Thursday, 30 January 2014

Some comments on last night e-cig coverage on FBI (Norwegian consumer/science TV show)

Coffee-caramel dripping... mmm
Last night FBI, a Norwegian consumer/science TV show, was all about e-cigarettes. Norwegian readers can see the show here: http://tv.nrk.no/serie/forbrukerinspektoerene/mdhp11000514/29-01-2014 (might work in Sweden and Denmark as well). There were interviews with members of Norsk Dampselskap, a government official, a representative from the Norwegian Cancer society, a chemistry professor and Karl Erik Lund from SIRUS. I think the guys from Norsk Dampselskap (Are Sakarias Grønsund, Ramzy Zaher and Fredrick Skauge) did a fantastic job presenting the e-cigarettes, explaining what it is and telling the viewers about their own experience with them. They even managed to give the interviewer a proper cough attack with a dripper and some coffee-caramel-liquid. Good job :)


The government official and the representative from the Cancer society were sceptical and presented the gateway argument (as usual). They keep referring to some reports from the USA that shows an increasing number of teens experimenting with e-cigarettes. It seems like a lot of sceptics and anti-e-cig-people have picked up this report and keep on referring to it. I assume this is the report in question: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6235a6.htm. Well, while I do believe the data collected in this study is probably real, the conclusion that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking is pulled out of thin air. There is nothing in this data that would indicate that. It reports how many have tried e-cigarettes, how many are using them on a regular basis, and how many of these that also smokes traditional cigarettes, but there is no evidence that someone has actually moved from e-cigarettes to normal cigarettes. Actually the fact that only 7.2% of the high school students have experimented (tried at least once) with e-cigarettes, means that 92.8% of these are already smokers, probably looking for a way to quit. Among high school student e-cig users 80.5% are also smoking, which means, even if we assume ALL the 7.2% that had experimented (and never smoked cigarettes) are also current users (the study doesn't say anything about this), there is 12.3% of the smokers that has managed to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes. As current e-cigarette users is 2.8% and current "double users" are 2.2% that means only 0.6% are pure e-cig-users, which is not very high given that 10% have tried them. And finally these 0.6% might even be smokers that has made the switch, the study says nothing about this either. So if you really look into what this data means I'd say they give NO evidence of e-cigarettes being a gateway to smoking, but rather that non-smokers have very little interest in e-cigarettes. The way these data is presented I think is just horrible, it's presented as a bunch of numbers in a quite confusing manner and then only the data that supports whatever they WANT to find is pointed out to support their case. This study shows that more teens are experimenting with e-cigarettes... period. Not really breaking news for a new product like that currently is on the edge of the law. In fact, try legalizing it, I bet you my kidney this number will drop. Guess this is what "scientists" do when they start to suspect they might have been wrong all the time, they have to save their own ass right? I mean, you got to ask yourself, as Karl Erik Lund does as well, WHY would someone choose a product that kills half of it's users when they are already using a product with the same function that has not been the cause of a single death?

The next part of the show was with the chemistry professor, Einar Uggerud. He kind of confirmed that nicotine and the PG was pretty harmless. The same thing with all the other ingredients he read from an e-liquid bottle. BUT, he also says we really don't know what substances are created when we vaporize these ingredients, and that they might cause cancer. So ... kind of mixed feelings about what he says. We do have a lot of science around what's actually in the vapor as well, for instance dr. Farsalinos work (http://ecigarette-research.com), so mr. Uggerud might be a bit uninformed here. But, I agree there might be some less serious manufacturers as well, so we should get some more control in this area.

Finally, Karl Erik Lund made some really good points at the end of the show worth mentioning. First of all, and this is a good one, he says it's a paradox that it is legal here in Norway to sell e-liquid without nicotine. It's proven that the nicotine is not the dangerous substance in these liquids, but it's in the flavouring some of the potentially dangerous substances might be. So Lund believes we should regulate the e-liquids in the same way that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority regulates for example cosmetics. They look at whats in it, gets rid of the junk and leaves us with safe and good products on the market. When asked about if the e-cigarette can help people stop smoking he confirms that science supports this, but also makes a point that the really big gain here is that future generations can choose a less dangerous product than the conventional cigarettes, that will give them the same stimuli and the same symbolic effect. He says that the government's wish for a smoke free society, in his opinion, is pure utopia.

In conclusion I think this show will tempt a lot of the smokers who watched to try e-cigarettes. There is no doubt some misinformation from the interviewed sceptics that might scare some, but all in all I think Lund and the members of the Norsk Dampselskap did a great job and sounded much more serious and not driven by fear like the others. Good job guys.



Ramzy Zaher, Fredrick Skauge and Are Sakarias Grønsund explaining how it all works.




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