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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vaping: Not Enough Science? or Smoking: Too Much "Old Technology"

I've attached a graphic taken from the Washington Post on e-cigarettes.

It shows some remarkable things.

For one, there is a significant drop in high school students smoking; particularly from 2013 to 2014 (you can find the details in this CDC report).

If you couple this with my post about the drop in cigarette tax revenue revenue it would seem that use of cigarettes by young people is definitely dropping by a substantial amount.

However, the uninformed look at only the increases in e-cigarette use.  The result is a weird but not unexpected panic (some example comments from this NYT article - underline's mine):

"Do people who use Ecigs really and truly want to quit smoking? I mean, if nicorette gum, the patch or cold turkey didn't do the trick, Ecigs won't either."

"What does the New York Times and this reporter plan to do to ensure that interview subjects for articles are not hoaxing them?"

"The tobacco industry is criminal. It should be outlawed and all the profits accumulated should be confiscated to pay for healthcare since it has caused so much illness."

And from the NYT article: "[ the CDC ] warned that e-cigarettes were undoing years of progress among the country’s most vulnerable citizens by making the act of puffing on a tobacco product normal again, and by introducing nicotine, an addictive substance, to a broad population of teenagers." and "CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.”"

The same data from the above right chart is matched here in the NYT article at the left - except there is a little more detail.

Interestingly only Hookahs and E-cigarettes increased while cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, tobacco pipes and cigars not only decreased but have been decreasing for the last few years.

If you read the CDC article it looks like, on the Middle Schoolers chart (above right), that each 1% is about 140,000 students.   So does that mean all these hundreds of thousands of middle school kids are are now hooked on nicotine?

Well according to Bill Godshall of Smoke Free Pennsylvania the CDC falsely classifies all e-cigs and hookah as “tobacco products” (as many e-cig and shisha products contain no nicotine) to exaggerate use of nicotine containing e-cigs and hookah, to falsely claim tobacco use increased

So it seems extremely likely that fewer people are actually consuming nicotine.  In fact, its possible that the total number of nicotine users is declining as well.

So let's think about Tom Frieden's comments...

Today virtually all consumption of nicotine by adolescence is done via tobacco.  Now, as many vapers know, nicotine in vaping and nicotine when mixed with whole tobacco alkaloids behave somewhat differently.  Similarly there are many studies that point to the fact that nicotine alone, i.e., without the tobacco alkaloids, is not addictive (see this older post).

So his comments are truly disingenuous because clearly he is comparing apples (nicotine) and oranges (tobacco).

And, by the way, since all the ANTZ including Mr. Frieden know that its too early (there's not enough science, etc. etc.) to tell if vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking then, by this same reasoning, it must also be too early to assume that pure nicotine without tobacco is as bad as tobacco burning (obviously there's not enough science...!!!!)

Not enough science for vaping to be healthier than smoking?

Then how can there be enough science to know that nicotine without tobacco is as bad as tobacco?

So now let's turn to how someone under 18 gets access to vaping...

According to the NYT article:  "... a junior at a private school in Pennsylvania, said he used to ask seniors who were 18 to buy him e-cigarettes at convenience stores, but now he has equipment and buys his liquids on the Internet.

“You can just go online and click yes,” he said. He has used e-cigarettes to quit smoking..."

So apparently this kid has a credit card of some sort.

I wonder where he got it from...?

Its awfully difficult to get if you're not 18.

So perhaps, just perhaps, someone else is complicit in this "junior" accessing ecigs online while underage.

Another under age kids said: "Some teenagers described vaping as an entirely different culture from cigarette smoking, and scoffed at the idea that it could be a way into cigarettes."

What all this sounds like is that Mr. Frieden wants to stay in the past with his "burning tobacco" while todays youth wants to move on.

After all today's kids are much more technologically adept than "old people" and so why should they continue to use great great grandpa's nicotine delivery system when modern technology has provided a much more efficient and safer one?

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