European Union regulating e-cigarettes based on ideology and theories, but not science

Guest post by Dr Farsalinos

It is unfortunate for a scientist to see how politics work and how decisions are made. For public health issues, especially for the very sensitive issue of smoking, one would expect that common sense and scientific facts would prevail. Instead, we are seeing decisions made on the basis of theoretical concerns, fear-mongering tactics and intimidation.

The pending regulation for electronic cigarettes seems to be a characteristic example of applying theory on top of real evidence. There has been an astonishing effort to mis-present science, misinform regulators and the society by distorting the results of scientific studies and eventually kill a product which will probably revolutionize tobacco harm reduction. Recently, we are overwhelmed by stories demonizing nicotine. Suddenly, after so many years of research and hard evidence coming from population studies, we are seeing the news media discussing about nicotine causing cancer and heart disease. We are seeing journalists trying to interpret cell studies, while in reality I doubt if they understand a single word of what they read. Obviously, they should not be the only ones blamed; it is scientists who give the information to the news media and they push for publicity. The result is a complete distortion of truth. It is shocking to see someone support that a cell study is good enough to discard all hard evidence from population studies showing that nicotine does not cause heart disease or cancer.

However, there are other questions raised by such tactics. First of all, why is every study on nicotine targeting e-cigarettes? Don’t NRTs also have nicotine? Why don’t we hear anyone discussing about nicotine in NRTs? Well, probably because e-cigarettes are a hot topic. However, few years ago, studies showing nicotine to be harmful were strongly opposed by scientific groups (such as Cancer Research UK), stating that: “The interpretation is highly speculative and contradicted by evidence that many millions of people have been using nicotine replacement therapy with no increased risk of oral or any other cancer. If reports like this stop people using what for many would be a life-saving medication it would be very unfortunate.” They are absolutely correct, but the same statement should be done today for e-cigarettes.

All this intimidating publicity has only one result: it harms the health of smokers by discouraging them from using a less harmful alternative like e-cigarettes and it harms the health of vapers some of whom have relapsed to smoking after hearing all this misinformation.

Coming back to regulatory decisions, it is unprecedented that a product is regulated based on theoretical concerns, especially when such concerns are completely contrary to any available evidence. It is a big “victory” of the antismoking advocates (who in fact have become anti-smokers) that the agenda is not evidence but theories; theories about normalization, theories about use by youngsters, theories about health effects. Every scientific study shows the exact opposite from what they support, but none cares. Theory is more important that evidence. We have come up to a point when a professor is supporting that “We are witnessing the beginning of a new phase of the nicotine epidemic and a new route to nicotine addiction for kids” while at the same time his own study mentions that “Students who had smoked every day in the past 30 days had the highest rate of current e-cigarette use (50.8%), compared with .6% among those who not currently smoking cigarettes (p < .001).” (emphasis added).

How should this be called? Science? It is really sad that scientists are so disrespectful of smokers and their need to find a getaway from smoking. They believe they should be punished for initiating smoking and for medicine’s inability to develop an effective smoking-cessation medication. It is a dangerous path that should be condemned.

Regulators should stay away from propaganda tactics. They should be properly informed and base their decisions on facts, not on theories. Regulating based on anything besides evidence is like opening the floodgates; it will have severe consequences and will definitely harm public health.

 

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18 thoughts on “European Union regulating e-cigarettes based on ideology and theories, but not science

  1. Another worrying side effect is that the whole medical profession (a couple of exceptions aside) is discredited. ‘Trust me I’m a doctor’ has become as meaningless as ‘trust me I’m a politician’. WHO (emphasis added) is left to turn to if one needs medical attention?

  2. Pingback: Great guest post from Dr. Farsalinos on saveecigs

  3. Dr. Farsalinos, thank you for what you do. You, along with Dr. Siegel, Dr. Phillips, Brad Rodu and many others are fighting Public Health & Anti-Tobacco Goons worldwide who are desperately trying to marginalize honest research and science. It IS a fight worth fighting!

  4. Worth reading:
    Goniewicz et al: Nicotine content of electronic cigarettes, its release in vapour and its consistency across batches: regulatory implications
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12410/abstract

    cite:
    “There is very little risk of nicotine toxicity from major electronic cigarette (EC) brands in the United Kingdom. Variation in nicotine concentration in the vapour from a given brand is low. Nicotine concentration in e-liquid is not well related to nicotine in vapour. Other EC brands may be of lower quality and consumer protection regulation needs to be implemented, but in terms of accuracy of labelling of nicotine content and risks of nicotine overdose, regulation over and above such safeguards seems unnecessary.”

    and:
    “Although an unsubstantiated claim is often repeated that 30–60 mg of nicotine is fatal, several suicide attempts have been recorded where people drank up to 1500 mg of nicotine in e-liquid (i.e. 50× the presumed lethal dose) without any consequence other than abdominal pain and ‘voluminous vomiting’ [13]. A recent study managed to trace the statement concerning the lethal toxicity of nicotine to dubious self-experiments in the 19th century. It has been repeated uncritically ever since. Given the low toxicity of nicotine at the doses observed and the fact that, long before any dangerous levels of nicotine concentration could be reached, an over-enthusiastic user would be warned by nausea, there is little concern that e-cigarettes can harm their users by delivering toxic nicotine levels.”

  5. “Science is the search for truth, that is the effort to understand the world: it involves the rejection of bias, of dogma, of revelation, but not the rejection of morality”. – Linus Pauling

  6. Pingback: Dr Farsalinos' e-cig research supersite and largest global survey ever - Page 37

  7. Not only a suprise to a scientist, Im in my 50’s and only just realised, as a member of the general public, how politics works. I am disgusted not only in the political side of workings, but in myself ,for knowing so little about how the world works. One would have thought that the world is run on common sence, values, truth and integrity…how wrong I am.

  8. So true!!! But do you remember the game Chinese Whispers (whisper down the lane)?
    I would recommend to add a “0” (Zero) in front of the “.6%”.
    …just to avoid wrong interpretation when copied and shared.

  9. I think non-smokers, but especially former smokers who quit without any aid, think smokers who vape in order to quit are weak. It’s a common reaction i get: “why don’t you just quit? I did!”. We are a lost cause. They’d rather help one person not to start instead of a 1000 from quiting so easely. Possibly they are a bit envious too, as they had to struggle while vapers do not. Lastly, in our society, pleasure of any kind is associated with ‘bad’ abstination is good (fat, sugar, alcohol). People just cannot believe that something that gives the same pleasures as smoking is not ‘bad’ for you. And they say its all in OUR head!

  10. Thank you Dr Farsalinos. We have been hearing so much about studies that misrepresent the findings so the demonization of ecigs can go forward.
    ____
    Do the math. A smoker spends over 1000 usd a year on cigarette taxes. Ecig users will soon reach 10,000,000 users in the usa alone. The decrease in taxes will be over 10,000,000,000 in 2014 alone. When you think about the next 5 years as more people switch that will mean, at least, 100,000,000,000 (one hundred BILLION) in taxes not entering the government coffers in the next 5 years.

    Also when people quit smoking they live longer. If people live longer they will take more out of social security.

    Follow the money. This has nothing to do with public health. (Ecigs save lives)

    Governments are senior partners of the tobacco industry ( http://tctactics.org/index.php/Money )

  11. Dr. Farsalinos you are spot on with everything you say.
    If only the legislators and governments could listen to you directly.

    We have to get the Vapers United around the world, not just the EU to fight the bans

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