Vaping in the Age of Regulatory Uncertainty

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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78 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    It is too bad, certainly the science as you present it sounds conclusively in favor of non-intervention. Alas, smoking is a cultural bugbear now and politicians are always on the prowl for some kind of feather to put in their cap so an assortment of busybodies have taken aim at ecigs. I certainly hope that good sense prevails but I sure wouldn’t bet on it.Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    The advocates’ claims are based on study after study after study, while the opponents claims are based on hypotheticals.

    Sounds a lot like the same-sex parenting issue.

    Out of curiosity, so feel wholly free to ignore the question, how much of your attraction/addiction to smoking/vaping is the nicotine and how much is the physical aspects of it? I never got addicted to nicotine, but I always enjoyed the little physical details of smoking, especially when I rolled my own. It was sort of ritualistic, from the crumbling of the tobacco to the rolling of the paper up to the striking of the match, the crackle of the paper as it caught fire, and that first delicious scent of burning tobacco.Report

    • I think it’s mostly the physical aspects. I don’t think the patch would have worked for me. Taking medication that dulled the effects of the chemicals was unsuccessful in part because I would just smoke anyway. I never took Chantix, which is supposed to not just negate the positives but make it unpleasant.

      I never rolled my own. For those who like the ritual of doing that sort of thing, they’d probably have a lot of fun mixing the liquids and creating their own ejuice. Until that gets banned, as it probably will. (Well, not banned, just regulated to the point that people won’t be able to do it with the sorts of freedoms they have now.)Report

      • From what I observed it’s actually different for each individual. A few have no problem quitting the nicotine but staying with the rest of the experience. While others really are “hooked” on it. Smoke obviously contains other substances some people are dependent on. I know several vapers who really don’t like the taste and smell anymore and love vaping, but they still need a few smokes a day. Must be something the e-cig doesn’t provide. I for one didn’t miss anything after switching. Except for the first days: The “wake up slap” by the first cig in the morning. E-cigs don’t deliver this kick. Now I know, I might have used higher nic to compensate.

        Karl Fagerström, THE expert on the topic says: Dependence on tobacco and nicotineReport

  3. Avatar Glyph says:

    It’s kind of perfect that the photo on the FP has the subject’s eyes “censored” by black box.Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I am so sick of these puritanical, anti-science conservatives forcing their morals down everyone’s throats.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I hope that whatever regs are issued, they turn out to be minimally annoying/disruptive for you, Will. I agree that the presumption here should weighin favor of just allowing this product to do as much as it can to help people transition away from inhaling burning plants directly into their lungs, and to ease the tensions in negotiating between smokers and non-smokers in shared spaces.

    It seems hugely obvious, but at the same time, I’m not surprised that a critical mass of busybody-type parents are terrified of this as an easier pathway toward nicotine addiction for the non-addicted, in particular, kids. They need to be reasoned with, but that’s an endeavor with an established track record of very uneven success, so I hardly blame you for your dread about where this goes.

    Incidentally, this kind of technology must be long-established as a THC delivery device? Or no? It would beneficial in an exactly parallel way.Report

  6. Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

    Sounds like a net win to me. I personally prefer to get my addictive stimulant in the form of a hot aromatic drink that sometimes spills and stains public places and produces a lot of cardboard cup litter. If the detrimental effects to the commons from vaping are the same or less, it sounds good to me.

    If I were a restaurant owner, I might be hesitant to allow customers to blow aromatic flavored vapor around (how strong is the aroma?), or as a theater owner I might want to keep vapor out of the air where I was projecting, but it doesn’t sound like we have the same public health arguments that got government involved last time. What if vaping becomes mainstream and non-vapers become vapers? Is it worse for us than the coffee shop being so central in our culture?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

      My limited experience (I don’t smoke) has been quite positive. I highly dislike cigarette smoke and have an excellent sense of smell.
      I sat across a table from an acquaintance who has switched to vaping. The exhaled steam is visible white steam for about two seconds before it dissipates. Next to the user I got a whiff of the flavor before it dissipated as well. I haven’t noticed much lingering smell and I was in what I’d consider an average room as far as ventilation goes.

      I’d conclude that anyone outdoors who complains about vaping is absolutely full of it.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to North says:

        Very cool. Sounds like if it caught on like cigarette smoking, it probably wouldn’t be much trouble (until people who vape start spontaneously combusting 10 years from now because of something we don’t know about it today).

        I suppose I’d be bothered by that trend primarily because of the aesthetics of it. I’m of the newer non-smoking generations, but I grew up just before the crossover where people smoked all over the place and we knew it was bad for you. So I don’t have the fond memories of enjoying smoking, but I do have a lot of crappy memories of being soaked in cigarette odor. Seeing it come back would be really weird from a visual association standpoint. If that’s the worst I can say about it, that’s pretty good.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        I’m there with you. Going to the gay bars in the aughts meant that your clothes absolutely reeked of cigarettes when you got home and reeked of it even in the hamper (Sunday Laundry was mandatory). When they dropped the boom on bar smoking and the smokers were banished outside I was ecstatic (but alas, mostly over the bar thing).
        My only complaint about vaping is to wish it had happened ten or even twenty years earlier.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to North says:

        Huh. For some reason it surprises me that there was a lot of smoking going on in gay bars, but I looked it up and it turns out that gay people—and bisexuals even more so—have unusually high rates of smoking.Report

    • My wife really, really hates cigarette smoke and smoking. I’ve smoked in her presence maybe ten times over the course of our marriage. While she still wants me to go outside to vape, she will sometimes come out to join me. Her father, a former smoker who hates cigarettes more than she does, did the same when I was visiting.

      That’s not to say that there’s no odor. There is, but one huge thing is that there is no noticeable lingering odor at all. It’s not like cigarette smoke that just kind of gets everywhere. and casts a general odor.

      The health risks of the vapor are pretty much non-existent by second-hand. Like I said in the post, they put animals in there for eighteen month stretches in unrealistically dire scenarios and the only results were temporary. There could be long term effects, but given how transient the overall effects are there doesn’t seem to be any of reason to believe so. For second-handers, at least. I could see it causing long-term problems for the vapers themselves, though there is as yet no indication that the vaping itself will.

      I can actually totally understand why restaurants would want to keep it out regardless, and why customers might prefer it. Honestly, I would be really happy if it were left to individual establishments to decide. That’s unrealistic as it’s becoming increasingly clear that ultimately they will fall under the same regime as cigarettes.

      Is it worse for us than the coffee shop being so central in our culture?

      Probably, because by most accounts nicotine is worse than caffeine. I suspect, however, that a 5-10% fall in the population that smokes would likely be a public health improvement even if 60% of the population vapes I think that’s why the anti-vaping folks are increasingly hanging their hats on the gateway theory.

      To be uncharitable – very uncharitable – I think that there is a non-insignificant segment of the anti-smoking population that genuinely doesn’t want people deriving the pleasure that smoking or vaping brings regardless of whether or not there are actually adverse health consequences. I wouldn’t assume it true of any random anti-smoking person – or even a person who is presently skeptical about vaping – but I actually wonder how much vested interest the anti-smoking crusade industry has in doing more than minimizing consequences. Very uncharitable, I admit. And possibly wrong across-the-board. I find the difference in response from the medical community and health advocates to be actually pretty interesting.Report

  7. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    The real outrage here is that I can’t find a quote hysterical enough to justify speculation that the quotee has a case of the vapers.Report

  8. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I could honestly care less if people vape, and I am utterly baffled by the resistance to it. I do get places like WA state trying to tax it, because they are losing money on tobacco taxes (even though they try to dress up the new taxes as pro-health & safety), but the utter lack of reason or evidence for those opposed…Report

  9. Avatar Mr. Blue says:

    I have nothing to say on the main subject but this frivolous observation:

    I don’t like romantic comedies much, but if there were a romantic comedy called “Love in the Age of Regulatory Uncertainty” I would absolutely watch that movie.Report

  10. Avatar veronica dire says:

    Make you a deal, I’ll join you at the barricades for your right to vape if you join me in my fight for easy access to hormones.Report

    • I honestly don’t know that much about the debate over hormone access, but my general instincts probably put me on your side of it.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        I don’t know much either, but my first thought was to wonder what the enviro impact of these hormones could be, if made more freely available (it’s my understanding that there is some concern about the amount of hormones being excreted into the water table by users of the Pill; that, and things like PCBs that can chemically “mimic” hormones, are being eyed for negative reproductive effects in fish & frog populations).

        Then I realized that the amount of pee generated by people needing these hormones, when compared to the number of users of the Pill and general environmental PCBs, would *literally* be just a drop in the bucket.

        All of which is to say, my general instinct, like Will’s, would be towards increased access.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        Argh, don’t know why I said PCB’s, meant BPA.Report

    • Actually @veronica-dire that would be an awesome guest-post. Letting us know what the issues are. Or is there a link to an article with a good rundown of what the legal issues and obstacles presently are?Report

    • Avatar Zac in reply to veronica dire says:

      Square deal. I mean, easy? Shit, I think it should be on the taxpayer’s dime, covered under Medicare (although to be fair I’m also for making Medicare a single-payer health system like Canada). I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel like you’re trapped in a body that’s the wrong sex/gender, but it seems like a severe enough situation to warrant immediate and fully-insurance-covered treatment.Report

  11. Avatar Maribou says:

    Tests on propylene glycol…

    OHHHHHHHHHH.

    Thank you for explaining to me why vaping really bothers me physically; I thought it was psychosomatic. (One of my more ridiculous, though luckily not horribly severe, allergies is to propylene glycol. I’m also, fun fact, allergic to latex, Nonoxynol-9, AND most forms of glycerin. Good thing I married early, I guess.)Report

  12. Avatar Damon says:

    I recall seeing somewhere an ad or some such that stated that the non nicotine content of these things were all chemicals approved by our gov’t for use and / or considered harmless.

    Should be easy to confirm. If true, I see no issues with these.Report

  13. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Considering how long smoking was common practice, and how long any health risks to it were vehemently denied by the tobacco companies, I think it’s perfectly understandable that people want to be cautious about the health risks of e-cigarettes. Because it’s a case of “you can’t unscramble eggs” – it’s a lot easier to ensure they’re regulated until we’re certain they’re non-dangerous, and then deregulate, than it is to stamp something out after we realize it has serious health consequences.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Up Next: Ban MILK!Report

    • We don’t have to take the ecig companies’ word for it.

      The effects of smoking were immediate. It wasn’t a silent killer. It took its victims coughing, hacking, and wheezing the entire way. There were definitely warning signs that were missed. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. Animals have been put into rooms saturated with vapor for over a year with minimal health effects. And we know a lot more now than we did then.

      All leaving aside, of course, that this is foremost a substitute for cigarettes to begin with. So the benchmark primarily is whether or not they are significantly less unhealthy than cigarettes, which they are.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        Effects don’t have to be immediately evident, though. It can be a decade or more before we can tell if something significantly increases cancer risk. And every other form of smoking we know of does seriously increase cancer risk.

        We can’t solely treat this as a substitute for cigarettes, because they’re being sold to everyone, not just smokers.Report

      • Vapor isn’t smoke and this isn’t smoking. We know what makes cigarettes deadly: tar. These have no tar.

        While it isn’t smoking, the appeal it has to non-smokers is quite limited. The most aggressive estimates I’ve seen are that 10% of vapers are non-smokers. According to the UK report cited in the OP, non-smokers (and long-term ex-smokers) taking up vaping is “extremely rare.” We may want to keep it that way, which would be a reason to restrict advertising, but not much more than that.

        And if non-smokers who pick up an ecigarette when they would otherwise pick up a cigarette, that itself would be a public health win. We can’t assume that all of them would never pick up a cigarette if vaping were unavailable as new smokers (smoke smokers) are created every day (though fortunately, at lower rates than previous).

        To get back to the initial point, though, there is no smoke and there is no tar. The number of carcinogens in ejuice is a fraction (10-450 times lower) of that in tobacco products. The only tobacco in these things is extracted nicotine (and there are nicotine-free options) and the primary ingredients (PG/VG) are approved by the FDA for food. The harms of vapor are, at this point, largely theoretical. This is all something to keep an eye on, but not a good application of the precautionary principleReport

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        It’s not just tar that makes cigarettes deadly (joints don’t have tar, and they’re carcinogenic as well). The tar is terrible for your lungs, but they’d still be carcinogenic without it, and lung cancer is one of the big killers.

        The points in your last paragraph are good ones, though.Report

      • @KatherineMW
        Totally hypothetical unknown long term effects are the hallmark of those fearmongers that insist on promoting their ideology, when all scientific evidence contradicts their assumptions.

        With this kind of reasoning you can promote the prohibition of anything at all. Take a good look at http://dhmo.org/facts.html. I checked: Those facts are listed as truthfully as a lot of facts about e-cigs are presented by the FDA etc.. With all those potential dangers it would be prudent to ban DHMO. Right?

        Actually all the components of the vapor have been inhaled by people all over the world for years. Don’t you think, adverse effects from longterm exposure would have been known by now?
        – propylene glycol, glycerin: Theatrical fog (disco, concerts, opera)
        – food flavorings: Cooking
        – nicotine: alone it can’t possibly be worse than smoking. And it has been tested excessively for years: It’s definitely NOT carcinogenic.

        As Porky Pig says: That’s all, folks.

        At least that should be all. But look at what some pharma firm puts additionally in their FDA approved NRT product: Quickmist vs. e-cig

        Can you restict the sale of beer to those who were drinking moonshine?
        Since you can’t, you want to prohibit beer, because you can’t ban moonshine.
        Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

        Since you also can’t really prevent a non-smoker from trying something new, you are promoting that he will have no alternative to the classic garanteed harmful tobacco smoke.

        And you are also saying that the health and general well-being of millions of current vapers and the future of billions of smokers is negligible compared the hypothtical one non-smoker who start vaping but never would have started smoking.

        Look at it from this perspective and you’ll see that your good intentions really are very cynic and dehumanizing towards a vast number of people.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        Your comparisons to beer and moonshine don’t make any sense. I’m not calling for the banning of e-cigarettes and nothing in my posts even suggests that position. You’re arguing against a position that nobody here has taken.

        The discussion here is whether e-cigarettes should face the same restrictions as cigarettes or fewer restrictions, and what specific restrictions are justifiable. All I have said is that it’s understandable to want to retain similar controls to those on cigarettes in the short term until we’re clear about the health risks, given that any study done by, funded by, or involving the tobacco companies is – based on their previous actions – obviously illegitimate.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Will Truman says:

        Oh, and I got the DHMO thing in Grade 8 science class and realized it was talking about water almost immediately. That’s really old, shallow, and overused.Report

      • There’s no indication that the tobacco companies have funded the applicable studies. The tobacco companies aren’t the drivers here. They’re jumpers on the bandwagon. Only one of the three major producers of ecigarettes are traditional tobacco companies. I expect that to change, but all things being equal they’d probably prefer these things didn’t exist and if these things were to actually be proven to be just as dangerous as cigarettes, that would probably benefit them. As things stand, instead of buying cigarettes from a cigarette company, I am buying juice from a guy in Florida. Further, regulating these things like tobacco would almost certainly benefit them because it would provide substantial barriers to competition and they have institutional advantages. The guy in Florida would have difficulty navigating the regulatory landscape.Report

      • @katherinemw
        “It’s not a ban” is what the zealots and industry “friendly” politicians here in the EU keep on repeating.

        But severe restrictions and “regulations” that will effectively prohibit the majority on the current market and leave only mostly useless, unsatisfying junk to be sold, works just like a ban.

        That’s the situation we have here. And all in the name of health, precaution and of course “protection of the children”. What a bunch of hypocrites. So, please excuse me, if I tend to get cynical when I read these words that I have learned to associate with prohibitionistic crap talk.

        Tobacco smoke is about as dangerous as the dubious moonshine (methanol) that was sold and consumed during the prohibition. E-cigs are probably less dangerous than one beer in the evening.

        Well, the DHMO text really has about the same scientific value as a lot of publications by the FDA and “experts” like Glantz. Like our own german “scientific” nemesis DKFZ – German Cancer Research Center.

        We are still fighting to get a reasonable regulation in the EU, that is based on science and input from us consumers, not just big industry and arrogant/ignorant ideology. It’s the European Citizens Initiative EFVI.
        That’s a tough one, not just “yet another petition”: We need at least one million verified support statements from european citizens to get the ball rolling. So, if you know any EU citizens, please ask them to sign, too.Report

      • @norbert-zillatron This may be of interest to you: http://hitcoffee.com/file/5699/Report

  14. I pretty much agree with the OP in its entirety. The only reason I would support prohibitive regulation is if it can be demonstrated that ecig’s cause harm. Even then, I’d be wary of many of the possible regulations.Report