Still Blowing Smoke is the name of a new website that is designed to attack ecigs and vaping. The TV commercials, rife with massive quantities of fear mongering and misinformation, enjoy a high level of production quality but do they have their facts in order?
Still Blowing Smoke.org has been developed by the California Department of Public Health. The CDPH has taken an aggressive stance toward ecigarettes and vaping. In January, former State Health Officer Ron Chapman declared ecigs to be a public health hazard.
The CDPH website claims that ecigs “contain nicotine and other chemicals that cause cancer.” By connecting nicotine to the cancer risks of smoking the reader is led to conclude that nicotine is a cancer risk. These are the types of tactics employed by the campaign. The site also claims that ecigs may lead to smoking tobacco. No data is provided to back up these claims while on the other hand there is ample data that debunks these common ecig myths.
The CDPH’s latest efforts to attack ecigarettes involves the taxpayer funded launch of Still Blowing Smoke.org as well as TV commercials.
Is the CDPH and Still Blowing Smoke.org protecting the public health or are they basically telling smokers that ecigs are as bad as tobacco? The latter message is coming through loud and clear. Some are saying that the result of this ad campaign will be to drive smokers back to tobacco and lead them away from a smoking alternative that has enabled between three and four million Americans to avoid cigarettes.
That is three to four million people no longer using tobacco because they have switched to vaping. Ecigarettes are not perfect but given the testimonials of millions, logic would dictate that health organizations may have an ally on their hands. An ally they could work with to improve and refine rather than attack.
California has one of the lower smoking rates in the country and as great as that is there are still four to five million Californians struggling with a smoking addiction. The nationwide mortality rate for smoking deaths is 480,000 people per year. In California, 40,000 will lose their lives to smoking related illness this year.
While progress has been made and smoking rates are in decline, there are still millions of people in need of a solution. For those smokers, the CDPH has a solution. Cold turkey or use an FDA approved smoking cessation method. The problem is that those methods have a terrible success rate.
American Cancer Society smoking cessation data shows that only 4% of smokers who quit cold turkey are not smoking after 6 months. The same data shows that only 25% of smokers who use medications and nicotine replacement therapies to quit smoking are still non-smokers at 6 months. The critical stat here is the 6 month mark.
Unfortunately, the already terrible success rate of ‘approved’ smoking cessation methods declines even further as time goes by. Many estimates indicate that the long-term success rate of approved smoking cessation methods is closer to 7%. No matter your perspective, approved smoking cessation methods have failed the majority of smokers that have tried them.
Those methods are still worth pursuing as quitting smoking is worth every possible effort. It just seems as though degrading an option that has helped so many is detrimental. The existing smoking cessation success rate should not be acceptable.
Is the CDPH so satisfied with those success rates that they are supremely confident in discouraging people from trying any other method to mitigate the risks associated with smoking? How is it reasonable for a health organization to be satisfied with the disastrous track record “approved” smoking cessation methods? Don’t millions of Californians in desperate need of help deserve access to as many options as possible? Where does their welfare fit into the CDPH equation?
The fact is that approved methods are not getting the job done. Given all the facts about smoking and considering the fate of millions of Californians hang in the balance, can the CDPH truly justify the vilification of ecigarettes? When you consider all of the facts and the need for real solutions right now, it seems that the CDPH has strange taste in choosing its enemies.
Ecig Attack Ads
The first ad is called “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and makes the accusation that the ecig industry is targeting children in its marketing campaign:
The ad claims that ecigs are marketed to kids and show an image, almost subliminally, of ecigs and ejuice mixed among colorful straws and various candies. Then they depict scenes of children in a schoolyard as though conspiring to complete a drug transaction. The implication is that ecig companies are almost like drug dealers targeting kids with treats.
The basis for this line of attack is the fact that eliquids and ecigarette cartridges are offered in a variety of flavors. Particularly sweet and candy flavors. Following that line of logic, the brewing, wine and spirits industries should be public enemy number one. Every day in the United States 6 people die from alcohol poisoning. Still, you can buy Jelly Belly beer, chocolate liqueur, cotton candy flavored wine, or cookie dough flavored vodka. Where is the outrage?
The double standards applied serve to undermine the CDPH position. Whatever issues they have with the ecigarette, this all out assault can only obscure real solutions. Connecting the state of vaping to the history of Big Tobacco only further clouds matters.
Since its inception, the vaping community and the ecig industry has prided itself on ethical business practices. There has been no effort to market to children. Adults enjoy sweet and dessert flavors as well. The ecig industry has directed its efforts to providing a smoking alternative. Most vapers have a strong dislike for Big Tobacco and are dedicated to seeing Big Tobacco fail. Connecting Big Tobacco to vapers shows that the CDPH may be far, far out of touch with the on the ground realities of the ecig movement.
Did the CDPH research all of this sitting in the comforts of their boardroom speaking among themselves glossing over old data or did they ever actually speak to a human being that has switched from smoking to vaping? Have they ever met with any vaping organizations? Gauging by the chasm between the realities that the two camps live in, that is highly doubtful.
Connecting vaping to Big Tobacco was the main point of the second Still Blowing Smoke TV ad called “What Could Go Wrong”:
This ad leads off with vintage audio dating back to the days when Big Tobacco would promote cigarettes as being beneficial to health and well being. Ecigarette companies have long been opposing Big Tobacco and it’s dark history. In fact, many American ecig companies were forged in the spirit of standing up to Big Tobacco and their line-up of addictive, deadly products.
The overwhelming majority of these American entrepreneurs are small business owners trying to survive in a highly competitive market place where innovations are occurring at a lightning fast pace. Lumping these enterprises in with the history of Big Tobacco is a huge disservice and paints a very inaccurate picture. Unfortunately, these independent entrepreneurs, unlike the CDPH, do not have massive amounts of taxpayer dollars at their disposal to enable them to fight back.
The Big Tobacco ecig brands do have resources but they do not represent where the heart of vaping exists. More than that, ecig tank systems are overtaking Big Tobacco cigalikes in the sales column as well. Tagging these businesses as following the path of Big Tobacco again shows the disconnect between the CDPH and vaping.
The reality is that the Big Tobacco interests in the evapor business and the independent ecig company’s interests in the evapor business are at complete odds. It is jarring that the CDPH could be so unaware of the business dynamics at work in the evapor industry.
The fact of the matter is that the Big Tobacco ecig companies are working toward banning ecig tank systems. If tank systems and eliquid are banned, then only cigalikes will be available and tobacco companies own all the shelf space in all the stores. They will be able to crush the independent and much better quality cigalikes in favor of their brands. The ones that they do not crush, they will simply cripple and acquire. Tobacco companies have massive resources and influence.
The CDPH would probably be all in favor of banning electronic vaporizer cigarette tank systems, commonly referred to as mods. In this case, the reality and irony is that the CDPH and Big Tobacco have more in common than Big Tobacco and independent ecig companies.
Early on in this ecig TV commercial, the word ‘Lung Cancer’ appears in massive letters across the screen. The obvious implication is that ecigarettes cause cancer. There is nothing that substantiates this is any way, shape or form. The CDPH plays on the myth of formaldehyde in ecigs.
The ad also attacks nicotine and it is impossible to ignore the hypocrisy of the fact that Still Blowing Smoke .Org can lambaste nicotine in ecigs but champion it in Big Pharma’s nicotine replacement therapies. That’s what you call playing both sides and it is not a recipe for credibility, not by any stretch.
In another video image, they have a child reaching for a Vuse ecig on a table top, an ecig that is sitting next to a coffee cup. First, ecigs should not be left in places accessible to children. That is common sense. You don’t leave medications or household cleaners accessible either. Common sense has to apply otherwise we have to declare Mr. Clean a health hazard.
The Vuse ecigarette that the child is reaching for does contain 4.8% nicotine but the child can only access that nicotine via inhalation. The hardened ecig refill cartridge is not susceptible to bites nor can the nicotine be extracted by chewing on the cartridge. The child would have to puff on the ecig for hour after hour in order to extract the nicotine. A highly unlikely scenario.
Choking on the battery represents a greater danger but ecig batteries are encased unlike most other lithium ion batteries. Button batteries, for example, are small and easy to swallow. Button batteries have led to several unfortunate deaths in toddlers. Button batteries are a far greater risk than any ecigarette.
In the image where the child is reaching for the ecigarette on the table top, you see that the ecig is immediately adjacent to a coffee cup. If that cup contains hot liquid, it represents the most immediate threat to the health and well being of the child.
Every year the leading causes cause of injuries to children are burns or falls from heights. Burns are a serious issue and remind us of the need to be wary of household hazards. The cup of hot coffee left unattended presents a hazard to the child. Is the CDPH going to launch – TheHorrorsOfScaldingCoffee.Org? Somehow I think the coffee and tea industries are safe from attacks.
Both of these ads show an overstated agenda, an unfair presentation of reality and are sure to play on the fears generated by the imagery to further cloud the public perception of vaping. Those most at risk are smokers that have tried to quit and who may view these ads and determine that there is no hope, so they might as well stick with cigarettes.
Both of these ecig attack ads direct viewers to the new California Department of Public Health website, StillBlowingSmoke.Org.
The website catalogs what they state are the terrible risk factors of electronic cigarettes. The images are worthy of inclusion in the Friday the 13th horror movie franchise.
When you visit the website they begin by discussing the health issues of electronic cigarettes.
The site describes how addictive nicotine is and it is. Then go on to talk about other associated health risks and claims. In the very next section of the website they are claiming that electronic cigarettes might not help people quit smoking. This in spite of the fact that between three and four million people now vape instead of smoke. That is real human beings who have made the switch. One can only wonder what type of sample size would be necessary for them to acknowledge the obvious.
It is quite interesting to consider the enormous contradiction between Still Blowing Smoke scaring the heebie jeebies out of you regarding nicotine while at the same time the CDPH openly recommends using FDA approved smoking cessation methods. Those methods include nicotine replacement therapies, or NRTs. Did they not see the contradiction?
Another more interesting thing is what the California Department of Public Health website has to say about nicotine. “Nicotine replacement therapies can be especially helpful for people who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day.” CDPH.
So on one hand nicotine when delivered by a ecig as public enemy number one. When delivered by an ecig they refer to nicotine in the same breath as cancer, toxic, dangerous, Big Tobacco. Then, nicotine delivered by their besties in Big Pharma “can be especially helpful.”
The contradiction undermines their primary argument.
The website refers to supposed data that show ecigs do not help people quit smoking but of course there are no studies mentioned or linked to. What there are is a number of studies that show the opposite not to mention the three to four million people who are living, breathing contradictions to the CDPH claim.
Myth Of Formaldehyde In Ecigs
The next factor they bring up is formaldehyde. Still Blowing Smoke.Org shows a figure in a frightening mask and dark hazmat gear looking like some sort of futuristic villain standing in front of a headline that says “Formaldehyde”.
The myth of formaldehyde in ecigs has been debunked thoroughly.
Byproducts in e-cigarette vapor has occurred in rare instances of low quality products or ecigarettes that are used improperly. Overheating is the biggest culprit.
Quality electronic cigarettes that are used properly as per manufacturer’s specifications have not been shown to produce the harmful byproducts claimed by the CDPH or their Still Blowing Smoke website. Of course, they don’t tell you that. Yet they do accuse the ecig industry of not telling you everything.
The information given on the website is unbalanced and out of context. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where providing unbalanced out of context information has proven to be helpful.
On the other hand, unbalanced and out of context information has been successfully employed to serve specific agendas on multiple occasions throughout history.
They then go on to discuss the dangers of aerosols and vapor. It is true that the propylene glycol in eliquid is vaporized by an ecig or vape pen and particles are inhaled. The truth is that people have been inhaling it for the better part of a century. Stage smoke at rock shows, theater shows and even asthma inhalers.
They mention the size of aerosol particulates as being a concern. The particulates that you find in cigarette smoke are much smaller and intrusive than ecig vapor, which is vaporized not combusted. Of course they’re not about to discuss the differences but to be frank they truly should.
If they are truly interested in disseminating accurate information so people can make the best possible decisions it wouldn’t hurt to provide all the information and all the context.
In the next section of the website they delve into and covering e cig health concerns by comparing ecigs to tobacco. Once again lumping all personal vaporizers under the cloud of Big Tobacco. This is clearly a large part of the overall strategy.
They show images of old tobacco ads in which doctors promote cigarettes. This did happen. Big Tobacco has a terrible history. They gave cigarettes away 2 soldiers traveling overseas. They had doctors promote cigarettes and they even promoted cigarettes to women as a way to keep weight off.
To compare American electronic cigarette brands to Big Tobacco is nothing shy of a low blow. The vaping community is renowned for its distaste for big tobacco.
The language of the website is delivered in formulaic, hipster prose kind of like your favorite science teacher talking to you back in high school. Are they trying to portray an image of standing up to the corporate powerhouses on behalf of the little guy? The reality is that most American ecig entrepreneurs are hard working people running small businesses. They don’t have the type of clout that they do at the CDPH. So while the image may be the hipsters standing up the establishment the reality may actually be the opposite.
In the grand scheme, the CDPH attack on ecigarettes, vape pens, personal vaporizers, eliquids and all things vaping is counter productive.
There is a vast segment of the evapor industry that would assist greatly in forwarding the efforts to totally eliminate cigarette smoking from our midst.
By lumping independent ecig companies and Big Tobacco into one basket, the CDPH is blinding itself to reality and missing perhaps the greatest ally in the fight against smoking that we have ever had.
While their efforts to deter children from taking up vaping is laudable, the scare tactics that they are using may actually prevent smokers from exploring an option that is available to them and can potentially reduce the harm of tobacco in their lives. More than that, the scare tactics and driving ecigs to the fringe, may make ecigs even more taboo and more attractive to kids.
Right now, Big Tobacco is working hard to limit exactly which ecigarette products should be approved for sale. Through it’s combination of raw, unbridled aggression and naiveté, Still Blowing Smoke.Org has unwittingly allied itself with the agenda of Big Tobacco’s designs on the ecig industry.
Their efforts would be much better spent working with ecig companies to find real solutions to discourage non-smokers from vaping while at the same time not potentially risking the lives of smokers who desperately need an answer now.
If the CDPH is counting declining smoking rates as their victory as opposed to prioritizing the fates of millions of Californians who need an answer now, there are some serious priority concerns that should be addressed as soon as possible. The battle against smoking is far from over. The CDPH has to hold off popping the champagne corks until they address the immediate needs of a health crisis that claims the lives of 40,000 people a year in their state.
Still Blowing Smoke and the ecig attack ads are counterproductive to the cause of reducing tobacco harm. The contradictions and misinformation reduces the credibility of the CDPH stance on evapor.
Working with evapor interests would be a step in the right direction. It all comes down to the CDPH’s apparent need to be right vs getting it right.