchases. But since Juul has already agreed to this, there is no need for this drastic regulation, especially because cigarette sales are being left unencumbered.One might argue that the reason that Juul agreed to remove their flavored products from the shelf is that they anticipated this FDA regulation. If that is the case, then perhaps the threat of regulation was successful in achieving this result. But now that Juul has agreed to take most of their products off the shelves, the FDA should not proceed with the regulation. Unless it is sincerely concerned about youth becoming addicted to nicotine, in which case it should ban all cigarette sales in brick-and-mortar establishments that are not restricted to adults.Original author: Michael Siegel
Peer review of: Michal Stoklosa (American Cancer Society), No surge in illicit cigarettes after implementation of menthol ban in Nova Scotia, Tobacco Control 2018
For an explanation of what this post is, please see this brief footnote post.