So it happened. The FDA has revealed the deeming regulations and they are indeed claiming the electronic cigarettes or ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) and eliquids are being classified as tobacco products. This is the outcome we have been both expecting and dreading. Any tobacco product has to go through an extensive and expensive approval process in order to stay on the market.
The FDA is requiring the tobacco products like ejuice list all ingredients. That’s a good law. They are ensuring that vapes are not sold to children and limiting the scope of advertising. Okay, that’s reasonable. They want childproof caps on ejuice. Of course, all of these are basic common sense. So if you are a vape brand and you meet all of these parameters, that does not mean that you can stay in business. It all goes back to the approval process.
So, you are a highly ethical American entrepreneur and you meet every requirement. If you have 20 products, say 20 types of ejuice, you will need to get 20 products approved. Hope you have 20 million bucks on hand because that’s about what you will need to stay in business. Of course, the fight against oppressive regulation is just beginning.
Thus far, despite thousands of submissions to the FDA, the voice of the vaping community has been ignored. As far as they are concerned, we are just another form of tobacco and smoking out to further a nicotine addiction agenda. They see us as a corporate entity will ill intent as opposed to a group of small businesses and innovators working to solve a problem that so far public health agencies have been only feebly effective at, namely tobacco harm.
What Can I Do To Fight For Vape Rights?
We have to be heard, and more importantly we have to educate. Most of the public is woefully uninformed about what vaping truly represents. That lack of awareness extends to our lawmakers in Congress. Perhaps a good segment of that can be traced to the information that they have been exposed to.
There is a Bill in Congress right now that could radically change the FDA regulations and protect your choice to a wide range of vaping products. The Bill is HR 2058 and you can read more details here.
Your average member of Congress is dealing with a multitude of issues. First, and this is shameful but true, they have to spend about half of their time fundraising. This is not their fault it’s just the way the system has unfortunately evolved. Member of Congress serve on specialized committees dealing with economy, security, environment etc. They deal with concerns from their specific districts. With all that is on their plates, what could they really know about vaping?
In all likelihood, they have a staff member do a Google search about ecigs and vaping and then write a brief. Or, they get a memo outlining a position from another source perhaps the CDC or FDA, neither of which are a fan of vaping. They get the talking points about protecting the children and they probably never look into it any more than that. They just do not know the truth about vaping so you just may be able to make a difference. Approach it as an exercise in education.
The important thing is to make representatives aware of the realities of vaping. Talk about your own personal experience with vaping. In addition, you make a list of talking points to express in an email or phone conversation. There are several vaping studies that show that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Studies show that smoking rates are at an all-time low. You can form a rational, personal expression of support for your member to support HR 2058.
Communicate very respectfully and reasonably. We have the stronger argument here. There is no need to be angry in your communication, that will not help. Keep calm and help vaping!
Furthermore, we need to organize. Join CASAA and utilize their numerous resources to help move your representative. As a group, we are much stronger.
Keep in mind that our members of Congress are people and they get much of their information from traditional news sources and, sadly, special interests with a presence on K Street. It is not just members of Congress that are uninformed, the average person who does not really delve into the issue will often be working with limited information or misinformation.
There have been an endless parade of fear mongering vape studies in recent months. This has led to a confused general public. I have encountered smokers numerous times and asked if they have tried vaping. Very often, way too often, they tell me that they heard that vaping is worse than smoking so they are sticking with tobacco. That’s the last thing we want.
If you are reading this and wondering how so much misinformation can possibly be put out there for public consumption, well it is much easier than you think. Have you ever heard of P-Hacking? If you haven’t allow me to introduce you to the subject.
How Did We Get Here? P-Hacking
We see a lot of people quoting debunked studies in an effort to achieve the most oppressive vaping regulations possible. We have seen headlines touting that ecigs reduce the chances of quitting and we have seen studies that vaping leads to smoking. How do studies like these end up getting so much press? It starts with something called P-Hacking.
P-Hacking is a term used for something called data dredging. It is as bad as it sounds. Data dredging or P-Hacking is the moving around of variables or changing parameters in order to acquire a data result that can be presented as significant. Basically when it comes to vaping studies P-Hacking is a tool that can be used to eliminate data that is contrary to a desired conclusion and formulate a conclusion that seems valid.
Bill Godshall of SmokeFree Pennsylvania does an amazing job tracking all of these studies and regularly exposes fraudulent anti-vaping studies. Much of Mr. Godshall’s work can be seen at CASAA and it is invaluable to see just how anti-vaping special interests manage to drive the media misinformation. Getting a manipulated study reported by the media is about the easiest thing anyone can do.
Media Reporting Of Scientific Studies
So with P-Hacking or Data Dredging we can see how easy it is to manipulate study data. When a scientist goes back to his or her funder with the desired conclusion, how do they get that out to the media? It is easy, you just pay a press release service to put it out there. You out a scary or sexy headline on the study and the media will report it. Done deal. The worse, the better.
So, you are a reporter working at newspaper X or TV station Y. Yesterday you did a report on a break in and covered a squirrel that can water ski. In any given week you will cover a dozen to perhaps even 2 dozen stories. How many of those press releases that cross your desk do you think you will have time to really dig into? Not many right?
So you get a press release that says smoking lowers the chance of quitting smoking. Unless yoi spend hours into digging into the data and you discover that the scientists behind the study actually ruled out anyone who was now a total non-smoker because of vaping. They really did this and this is why you saw headlines and stories making the claim that smoking lowers the chance of quitting. They only counted current smokers in the study not any former smokers who now vape. It is that bad.
But you as the reporter run with the story as described by the researchers. Often the conclusions reported in the media actually had very little to do with the actual study. Hey, science people wear lab coats and have an alphabet of letter behind their name so it must be reliable. Not so fast!
I love soft drinks. I drink soda, or pop, every day. I know it’s bad. My wife tells me all the time. But, I get on Google and find a study published by the Journal of Obesity that basically says that soda is not that different from drinking water. Hey, great! Honey, look at this, I can drink all the soda I want! I’m hydrated. Of course I know that it does not make sense and of course I know soda is not good for me. It is full of sugar and other artificial ingredients. Common sense dictates that drinking soda is not doing me any favors. But, I can find a study to justify it.
Speaking of hydration, it was not long ago that Fox news reported on a study that showed that dehydration was akin to being intoxicated by alcohol. The study showed that dehydrated drivers made as many mistakes behind the wheel as intoxicated drivers. This study made the news, made the papers and was probably passed around water coolers from coast to coast the next day. Here’s the thing, that study was paid for by something called the Hydration Institute and was based on the data garnered from 11 people.
Yes, a news making scientific study based on the results selected from 11 people. This is what happens and this is what makes it so hard to get real information out there. This is how people not deeply involved in any specific field get their information and that includes our elected representatives.
Real Vaping StudiesCan Be Hard To Come By
Ideally, scientific study is validated through something called replication studies. A replication study is basically re-doing a previous study to see if you get the same results. The problem is that very few replication studies are going on in any field these days. This is simply because of the competitive nature of the science field. If you want funding you have to be the scientist who breaks new ground, there is very little glory in re-proving something someone else has already done.
The other side of the coin of the lack of replication studies is that it makes P-hacking a more fruitful method because chances are no one is going to pay for a study to replicate your results. So you don’t have too much worry about being disproven although it does happen occasionally, thankfully.
Fortunately, we have seen a number of large scale studies regarding vaping. Studies that consider mountains of accumulated data to determine a conclusion. There have been studies conducted at Drexler University in the US, Dr. Farsalinos in Europe and by major health agencies in the UK. These studies have found that vaping is safer than smoking and that it is not a gateway to tobacco. Now, if you have ever vaped you know that vaping is nothing like smoking and going back to tobacco is not something desirable.
The largest study was conducted by Public Health England. They went through every bit of data that they could gather and produced a 111 page report which conclusively found that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. This is a study that everyone should be aware of.
In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians conducted a similar evaluation and found that vaping is safer than smoking and that smokers should switch to vapor. They found that vaping can reduce tobacco related deaths. This study is one that policy makers should also be aware of.
At ECCR we do have concerns about the state of vaping as does the vaping community in general. None of us wants to see kids or non-smokers take up vaping. We need regulations to prevent kids from vaping. We need childproof eliquid bottles to be mandated by law. Complete disclosure of all ejuice ingredients only makes sense as why put diacetyl in ejuice when it is not needed and may be linked to popcorn lung (may be although there has never been a case of anyone contracting popcorn lung from vapor). These things are all doable. And we would like to see standards for the quality of the products available on the market.
Beyond the basics, the number one thing that we need is freedom of choice for smokers to access an alternative that could potentially save their lives. Yes, there are a large number of low quality ecigs and clones out there but that is why ECCR exists, we narrow down the best ecigs to help people avoid the bad. The bottom line is that we with millions of people losing their lives to smoking every year, we need more options and limiting the options for smokers is frankly unconscionable.
At the end of the day, we cannot lose sight of the people today that are struggling with smoking. Regulations, if anything, should work to enhance the quality of choices available to smokers and not limit them. And this brings us to a huge concern.
Anti-smoking groups have had a knee jerk reaction to vaping. As a result, they see us as an enemy when in reality we are an ally. For people like Stanton Glantz, the CDPH in California, Tom Frieden at the CDC they need to recognize that electronic cigarettes are a tool that can help reduce tobacco harm. They cannot be satisfied with the loss of so many people every year because of smoking.
This is out time to make a difference, to educate and inform. This is our time to protect the right to vape.