Category Archives: FDA

Samantha Bee: Big Tobacco and Little Vape — and a criticism of “Full Frontal”

Full Frontal
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

This is a really funny and fairly sympathetic piece done by Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” about the new Food and Drug Administration regulations and its effect on the vaping industry. The piece did miss one big point about the vaping industry, however.

The proposed regs, while missing a lot of important proposals anti-tobacco advocates wanted, like curbs on marketing and Internet sales, would require all vaping products to individually go through a lengthy approval process. Vaping advocates say this would cripple if not completely wipe out the vaping industry because the costs to go through this process would be so onerous. The FDA itself estimates that between 30 percent to 70 percent of e-cig businesses may be forced to go out of business due to the new regulations.

Full Frontal visited a vaping conference and did have a good time poking fun at vapers. For instance, Samantha Bee sends a correspondent to the conference rather than go herself because she doesn’t want to be around vapers, then the correspondent immediately runs out the door as soon as she encounters e-cigarette steam blown in her face. However, the show was fair to e-cigs and did acknowledge that some studies have shown that vaping is far less dangerous than smoking.

full frontal 2

One thing I honestly learned from the segment is that there is a pretty distinct actual honest-to-goodness “vaping culture,” that at least according to the show, has a counter-culture edge. Sort of like cigar culture only with lots of piercings, I suppose. I never realized this culture existed, though, as I thought about it, some of the e-cig proponents I’ve dealt with online are almost messianic in their defence of e-cigarettes.

One thing the Full Frontal segment did get wrong, however, (and they got this like … really wrong), was that suggesting that Big Tobacco has “struggled to compete” in the e-cigarette market. That’s really not true. Vuse E-Cigs (35 percent market share, Blu E-Cigs (23 percent) and MarkTen (16 percent), the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 e-cig brands on the market, are actually wholly-owned subsidiaries of RJ Reynolds, Imperial Tobacco Group and Altria (Philip Morris). In fact, these three brands represent a combined 74 percent of the e-cig market. Seventy-four percent is hardly “struggling to compete.”

Yeah, maybe Big Tobacco wants to crush all the smaller makers through FDA regulations (Though, Altria has expressed its opposition to the FDA regulations), but if that’s the case, the real story is the tobacco industry is already deeply entrenched in and dominating the e-cig industry. Will these regulations help Big Tobacco dominate it even more? Full Frontal didn’t even mention that Big Tobacco owns the three most dominant e-cigarette brands and I really think the show either missed or ignored that dynamic between Big Tobacco and e-cigarettes.

FDA finally issues ruling on e-cigarettes

teen using ecig

At long last, after TWO years of deliberations, the Food and Drug Administration earlier this week FINALLY issued a ruling on e-cigarette (and tobacco) regulation.

Unfortunately, this came at a time when I was really busy, plus I wanted to take a few days to digest the news.

My initial reaction to the news was disappointment that the FDA will do nothing to control e-cigarette marketing, online sales or candy flavourings. The biggest obvious change is the sale of e-cig products to minors will be banned. However, over 40 states already ban e-cig sales to minors, so this ruling is a bit cosmetic.

However, then I started reading comments from the e-cigarette industry absolutely FREAKING OUT over these regs, and I started thinking, “wow, if the e-cigarette industry is so pissed off, the regs can’t be that bad.”

081815_mr_ecigs-teens_free

It turns out the FDA ruling is pretty complex, and I’m personally still sifting through it to see what it means, and I fully expect to be writing more posts about this over the next several weeks and months. I saw several headlines that screamed, “E-cigarettes virtually banned.” Here’s what they’re talking about and what turns out might be the biggest effect of this ruling: The FDA will require that all tobacco products (which under the FDA definition includes e-cigs even though they don’t actually contain tobacco — they do contain nicotine) that hit the market since 2007 must be individually approved by the FDA. E-cigs were basically non-existent before 2007, so this affects nearly all e-cig products.

From a USA Today article:

               That means nearly every e-cigarette on the market — and every different flavor and nicotine level — would require a separate application for federal approval. Each application could cost $1 million or more, says Jeff Stier, an e-cigarette advocate with the National Center for Public Policy Research and industry officials.

One million dolalrs each for every flavour? Holy cow, on the face of it, that would cripple the industry. Sure enough, industry leaders are incensed.

From a CNN story:

Ray Story, the founder and CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, called the ruling “a complete disaster.” Since 2009, his association has advocated for a change in the law that would require age verification and restrict sales to minors.

“No children should have access to these products. Just like with alcohol, these are adult products,” he said.

What he takes issue with is the FDA requirement for approval on the products, down to the batteries. He said the rule “essentially bans the product across the land.”

Also, from a USA Today commentary, titled the “FDA went too far”:

 E-cigarette shouldn’t be sold to minors, and government should restrict advertising so they aren’t marketed to kids. But the FDA’s drastic overstep today will require e-cigarettes not already on the market by February 2007 to undergo a costly and onerous Premarket Tobacco Application process that holds e-cigarettes to a standard nearly impossible to prove, and one that well-established actual cigarettes don’t have to face.

               By the way, this commentary was actually written by Jeff Stier, who is from an organization called the National Center for Public Policy Research, which is described by Wikipedia as a “conservative think tank.” These are the same kind of “think tanks” that claimed for decades that there was no proof that smoking caused lung cancer or that secondhand smoke was completely harmless. If that wasn’t convincing enough … the National Center for Public Policy Research actually receives some of its funding from Big Tobacco and Big E-Cig (Which is rapidly becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Tobacco). So take this hyperbole with as many grains of salt as you please. I take it was  LOT of grains of salt.

e-cigarette

Now, it could be these industry folks are being hyperbolic as hell. I remember back in the day everyone thought the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement was going to be the death of Big Tobacco. But, I love that the e-cig industry is freaking out. GOOD. They deserve to freak out.

Here’s why. I walk a fine line with e-cigs. I get it that e-cigs genuinely help some people get off cigarettes. There’s mixed data about the effectiveness of e-cigs as a tool for smoking cessation. But, I’ve seen enough anecdotal information online about people praising them for helping to get them off cigarettes to believe that they have a genuine value.

However, here is the problem with e-cigs. It has been painfully clear to people actually paying attention that e-cigs are blatantly marketing their products to kids … using actors dressed up as race car drivers, using women’s panties, even using Santa Clause … to sell e-cigs. Jesus …even Santa Clause? Big Tobacco did this kind of stuff 60 years ago, heck they were still using race car imagery with Joe Camel as recently as 20 years ago.

vaping-girl

They’re using this hip, young, active, savvy, sexy imagery to addict teenagers to nicotine. For all of the benefits of e-cigs, and it appears there are some real benefits, it’s still a delivery system for nicotine. And nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. And people still don’t know what all is in e-cigarette steam. We know it contains formaldehyde and another chemical called diacetyl, which causes a disease known as “popcorn lung.”

From another very well-written USA Today editorial, this written by the USA Today editorial board of directors, appropriate titled “FDA takes e-cigs out of ‘wild West'”:

               Once before, the nation let an addictive product get by with little regulation. By the time the surgeon general first warned of cigarettes’ deadly dangers in 1964, about four in 10 Americans were already hooked. It has taken more than 50 years and a costly war on smoking to cut that adult rate in half and to bring teen smoking down to about 9%.

No wonder the government and public health advocates are wary of these new “vaping” products, which also contain nicotine, and some of which are made by the same companies that brought the nation Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.

While advocates for e-cigarettes talk about their potential upside in the future — getting smokers to quit —  they seldom acknowledge the facts on the ground right now: E-cig use among teenagers is exploding. Last year, 16% of high school students used e-cigarettes at least once in the past month, making the devices more popular than traditional cigarettes among teens, according to a national survey by the federal government. That’s up from 1.5% in 2011 — an astounding rise.

Promoters argue that teens are switching to a safer product. Great if true. But some earlier data show that many teens who use e-cigarettes have not smoked traditional cigarettes before. Exactly how many fit that description now is a key question that researchers need to sort out.

Industry players also underscore that their products are only for adults. Their advertising says otherwise: The women who vape are sexy and glamorous, the men rugged and rebellious, the very themes that attracted generations of teens to traditional cigarettes. In stores, e-cigarettes are sold above ice cream freezers, next to candy and in flavors that include Cherry Crush and Gummy Bear. About 85% of youths who had used e-cigs in the past 30 days used ones that were flavored.

Game. Set. Match. Thank you, USA Today.

These rules will not go into effect immediately. I was initially deeply disappointed in the lack of regs over e-cig marketing (I believe the FDA was wary of going here because of fears over First Amendment lawsuits, and guess what, if the FDA loses a First Amendment lawsuit over e-cigs, that might affect the federal government’s ability to regulate marketing of cigarettes.). I don’t get as worked up about the candy flavouring because so many adult users have told me they like the sweet flavours, too, but I know a lot of anti-tobacco advocates hate that e-cigs are allowed to have sugary flavours.

But, this subtle little language about requiring all e-cig products to be approved by the FDA might reel in this out-of-control industry, which is selling a drug and is selling an addictive drug … to kids … with a wink and a nod … “Moi? Not us!”

Now, there is apparently legislation in Congress to push up this 2007 date and grandfather current e-cig products so they wouldn’t require individual review by the FDA. Golly wonder whose lobbyists might be behind that? I hope Obama and any other future Democratic president vetoes any such legislation that reaches his or her desk. The e-cig industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, about 40 percent of which is actually owned by Big Tobacco. It can damn well pony up to have its products approved fair and square.

I will be posting more on this, I promise, as the story develops.

 

 

 

Bills would cut CDC funding for smoking prevention; limit FDA review of e-cigs, candy cigars

rogers

I wasn’t even aware these bills were out there until I saw this recent editorial from The Hill.

There are two bills floating through Congress that would cut more than 50 percent of the funding for a Centers for Disease Control program to prevent kids from taking up smoking and for helping them to quit once they’ve started.

The second bill is even more heinous. It would restrict the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight over e-cigarettes and candy-flavoured cigars., including oversight over new tobacco products.

Gosh, I wonder who is lobbying for both of these bills?

Even though the editorial doesn’t get into partisanship, it’s also pretty obvious to me that these are likely both Republican-sponsored bills. Why they would want to cut funding for tobacco education and prevention is beyond me. I have no doubt the people behind these bills are receiving campaign contributions from Big Tobacco. It’s so cynical. And 77 percent of Big Tobacco’s political contributions go toward Republicans.

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Fortunately, even though these provisions have been approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, I doubt that either bill will become law, as long as a Democrat is in the White House. But, what a waste of time and energy to be even be proposed such ridiculous ideas.

The FDA is expected to release rules and regulations — eventually, one of these days — regarding e-cigarettes.

FDA blocks four new RJ Reynolds brands, including Camel Crush Bold

Camel brush bold

This is a really interesting story.

The Food and Drug Administration, which for the most part has taken a pretty milquetoast approach to administering tobacco products ever since the agency was given regulatory authority over nicotine, just banned four new RJ Reynolds brands.

RJ Reynolds, long known to tobacco control advocates as the truly sleaziest tobacco company out there, will be forced to pull the brands — Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13   — and to stop selling them because they are new “formulations.” (Camel Crush Bold is the only one I’m familiar with.).

One part of the problem with the new brands is that one of them had a new delivery system of adding menthol to the tobacco, while RJ Reynolds resisted the FDA on providing information on the sweeteners and formulations of the new brands. From the NBC News article:

The FDA said the Camel Crush product has a little capsule of menthol in the filter that’s new. After “considerable back and forth” R.J. Reynolds was unable to show that the menthol capsule didn’t change the product’s risk and didn’t change how consumer might view the brand. As for the Pall Mall products, the company wouldn’t give FDA enough information about sweeteners and other flavors added to the cigarettes, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told reporters.

Retailers have 30 days to remove these brands from theirs shelves. After 30 days, the FDA has the power to simply seize them from the shelves.

From NBC News:

“Today’s decision sets an important precedent that almost certainly will apply to other brands. The FDA’s action is a critical step in preventing the introduction of tobacco products that may be more appealing to youth, more addictive or more harmful,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.

“Tobacco manufacturers have a long history of continually modifying their products to make them more attractive and more addictive and introducing new brands and styles designed to appeal to specific segments of the market, including children. These tactics have been spectacularly successful in attracting new smokers, most of whom are children, and in discouraging current smokers from quitting.”

The FDA recently cracked down on RJ Reynolds for labeling its “American Spirit” brand of cigarettes as a “natural” cigarette. The agency is still holding off on regulations regarding e-cigarettes. Advocates have been waiting for months for the FDA to finally release final regs on e-cigs. So far, the agency has only proposed to disallow the sale of e-cigs to minors, which is already banned in most states. Tobacco control advocates want the FDA to ban Internet sales of e-cigs, crack down on e-cig marketing obviously directed at teens and ban sugary, fruity flavours of e-cigs.

 

 

FDA: End of the line for so-called “natural” and “additive-free” tobacco products

American Spirit
Not any more “Natural” than any other brand.

Awesome story. The Food and Drug Administration told RJ Reynolds and other cigarette companies to stop it with their false advertising about “natural tobacco” cigarette products — this includes the infamous “American Spirit” brand of cigarettes.

American Spirit claims to be a “natural, additive-free” cigarette brand. A lot of people believe these are Native-made cigarettes, but in fact, American Spirit is a wholly owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds, makers of Camel cigarettes and plenty of other nasty-ass brands. It’s all a big show that has fooled many people.

From an NBC article:

“The FDA has determined that these products, described as ‘natural’ and ‘additive-free’ on their labeling, need an FDA modified risk tobacco product order before they can be legally introduced as such into interstate commerce,” the agency said in a statement.

“The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like ‘additive-free’ and ‘natural’ pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“This action is a milestone, and a reminder of how we use the tools of science-based regulation to protect the U.S. public from the harmful effects of tobacco use.”

This affects a couple of other brands, but American Spirit is the most high-profile. This has been yet again one of Big Tobacco’s big lies. That somehow tobacco brands with fewer additives are “natural” and (hint, hint) without actually coming right out and saying so, because coming right out and saying so would be incredibly @#$%ing illegal, they’re some safer or healthier.

Lucky Strike cigarette ad 1940s

Nope, nope, nope, nothing could be further from the truth. These brands (two others I hadn’t heard of previously are Nat Sherman and ITG) are NOT safer and do NOT contain fewer additives. Many years ago, Big Tobacco kept trying to find sneaky and dishonest ways to market their products as somehow being safer or “approved by doctors.” The industry’s lies about these ads was long ago exposed. The whole “natural” and “additive-free” lie is using the same techniques as the old “four out of five doctors approve Camels” ads from the 1940s and 1950s.

The FDA several years ago was given regulatory authority over tobacco and specifically nicotine by a bill signed by Barack Obama. That authority gives the FDA the authority to control the marketing of cigarette products. The whole “natural, additive-free” fight has been a thorn in the side of tobacco control advocates for years. And now, it appears the FDA isn’t screwing around and cracking down.

By the same token, I believe the FDA could use this same power to crack down on the marketing of e-cigs, since they are likewise a nicotine product.

As an aside, several years ago, a really angry email from me actually convinced Discovery Magazine to drop “American Spirit” ads from its magazine. A reminder that giving a damn can make a real difference sometimes.

What is taking the FDA so long to make a decision on e-cigarettes?

man late looking to his watch
Oh God, I’ve finally resorted to using lame clip art. I’ve gone to the Dark Side.

The other day, I was wondering, “what the hell is going on with the Food and Drug Administration and e-cigarettes, it’s been forever since I last heard.”

So, a quick Google and found stories stating that I’m not the only one out there wondering, “what the hell?”

Over a year ago, the FDA released its proposed regulations for e-cigarettes. The agency received so many comments about the draft regs that the comment period was extended. Over a year later, we’re still waiting for a response.

TIME.com stock photos
TIME.com stock photos

The FDA did one right thing in its draft regulations, which was to ban all e-cig sales to minors (42 states have already banned e-cig sales to minors, but this is not slowing their popularity with kids.). However, in the draft regs, the agency completely punted on regulating sugary candy flavours for e-cigs (Even though the FDA banned sugary, candy-flavoured cigarettes) and ignored regulating e-cig marketing (Again … even though the federal government has strict guidelines for tobacco advertising, like no more Joe Camels.).

Many of the comments the FDA received were outrage over the lack of regs over flavourings and marketing. I’m not sure how to read the long delay for the final regs, I’d like to think it’s taking so long because they’re making a lot of changes, but I’m not that naive to think a federal agency is actually going to listen to the public.).

Last week, 31 public health organizations urged the FDA to stop dawdling and taking action. In the past year since the FDA has been working on the final version of the regulations, teen e-cigarette use has skyrocketed (It literally has more than tripled since 2013, which is hard to believe.). These groups agree that regs regarding marketing and flavouring need to be stronger than what was in the draft rules (I feel very strongly that the feds need to crack down on the out-of-control Joe Camelesque advertising for e-cigs, and I’m starting to feel more strongly about them banning the candy flavours, too.):

From a Time.com article:

The medical groups say cigar and e-cigarette brands are using marketing tactics that they feel appeal directly to young people, like promoting candy and fruit-flavored products, and they want regulations to put an end to it.

“It’s no wonder use of e-cigarettes by youth has skyrocketed,” the letter reads. “This process has already taken far too long. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to target our kids with a new generation of tobacco products.”

 

“My concern is always the first-time users,” says Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s bad it took so long to make a dent in [conventional] tobacco users, and we are now starting something else, and we are just waiting and waiting and waiting. We don’t have the data that e-cigarettes are a gateway [to other tobacco products], so we just wait. It should not be like that.”

Noted tobacco control advocate Stanton Glantz sounds like he’s in the same boat with me about the FDA, given the agency’s track record so far with tobacco. (The FDA gained regulatory control over tobacco products in 2009.)

“Given that the White House has blocked eliminating menthol from cigarettes for years despite strong evidence—including from the FDA’s own analysis that doing so would protect public health—I am not holding my breath,” Glantz said.

I mean, I expected the FDA to begin actually regulating nicotine when it took over tobacco regulation six years ago, and other than banning candy flavours  for cigarettes and bidis, it hasn’t done all that much with nicotine. This agency moves glacially slow. It’s frustrating.

The Real Cost of Smoking extremely gross and hopefully effective anti-smoking campaign

real cost of smoking
Oh, God, he’s actually going to pull out one of his teeth.

Wow, I saw an anti-smoking commercial this week that literally just made me cringe.

It’s from a campaign called “the Real Cost of Smoking.” In this ad, a guy goes to the counter to buy a pack of menthols and the clerk looks at his money and says, “that’s not enough.”

What does the guy do? He pulled out a pair of pliers and literally yanks out one of his teeth and drops it on the counter. “Oh, man …. I did not actually just see that,” was my reaction. I’ve seen it a few times since and every time, I look away … and I don’t even smoke. I can’t imagine how cringe-worthy the ad is for smokers to watch, which I suppose is the actual point.

The commercial goes on to say that smoking menthols causes gum damage.

cigarettes-skin-hed-2014
In this ad, a teenaged girl pulls the skin off her cheek.

There’s another “The Real Cost of Smoking” ad I saw a few weeks ago that’s almost as gross. A young woman goes to the counter in this one, the clerk likewise says, “that’s not enough,” and she peels the skin off her cheek and drops it on the counter. The point being that smoking causes skin damage.

These ads are actually from the Food and Drug Administration. These are the kind of ads I would expect from Truth.org but not the federal government. These are the first anti-smoking ads from the FDA, and they’re obviously taking a cue from Truth.org to create intense anti-smoking ads.

Anyway, here is the tooth-pulling ad. Watch it. If you dare.

 

FDA study: Cigars are not safer than cigarettes

 

APTOPIX Cuba Cigar Festival

This story actually surprised me a little bit, because prior studies had suggested that cigarettes were actually more dangerous than cigars because cigarette tobacco is a different kind of tobacco from cigar tobacco, and it is also cured differently. Allan Brandt also talked about this somewhat in his excellent book, “The Cigarette Century.”

(Part of where this idea comes from is people smoked cigars all through the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that there was a huge uptick in lung cancer cases — roughly about 30 years after cigarettes started becoming popular in the early 1900s.)

cigar

The latest study done by the FDA contradicts this notion, showing no tangible difference in the danger from cigarette smoke and cigar smoke.

 

From a Medical Daily article:

“The results reinforce the fact that cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking,” lead researcher from the FDA Cindy Chang said in a statement. “Cigar smoking is linked to fatal oral, esophageal, pancreatic, laryngeal, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease and aortic aneurysm.”

Chang and her colleagues combed through 22 studies from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland that focused on cigar smoking, smoking-related mortality, and all-cause mortality. The studies focused primarily on white men from North America and Europe in the 1960s or earlier. Researchers assessed the health risks for cigar smokers and compared them to people with no history of cigarette smoking or people who have never used tobacco.

People who smoked only cigars and had never smoked any other tobacco products still stood a higher risk for all-cause mortality. Risk for death caused by oral, esophageal, and lung cancers increased significantly after a person started smoking cigars, even if they reported not inhaling cigar smoke. People who smoked cigarettes before picking up cigars were at a significantly higher risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to those who smoked cigars exclusively.

I found some other links that state that cigarettes do seem to be more dangerous as far as causing COPD than just cigars.

What’s worrisome about this story is that cigar use is up — wayyy up. I believe part of the reason why is people are thinking cigars are safer than cigarettes. (The increase in cigar use has correlated with a sharp decline in smoking.) Cigar use has doubled in the U.S. from 6.2 billion in 2000 to 13.7 billion in 2011.

One thing to keep in mind about cigars is that they contain considerably more tobacco than a cigarette. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one cigar contains as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. So, even if you just smoke one cigar a day, you’re consuming as much tobacco as 20 cigarettes.

E-cig legislative roundup: Possible ban on e-cig sales to minors in Montana; Michigan governor vetoes e-cig bills; Island of Hawaii bans e-cigs in public places

PAY-Young-girl-smoking-an-electronic-cigarette

A bill was introduced during this session of the Montana State Legislature to ban e-cigarette sales to minors. I find this is a tad odd because the Food and Drug Administration is considering rules to ban e-cigarette sales to minors nationwide. However, I have no idea what the timeline is for those final FDA rules — it could be another year or more. The FDA draft rules released several months ago generated 135,000 comments which the FDA is still sorting through.

According to this Independent story on the bill, Montana is just one of 10 states in the country that still allows e-cigarette sales to minors. This story is pretty sympathetic to a local vaping store. The owner claims that he will sell e-cigarettes to kids under 18 only if they have a permission slip from their parent and that he never sells nicotine products to kids. (Colour me cynical …. but my bullshit alarm was going off somewhat on that one. In any case, I’ve seen plenty of kids buying e-cig products pretty easily at Montana minimarts, all this guy has to do is sell the inhaler.)

“I do know of quite a few kids that have curtailed their [tobacco] habit or quit it all together by replacing it with something that’s not nearly as harmful as the tobacco products,” said store co-owner Mark Townsend.

Well, maybe, but again, my bullshit alarm is going off. The data is pretty sketchy about whether or not e-cigs help people quit smoking. I can believe for a 20- or 30-year smoker who has tried everything else, why not use e-cigarettes to quit? But, where the store owner is wrong is studies have shown that more kids are using e-cigs now rather than cigarettes not to quit smoking, but because they are easy to get and kids have been given the idea they’re harmless. They’re going straight to e-cigs to begin with. And that’s nicotine. And that’s still turning them into nicotine junkies.

Anyway, according to Alex Clark, legislative director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, his group has a concern with language in the bill lumping e-cigarettes in with tobacco products. Clarks calls this “an intentional, almost politically motivated mischaracterization.” The whole issue of lumping e-cigs in with tobacco products is pretty controversial, as we will see in Michigan.

Michigan bills vetoed

Gov. Rick Snyder this week vetoed bills regulating e-cigarettes and it sounds like a good thing, because it sounded like some sneaky kind of pro-e-cigarette industry end-around. I don’t have all the details, but one of the problems with these bills is they specifically designated e-cigs as a non-tobacco product, but would exclude other non-tobacco nicotine products from this definition (like nicotine gum or other types of inhalers, I assume). The legislation would have banned e-cig sales to minors. Like I said earlier, this is happening soon on a national level anyway.

Snyder vetoed the bills, saying the bills did not go far enough and would have just created confusion about e-cig regulation when the FDA is addressing this on a federal level. It’s telling to me that health organizations praised the vetoes, while the loudest critic was a Republican legislator, which makes me suspicious about what his real motives are.

“We need to make sure that e-cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices are regulated in the best interest of public health,” Snyder said in a statement. “It’s important that these devices be treated like tobacco products and help people become aware of the dangers e-cigarettes pose.”

According to this story, the Michigan State Medical Society, which represents 15,000 doctors, praised Snyder.

“These bills would have been a giant step backwards, and Gov. Snyder was wise to veto them,” said James Grant, M.D., the group’s president.

Hawaii bans e-cigs in public places

The Island of Hawaii (not the whole state, just the Big Island), recently passed an ordinance banning e-cigs in public places islandwide. Essentially, e-cigs will be treated the same as cigarettes. Not only can you not use an e-cig in a bar or a restaurant, but they are banned at beaches and parks. (Maybe a bit much since e-cigs don’t have the littering issue that cigarettes have.)

More and more cities are banning e-cigs in public places as people simply don’t trust that the steam from e-cigs is completely benign. I don’t think there is a statewide public ban on e-cigs yet, but I like that they are getting people’s attention.

CNN report on the rise of e-cigarettes among teens — “Are e-cigs really the Wild West?”

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CNN did a piece Dec. 31 (Hey, the report includes that sucky Blu ad I hate with the racecar-driving Stephen Dorff).

When asked by CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow if e-cigs are “really the Wild West,” Mitchell Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products, responds, “Absolutely. They are currently unregulated.” Zeller goes on to say, “it took us way too long to get the proposed rule out.”

That “proposed rule” Zeller is referring to are FDA regulations being developed to govern the sale of e-cigs. Unfortunately, as they currently stand, those regulations pretty much only do one thing — ban the sale of e-cig products to kids under 18. That’s a good start, but other than that, nothing of substance. No control over that flashy, sexy e-cigarette advertising and no controls over the sugary and fruity nicotine flavours. I know the FDA is getting pressured to crack down on e-cig marketing and candy flavours, but who knows if their final rules will change from the draft the agency released a few months ago.

Zeller was also asked if the recent boom in e-cig use by kids threatens to create a whole new generation of nicotine addicts. (Nicotine is not the most toxic substance in cigarettes, but it is shockingly physically addictive.)

Wow, I didn’t know this. There are actually cotton candy and Gummy Bear e-cigarette flavours. Harlow asks a tobacco industry lobbyist if he could defend those kinds of flavours and even a lobbyist said he can’t.

“I wouldn’t go into a member of Congress’ office and say we need to protect candy-like flavours,” said tobacco lobbyist John Scofield.

Not real new information for me, but I’m glad to see CNN jumping on this story.