29 Oct

Doctor Lobbies for Legal ‘Life-Saving’ Via E-Cigarettes

A Victorian doctor is calling for an end to confusing and contradictory laws restricting the use of electronic cigarettes, arguing that they have the potential to save the lives of smokers struggling to kick the habit.

Attila Danko, an emergency department doctor from Ballarat, has established the New Nicotine Alliance Australia, modelled on the similarly titled British lobby group, in a bid to counter a “misinformation campaign” about the risks of e-cigarettes.

The group has latched on to landmark research released last week by Public Health England, an independent arm of Britain’s Department of Health, which found e-cigarettes — battery-powered vaporisers that stimulate smoking, but without tobacco combustion — were about 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.

It also found most of the country’s 2.6 million e-cigarette users were ex-smokers trying to give up, with no evidence that young people were being drawn into the habit — a commonly cited fear.

“This compelling report confirms the weight of reliable scientific evidence that e-cigarettes save lives,” Dr Danko said.

“Its message is clear: e-cigar­ettes help people stop tobacco smoking and Australian smokers should legally have that option.”

While there are no laws banning the use of e-cigarettes in Australia, laws relating to ­poisons, medicines and tobacco control complicate their regul­ation.

For example, where a ­nicotine e-cigarette is for a therapeutic use, such as stopping smoking, the device must by registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the liquid nicotine can be obtained only with a prescription.

However, there are no TGA-approved e-cigarettes and doctors have typically been reluctant to provide a prescription for an unapproved product.

Adding to the confusion, importing e-cigarettes for personal use is permitted, yet liquid nico­tine is classified as a “Schedule 7 Dangerous Poison”, making possession without a current prescription a serious offence.

Several states, including South Australia and Western Australia, have banned the sale of non-­nicotine e-cigarettes, which often contain fruit-flavoured liquids. NSW and Tasmania are considering tightening regulation of e-cigarettes.

A smoker for more than 30 years, Dr Danko said he had “given up on giving up” when he switched from tobacco to using, or “vaping”, nicotine e-cigarettes three years ago.

The 47-year-old has a prescription and imports from overseas but said it was ­absurd a person required a prescription for e-cigarettes yet could buy significantly more harmful tobacco over the retail counter: “It sends a strong message that the government would rather you smoke cigarettes.”

In Britain, stop-smoking ser­vices are being urged to consider recommending e-cigarettes as a tool for smokers attempting to quit, but Cancer Council Aus­tralia and the National Heart Foundation have publicly cautioned against the promotion of e-cigarettes, noting that the health effects were still unknown.

23 Oct

World Health Organisation (WHO) Urged to Act on E-Cigarettes

Doctors and health academics from around the world are urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes, which are booming in an uncontrolled global market.

A US study has found the e-cigarette market has more than 500 brands and is expanding at a rate of more than 10 a month with the product often purchased online.

In a trawl of the internet, US researchers found that as of January 2014 there were 466 brands, each with their own website, and 7,764 different flavours.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices which heat a liquid, typically propylene glycol, to a vapour. The liquid usually contains nicotine and flavouring.

Supporters say the gadget can help wean smokers off conventional tobacco, whose bouquet of toxins has been blamed for the death of millions.

Health watchdogs are cautious, saying the long-term impact of e-cigarettes use is unclear.

Sydney health expert Simon Chapman says anecdotal evidence has been used to promote the benefits of the devices.

He says not enough is known about the potential side-effects.

“We need more than a feeling. We don’t proceed like that in the regulation of therapeutic substances,” he said.

“What we do is say: ‘OK, you reckon you’ve got something that does that, let’s put it to the test’.

“Provide all of the evidence to the therapeutic assessment panels and they’ll make up their mind if you’ve got evidence or [if] you haven’t.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April proposed barring sales to minors, placing the product on the same footing as tobacco in this regard.

Shift in e-cigarette marketing: flavour not tobacco alternative

“The number of e-cigarette brands sold on the internet is large and the variety of flavours staggering,” wrote the investigators from the University of California School of Medicine in San Diego.

Over the past two years, the market has been growing at an average rate of 10.5 brands and 242 flavours per month, they said.

The most popular flavour category is fruit, followed by dessert/chocolate, alcohol/drinks or snacks/meals, according to the study.

The study authors also noted a shift in e-cigarette marketing.

Older brands were more likely to claim e-cigarettes were healthier or cheaper than tobacco, or could help smokers kick the habit.

Newer brands, though, tended to shun references to tobacco and focused instead on flavours or models.

“It seems that new brands don’t want to be compared with cigarettes, which are associated with the image of cancer,” said Shu-Hong Zhu, director of the Centre for Research and Interventions in Tobacco Control in San Diego.

The new study was based on two searches of English-language websites at a two-year interval – first from May to August 2012 and then December 2013 to January 2014.

A separate study in the same journal reported that some 29 million people in the European Union had tried the e-cigarette, based on 2012 data.

It also found that most of them were smokers or would-be quitters.

21 Oct

The Three Biggest Myths about Electronic Cigarettes

The e-cigarette is a relatively new product, having appeared on the market a little under a decade ago. Partly because of this, there has been a lot of speculation about the safety of the electric cigarette. Three of the biggest myths will be discussed and debunked.

1. The liquid used in e-cigs contains antifreeze
According to some sources, the vapour that an electronic cigarette produces contains the same chemical that is found in the green antifreeze liquid that you put in your car to prevent the radiator liquid from freezing in winter and boiling is summer. This is not true. The active ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol. The main ingredient in e-cigarette liquid, on the other hand, is propylene glycol, which is a totally safe chemical used in asthma inhalers and a number of processed foods. This myth is somewhat understandable given that the two chemicals sound similar.

2. The vapour from electric cigarettes is just as cancerous as the smoke from tobacco cigarettes
Although it is true that the liquid used in e-cigs contain carcinogens, the levels are so small that they cannot possibly harm a person. They are about as small as the levels you might find in fresh milk, eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables and a multitude of other products that you consume on a daily basis. The carcinogens in tobacco cigarettes, on the other hand, are at dangerously high levels and are known to directly cause cancer in humans and laboratory animals.

3. Electronic cigarettes encourage tobacco smoking
Some critics have argued that because e-cigarettes make it seem fun to smoke, some people who would otherwise not have done so might take up the habit of smoking tobacco cigarettes. There is, however, no evidence that this has occurred or is likely to occur. Furthermore, the main purpose of the electric cigarette is to assist people to cease smoking. Those who are already hooked on deadly tobacco cigarettes are encouraged to inhale a harmless vapour instead.

19 Oct

A Comprehensive History of the E-Cigarette

Although the e-cigarette as most people know it has been around for about a decade, its origins go back to the early twentieth century and are intertwined with the modern history of tobacco use.

The Ill Effects of Smoking
Whilst the smoking of tobacco has been around since prehistoric times, the use of cigarettes became widespread during the First World War when many armies issued their soldiers with tobacco rations, creating tobacco addicts in the process who continued their unhealthy habit in the postwar years. The 1920s also saw a wave of feminism in many western countries, and many women took up smoking as a symbol of their freedom and political equality with men. The negative health consequences of tobacco smoking were as yet unknown. During the 1930s, however, German scientists noted the relationship between tobacco smoking and lung cancer and researched the link, publishing one of the earliest and most important articles on the subject in 1940 titled “Krebserzeugende Tabakwirkung”, which translates to “Carcinogenic Effects of Tobacco”. At the time, Nazi Germany had instituted a rigourous anti-tobacco campaign in an effort to improve the general health of the German people. More scientific research emerged after the war including the classic article “Smoking and Carcinoma of the Lung” which was published in the British Medical Journal in 1950.

The Invention of the Smokeless Non-Tobacco Cigarette
The relationship between tobacco smoke and numerous cancers, especially lung cancer, led to the development of a smokeless electronic cigarette which would not have any of the carcinogenic and toxic chemicals that are found in regular cigarettes. The first e-cigarette appeared in 1963 and was developed and patented by Herbert A. Gilbert. The new device was a battery-operated metal tube that contained a harmless liquid that was heated, producing a vapour that the user inhaled. Despite the enormous potential, the invention was never mass produced or marketed, and thus ended the first incarnation of the electronic cigarette.

The Invention of the Modern E-Cigarette
The e-cigarette that most people use and are familiar with is the brainchild of a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik, who came up with the concept of using a piezoelectric ultrasound emitting element to vapourise a liquid containing a propylene glycol and nicotine solution. The vapour was to be inhaled and exhaled in exactly the same way as a normal cigarette. Lik was inspired to develop the electronic cigarette after his father – a heavy smoker – developed lung cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease. In May 2004, the e-cigarette was introduced to the Chinese market by Golden Dragon Holdings, the company for which Lik worked. The device proved very popular in China and began to be exported to other Asian countries during 2005. It was introduced into the European and North American markets in 2006. The e-cigarette has proved to be a hit worldwide with smokers who want a product that helps them quit smoking.

13 Oct

Inhaling Nicotine is Harmless and Could Help You Lose Weight

Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco that makes smoking so pleasurable as well as so hard to quit. Many quit smoking products such as inhalers, gums, lozenges and e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine by itself is not dangerous; it is the multitude of other chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause the diseases which make smoking such a deadly habit.

In 1996, a group of researchers led by H L Waldum published the results of their experiment into the effects of inhaling nicotine vapour over an extended period of time on rats (Waldum H L, Nilsen O G, Nilsen T, Rorvik H, Syversen V, Sanvik A K, Haugen O A, Torp S H & Brenna E (1996) Long-term effects of inhaled nicotine, Life Sciences, Volume 58, Issue 16, 1339-1346). The laboratory rats were put in a chamber into which nicotine vapour was pumped for 20 hours per day, five days a week for two years. The experiment concluded that there was no increase in the death rate, and there was no increase in the likelihood of developing tumours. The researchers concluded that “our study does not indicate any harmful effect of nicotine when given in its pure form by inhalation.” Interestingly, the rats lost weight as well.

The appetite suppressing effects of nicotine have been studied in an effort to produce new medicines that can help people lose weight. In fact, people have known for centuries that nicotine is an appetite suppressant. The famous Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was initially angry upon learning that the sailors on his ships had picked up the habit of smoking tobacco from the inhabitants of the New World. He changed his mind, however, when he discovered that smoking suppressed their hunger. The sixteenth century Spanish physician Nicolas Monardes wrote in his History of Medicinal Plants in the New World in 1571 that tobacco had the ability to alleviate hunger and thirst. Monardes had a rather naive view of tobacco, writing that “To seek to tell the virtues and greatness of this holy herb, the ailments which can be cured of it, the evils from which it has saved thousands would be to go on to infinity … this precious herb is so general a need not only for the sick but for the healthy”. Throughout the twentieth century, tobacco companies marketed cigarettes as a product that could help men and women maintain a slim body. Kensitas cigarettes were marketed in the 1920s as an appetite suppressant and people were advised to substitute them for snacks in between meals. A famous marketing campaign by Slim cigarettes during the 1980s warned women that if they put on weight, they would lose their male partners to skinnier women who smoked Slim cigarettes.