I’ve been watching and reading the newsfeeds and publications again. Whew! What a wild couple of weeks it has been.

Tobacco Companies support E-cig regulation…

The largest tobacco companies on the planet want regulation of vapor products? They are the reason that e-cigarettes exist!

First the surgeon general said smoking was bad, which is true. Smokers began trying to quit. When most weren’t able to cold-turkey we got “help” from Big Pharma with their version of nicotine replacement. Upping the ante, government made smokers a social pariah by banning it nearly everywhere and taxing tobacco to fill their coffers while insurance companies raised rates. Then Big Pharma comes out with Wellbutrin and Chantix. With a pile of money on the table organizations became addicted to the money they could make on smokers. All the while Big Tobacco is raking in steady earnings, taking advantage of every turn to adjust prices, bend advertising rules and keep smokers smoking.

Finally a young pharmacist in China who smoked, after losing his father to cancer, invents a solution that finally addresses the behavioral and nicotine issues giving smokers a new option. It takes off like wildfire. But, not being invented by Big Pharma or Big Tobacco, it becomes a target for them, enlisting the aid of their “enemies” who are now hopelessly dependent on tobacco tax $$$, a disinformation campaign develops to discredit and discourage the use of e-cigarettes and regulate them nearly out-of-existence except for the ones Big Tobacco has bought control of. And with Big Tobacco’s track record of making a safe and effective product they want the FDA to regulate in their favor? Really? Is anyone buying their bovine scatology?

Part of our fight is going to be to keep vapor products out of the hands of big tobacco and big pharma. Their attachment to the product is not a healthy one and, as shown by RJ Reynolds submission to the FDA on the Deeming Regulation, downright profiteering. I don’t trust them and neither should anyone who vapes.

New York City wants to ban flavored e-cigs…

Another one of the more ludicrous ideas was put forward by Costa Constantinides this week. This esteemed representative of the people of New York City wants to ban flavored e-cigarettes. Clearly he has no clue whatsoever about the market or technicalities surrounding the product. He’s just another pawn in the game of cronies who’s been duped into believing that flavors target children. I’ve said it before to the Congressional HELP committee: Flavors are not the exclusive province of children. The notion that something flavored a particular way entices children, especially when it is illegal to obtain it under age is such a bald face non-sequiter that it would normally get dismissed out-of-hand. But we are dealing with zealots infected to the bone with ideas which have a high emotional value and a low to negative scientific or reason value. Having dealt with the power of such emotional beliefs for a living (I am a trauma/surgical nurse) I know just how hard it is to engage reason against these ideas. For all the fancy theory put forward in education communities, I’ve found nothing works faster than grabbing ’em by the wallet or the wanker. Money or sex will get past the barriers of emotion real fast, but you’ve got to have something to hold that attention. Apparently the notion that you’d be saving up to 7,000 lives a year doesn’t register yet.

Before I got this to press it appears two more cities are considering a flavor ban, Santa Clara in California and Ashland in Massachusetts. I sense our good friends at Change Lab Solutions are up to their old tricks again. If you’ve ever wondered why the language in anti-ecig bills looks so similar, they are the reason why.

The block war continues…

Public health officials growing tired of listening to the rants of ticked off vapers have taken to blocking them from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Clive Bates covered the reason vapers are so angry and made a great plea for them to listen. I added what I could along with a few others. Nearly all of us are blocked now. Seems another area where emotions have won out over reason.

Here’s the thing… We want a reasoned argument. We are willing to listen to well thought out positions and work together. Heck we’ve got some folks attempting to fund research to figure out how temperature affects the vaping experience and to try to put some parameters on typical e-cigarette usage. More studies are needed and we’re trying to get them done. But we’re met with folks who, with a few notable exceptions, haven’t changed their argument when new information exists. Time after time we have to fight the same refuted arguments by the same people. We give them updated information which, by dint of evidence in their rhetoric, seems to be ignored. Given that behavior how would anyone with half a wit of humanity and reason react? Right! They’re going to get angry at being ignored by folks who hold out the old argument from authority fallacy: ‘We’re right because we’re a big organization who only wants to ‘help’ people, so never mind the research that shows we might be wrong’.

WHO FCTC COP #6 is underway in Moscow

Just when I thought I’d have nothing about this till it was over… A few notable things have happened. First off the Public was barred from the meetings by vote, urged on apparently by the belief that the public was really Big Tobacco in disguise. This was followed by the removal of the Press from the proceedings right before the agenda item regarding 70% taxation of all tobacco products was to begin. The second, quite a bit more encouraging development, was the recommendations from Item 4.4.2 of the agenda regarding electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or ENDS).

In the first case there are two problems. First is the obvious non-sequiter regarding e-cigarettes (ENDS in WHO speak). The COP is now recommending that further study and reporting of regulatory experience be brought forward. Yet they place the burden for conducting scientific study on the ‘industry’, which is banned from the proceedings. As I observed earlier, this creates an insurmountable condition where the information requested cannot come from the parties deemed responsible for producing it. And now we have evidence of a classic ‘guilt by association’ in which the entire public is barred from the proceedings because it may contain tobacco representatives. As another observer put it “Perhaps they are afraid that the tobacco representatives will assert some kind of mind-control over the participants.” I am further concerned with the removal of the press corps. These meetings have global portent, guiding member governments and NGO’s in creating policy that affects the public. Barring the press and the public is the hallmark of a fascist organization that relies on argument from authority rather than open debate. Not too encouraging. I understand their reticence given the history of tobacco companies, but to ban even them from the proceedings is tantamount to admitting that they do not have sufficient real support for their ideas that would survive a public majority.

Contrast this with the recommendations from the working session on Agenda item 4.4.2 “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” wherein they took a much more moderate and open stance regarding the potential usefulness of e-cigarettes in advancing a smoke-free goal. The results were reported in the daily brief here. Our dear friend in arms, Clive Bates, produced a cogent analysis of the talking points and concludes as well that it isn’t bad, but isn’t yet good enough. I concur with his findings, adding the observations from the prior paragraph as highly concerning. I wonder how the call for study is going to appear if but from our favorite persona non grata of the THR world, Mr. Stanton Glanz, whose effort appears to be the foundation for the prior work put forward by WHO which so many of us tore apart some months ago.

It’s all about the children…

So now comes the problem I’ve really been thinking about in the background. The issue keeps popping up and, like a splinter in my mind; I just can’t get through the reasoning. We’re taking all this regulation at city and state levels to band vaping, and now remove flavor. For what?, to protect the children from taking up vaping and moving on to smoking.
The nurse in me, who studied childhood development as a necessary requisite of becoming licensed has a hard time with this. Why?, because the developmental goal of the teen years is developing autonomy, reinforcing identity, and becoming socially responsible in preparation for adulthood. I treat the results of teenagers thinking they are 10ft tall and bulletproof all the time. Stupid human tricks and rebellion against authority are hallmarks of that stage of human development. They’re going to do it. Tell them it’s forbidden and they want to be part of the Cool Kids Club. They’ll find a way.

That being said, it is a responsible society that sets limits, limits that some teens will find a way to break, but limits nonetheless. Vaping, along with all other forms of adult entertainment should be discouraged until they can make an informed rational decision about the activity. As teens, they physiologically cannot. That area of their brain is under development and is the reason they make some spectacularly stupid choices. We shouldn’t be making it easy for them but make it hard, requiring lots of effort and opportunity for thought together with some scary but (hopefully) non-life threatening consequences for choosing poorly.

What I see is a bubble-wrap mentality taking over the debate. Fact is we’ve gotten rid of flavored tobacco, made tobacco sale, use and possession by minors illegal and kids still start smoking and even though the rate is declining it still far outstrips e-cig usage. It isn’t the flavor that entices them; it’s the chance to poke a finger in the eye of authority. Thanks to having exposure to teens so frequently I’m able to gain their trust and in doing so discover a few things. Most important is that they are very savvy at getting around regulations when they want to be. We make it easy with online transactions for all manner of poor choice support tools (not just vape gear) by proliferating MasterCard “gift cards” at the checkout counter. The other reason teens give for doing what they do is because a) they can and b) it tweaks their parents, teachers, etc. Vaping, because it wasn’t illegal for them to do was the perfect storm of opportunity. Now with 36 states onboard with underage sales and use laws its becoming more of a problem for them. Banning flavors will not have any effect, enforcing the laws will. But more importantly, discussing the consequences of their decisions with them will have far more effect. It’s time to parent up this issue instead of delegating it to an authority which cannot do what is necessary to help the development of sound members of our society.

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