This week’s news kicks off with people asking the question – does it matter who makes the product?

We look at the FDA and wonder if they are going to restrict e-cigs due to the yet unseen data, we note Vaping has been parodied in South Park and happily, there’s been another win for vapers in California!

Tobacco company Philip Morris have launched a stop smoking campaign in the UK.

Yes, you read that correctly. A stop smoking campaign from a tobacco company.  ‘The Marlboro maker said the move was "an important next step" in its aim to "ultimately stop selling cigarettes".’  Once you have let your eyebrows fall back into place, ask yourself this:  is this simply a marketing ploy for them to sell more heat not burn products? Or, is this a marketing ploy to raise awareness of their tobacco products – a bit of inverse thinking? One high profile UK anti-tobacco campaigner claimed this to be the case, saying, "So instead Philip Morris is promoting the company name which is inextricably linked with Marlboro."

Which leads us then to the question:

Does it matter who is selling harm reduction products?

Is in not allowed for a company to pivot and see the writing on the wall for them, as smoking rates plummet? Whatever the real reason behind the move, it’s certainly garnering more advertising for them, be that for their tobacco cigarettes or their tobacco alternatives. Mr Nixon, a spokesperson for PM said, "Cigarettes still generate 87% of our business. We want to get to [smoke-free] as soon as possible, and we want to be selling alternatives, but it does take time," he said. Mr Nixon said the firm had invested over £4bn in developing alternative products to cigarettes.

California

Governor Gerry Brown has for the third year in a row vetoed a bill that would ban vaping in Californian public parks. Wildfires was one of the reasons given for banning vaping, but as vaping doesn’t use combustion, then the risk of igniting a wildfire is negligible. Governor Brown is a defender of freedom and it seems can see through legislatorial BS.  “In years past the legislators behind the bill have tried focusing on the second-hand smoke angle, but this year they were more focused on the risk of wildfires, likely due to their rough year with them. It’s clear that at the end of the day, the lawmakers are only interested in limiting vaping along with smoking, as they see the two as basically the same.” 

South Park

South Park have parodied vaping in one of their most recent episodes. They pick up on the alleged teen epidemic and have one of the teen characters hit another that is selling vape pods to kids. The ensuing ‘discussions’ on prime-time TV have been both illuminating and saddening, as the same old misinformation is yet again trotted out without much sight of the real facts.

FDA 

And finally,  in this week’s news is the FDA. Are they going to restrict vaping sooner rather than later, based on the data that we have all yet to see? 

These last few weeks have seen news item after news item stating that due to a massive rise – alleged to be anywhere between 71% and 77% uptake in teen vaping, the FDA are going to take action. One website is stating that the FDA are going to ban flavored  e-cigarettes from convenience stores,  quoting  Gottlieb as  stating, “We’re looking at what can be sold in brick-and-mortar stores and whether flavored products can be sold in regular stores such as a 7-Eleven and a truck stop and a gas station, or whether flavored products on the market should be confined to adult vaping shops, which generally tend to do a better job of checking ID,”.

In the same article, Bonnie Hertzog, managing director of consumer equity research for Wells Fargo Securities, reportedly believes the FDA will release a “preponderance” of evidence to back up the claims of a teen epidemic, leading to three possible scenarios:

 

  1. The FDA bans online sales of e-cigs until it is able to formulate appropriate restrictions via regulation.

 

  1. The agency possibly restricts the sale of cartridge-based e-cigs to vape shops, potentially removing them from the c-store channel.

 

  1. The FDA bans or restricts certain e-cig flavors with high youth appeal.

 

Bringing some reason to this debate, Jacob Sullum  looks deeper into the way this is being managed, with the FDA deliberately ‘leaking’ information about the data, but not providing it to us, creating a situation where all the news items and possible legislative proposals are based on unseen evidence. We vapers do not have access to the FDA data, so we are unable to asses it. This makes it very hard to counter what the FDA are saying and threatening to do, because they are keeping the information from us.

If there has been a 71% increase in teen vaping within a year, that would take, according to Jacob the teen vaping rate up to about 20%, up from 11. 7 %. A big increase, but one that has to be seen in the context of teen smoking rates plummeting, plus we have to see how this has been calculated. The rise in teen smoking rates that was briefly mentioned in some articles this week, is, according to Jacob, not statistically significant. This would then imply that teen vaping is up, but the teen smoking isn’t, squashing the gateway theory, but again, we don’t have the information the FDA are talking about to know for sure. Jacob writes, “Smoking by teenagers has in fact been declining for years, notwithstanding a sharp rise in e-cigarette experimentation, and last year reached a record low. In this context, it is reasonable to question the public health significance of the statistically insignificant blip that Gottlieb or someone else at the FDA described to CNBC. But that sort of analysis is hard to do as long as we are limited to second-hand accounts of the survey results.”

We await the release of the FDA data that support the claims of a teen epidemic, because until then, we are all in the dark.