France deems e-cigs a “tobacco product”; pseudo-science triumphs again

Earlier this month, France decided that e-cigarettes fall under the government’s purview as they have a state monopoly on tobacco products. For those of you unfamiliar with e-cigarettes, they contain precisely no tobacco; they are vaporized (no smoke, no burning) nicotine, with or without flavorings, only. Sure, longitudinal studies and stricter regulations may be in order to be sure they’re safe, but unless someone’s lining them with lead and asbestos, they’re undeniably safer than actual cigarettes.

I stumbled upon the shittastic research on/into e-cigarettes when I Googled “e-cigarettes weight loss study” to see whether anyone had tested their efficacy on curbing cravings. Yeah, um, apparently Altria Group is alive and well, no matter how many people have quit smoking in the past couple of decades, based on the shoddy excuse for research into and reporting on e-cigs. That, or Pfizer, the maker of smoking cessation drug “Chantix.” Or both, who knows. There is already a great blog post on this topic–from a source that’s at least upfront about its conflict of interest–that I strongly encourage you read if you’re the least bit inclined to continue reading my post: Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Science’ by Press Release: Mail Online reports “Electronic cigarettes ‘could damage your lungs’ as they cause less oxygen to be absorbed by the blood”.

Let it be known that I am staunchly anti-cigarette and can barely tolerate being near a barbecue grill before my eyes and nose protest. My mom smoked for years and contracted breast cancer, which was probably only related if you take a holistic view of her health. Her mother, however, smoked like a fiend, even after a COPD diagnosis, a bunch of intubations, and over a dozen “Call the family” prognoses from her doctors over the years. Her exit plan was to blow herself up by smoking near the oxygen tank she was prescribed, but her heart beat her to the punch and gave out after too many years of compensating for her lungs. Watching and smelling this saga, I swore never to go near cigarettes or to date or live with a habitual smoker. 

That said, e-cigarettes are NOT cigarettes. Googling “cigarette ingredients” produces thousands upon thousands of terrifying results. There’s no reason on the face of it that e-cigarettes should be any worse for you than any other stimulant, including non-steroidal inhalers, although that certainly warrants RIGOROUS scientific testing, unlike Professor Christina Gratziou’s inanity. 

In her study, she concluded that inhaling nicotine vapor had a temporary effect on airway resistance on non-smokers and habitual smokers, but not asthmatics or COPD sufferers. The sample size was SMALL (32 in total, 8 of whom were non-smokers), the ratios of nicotine vapor to regular air the participants were inhaling is unclear, and furthermore, I’ve not found it noted anywhere what period of time transpired between breathing in the vapors for 10 minutes and the spirometry test. Without notes on the ratio of puffs to regular breaths, the temperature of the vapor, etc., it could even be something as simple as the vapor having been cold, causing increased airway resistance. These sketchy results were leaked–by her–to the only “publications” she had a decent chance at: layman news sites. They were NOT peer reviewed first. 

So, what is “airway resistance” and why does it matter if it increases, even temporarily? Airway resistance is used to predict lung problems because of the marked and recurring increase in airway resistance among people with conditions such as emphysema (upon exhaling). A temporary increase in airway resistance, while it may signal lung damage in some people or under some conditions, DOES NOT CAUSE LUNG DAMAGE as Gratziou so blatantly states. There was no “harm” done to any participant as a result, let alone the sensitive populations in her study (by which I mean, vaporized nicotine didn’t send those with asthma or COPD into fits of any sort). And in the short term, airway resistance MEANS NOTHING about lung health. In fact, treatment for acute breathing difficulty is often inhalation of a stimulant.

This is a classic case of confusing cause and effect, with blatant disregard for public perception–although, it seems that Gratziou very much intended to cause controversy in this case. As Chair of the ERS Tobacco Control Committee, I would expect a scientist to laud the move toward e-cigarettes for current smokers, rather than taking a zealous and uniform anti-inhalant approach. But then, she was lead author a study funded by Pfizer Ltd, UK, in which every important aspect of the study on the drug known by the brand name Chantix in the U.S. was designed by Pfizer. Maybe it’s not that she’s against inhaling anything, but that she’s against drugs in the public domain because gods forbid there not be a patent held by big pharma for every modern healthcare solution. 

On the contrary, more reasonable studies of late have found that: (1.) There’s only about a 1 in 43 chance that young adult users of e-cigarettes will go on to become smokers, so it’s not a gateway to actual cigarette use (Duh–who in their right mind would switch to something that smells worse, is worse for you, and makes being a functioning member of society more difficult?); (2.) nicotine, as independent from cigarettes, could help with appetite and weight control

So yeah, don’t believe everything you read on The Internet, kids. Especially not about microwaves or candida. Stay tuned for those rants and more!


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