The Week in Vaping – Sunday December 13th, 2015

Vaping News Roundup


With a new study kicking up a big fuss about diacetyl, the proposed ban on indoor vaping in Wales losing its teeth, a bomb scare because someone was rebuilding a coil on a bus, e-cigs (or at least one) set to be available on prescription in the UK, more proposals to raise the minimum age for smoking to 21 and some great blog posts from vapers: it’s the Week in Vaping.


E-Cigarette Research


Diacetyl, diacetyl, diacetyl. Yep, the big piece of e-cigarette research hitting the news this week is a study (which you can read in full for free) which found that a disturbingly large number of e-cigarettes contain diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin, which are linked to lung problems – particularly for diacetyl and “popcorn lung.” The researchers found that 92% of 51 cigalike devices contained at least one of the chemicals, and 76 percent contained diacetyl.


The study received a massive amount of coverage in the media, and although the implications of the findings were blown out of proportion – the press release from Harvard originally said “popcorn lung seen in e-cigarette smokers” (despite the fact that it wasn’t) – for once, there is a genuine risk lurking behind the fear-mongering headlines.


Diacetyl e-liquid study


The biggest problem is that the study didn’t mention the crucial fact that cigarette smoke also contains diacetyl, and at levels much higher than have been detected in e-cigarettes, in either this study or previous research. Additionally, the authors seemed to have disturbingly little interest in conveying the quantities they found, not even presenting an average amount in the results section, despite a large degree of variability between samples.


The study has been well-summarized and incisively criticized by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, Dr. Michael Siegel and Professor Brad Rodu, who raise issues such as the lack of comparison to cigarettes, the very low levels (ordinarily) found being unlikely to pose a risk to vapers and some puzzling issues with how they conducted the study (in Brad Rodu’s critique).


These are all well-worth reading, so we won’t go into too much detail, but the short version is: there is a risk from diacetyl in e-cigs, but it isn’t anywhere near as significant as the reporting would have you believe, particularly for smokers switching to vaping and reducing their diacetyl exposure dramatically in the process.


Legislation, Regulations and Vaping Bans


Mark Drakeford Wales Indoor Vaping Ban
Photo: Mark Drakeford, the architect of the proposed Welsh indoor vaping ban. Evidence-phobic serial worrier about “renormalization” and gateways.


The proposed ban on indoor vaping in Wales has been revised, thanks – in part – to pressure from vapers and other political parties in Wales, not to mention opposition from experts and pretty much anybody who took the time to consider the (utter lack of) evidence for any risk to bystanders from vaping. A Welsh conservative hit the nail on the head, pointing out that Labor’s move to institute a ban was “because it doesn’t like them rather than basing the decision on evidence.”


The plan will now be amended, with the ban supposedly only being brought into effect where there is a “potential risk to children,” such as schools, public transport and eating places. However, as James Dunworth (from E-Cigarette Direct) points out in the comments, the list of designated places that the ban will cover hasn't been specified, so this could still include a lot of places (such as bars). As he puts it ” the battle in Wales is not yet over!”


Kittitas County, Washington is set to propose a ban on indoor vaping, limiting the use of e-cigs anywhere smoking is currently banned. The goal of the move, according to Kasey Knutson at the Public Health Department is to change public perception of e-cigarettes – as if there isn’t already a huge problem with smokers thinking they’re more dangerous than they really are.


Cleveland is raising the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21, in a move designed to minimize uptake of smoking among youth. Whether this will be effective remains to be seen, since underage youth hardly struggle to get access to tobacco as things stand now. New Jersey is also moving forward with a similar bill.


A Malaysian columnist has asked the Sultan of Johor to reconsider his (extreme, disproportionate, unnecessary and downright harmful) decision to ban vaping in the state. As things stand, vape stores in Johor would have to close by the 1st of January.


News, Blog Posts and Other Stuff


An e-cigarette was mistaken for a bomb on a bus journey in Scotland. A passenger saw somebody “behaving suspiciously” with something in his lap, got up as if he was going to the bathroom and saw what looked – to him, at least – like somebody was attaching a piece of “pipe cleaner wire” to a battery, which he assumed must be a bomb. Rather than inspecting it more closely or behaving in any way reasonably, he told the driver about a possible bomb on board and said he should pull over and call the police. After 45 minutes stood outside in the wind and rain, the police eventually arrived and spoke the man in question. He explains:


I showed them my unfired freshly cottoned vape. They laughed and shook their heads and told me I hadn't done anything wrong so not to worry about it and apologised.


There are now “e-cigarette explosion lawyers.” Their website is pretty crappy-looking, but does have a page of safety tips which includes the key statement: “In fact, these safety tips are good to use with ANY lithium ion battery (like the ones in your cell phone, laptop and maybe even your car).” I couldn’t have explained the double-standards in the “e-cig explosions” issue better myself. They might as well branch out to suing cell phone manufacturers too.


E-cigs will be available on prescription in the UK in the new year, specifically the e-Voke from British American Tobacco. They attempted to keep the news a little under wraps because they’re concerned that doctors will be inundated with smokers requesting a prescription e-cigarette, but the tabloid newspapers were quick to make sure everyone knew about it.


Paul Barnes over at Facts Do Matter has a great post about the problems with the medicalization of e-cigs, arguing that the attempt to get more e-cigs approved as medicines risks turning them into a (crappy) medical solution to the consumer problem of smoking. They are – and should be – a consumer solution. Many other bloggers have addressed the issue too, including Fergus Mason (at Ecigs Plaza), Alan Beard, junglist at Planet of the Vapes and Dave Upton at E-Cig Health Risks.


Fergus Mason also has a brilliant post on Blasting News about the diacetyl study, and more specifically the shallow, uninformative reporting of it by journalists, who were (as usual) perfectly happy to parrot whatever it said in the press release without even a hint of discussion of the likely risk in comparison to smoking.


Aaron Biebert OMB E-Cigarette Speech


Aaron Biebert has given a speech to the White House Office of Management and Budget which is well-worth reading, if only for the common-sense look at the undeniable issues with the proposed FDA regulations.


The Vaping Giraffe asks “Do we really have a tobacco epidemic?” in a new blog post, looking at the continuing debate in Norway and whether tobacco is really the problem. Snus – the spit-free chewing tobacco/moist snuff in a teabag – makes for a pretty irrefutable argument that tobacco really isn’t the problem at all and shines the light on the true problem: smoking. The point of the post is simple: governments (in Norway and elsewhere) should focus on tackling smoking, not nicotine and not even tobacco.


Spinfuel has published an informative post on temperature control vaping, covering the basics of the technology and the core benefits to using temperature control devices rather than standard VV/VW options. It’s essential reading for anyone unsure if temperature control vaping is for them.


The Ashtray Blog’s annual post predicting what we’ll see in the world of vaping next year has been published, collecting the views of researchers, bloggers, advocates and policy experts on the future of vaping. For anyone interested in what’s to come for vaping, it’s essential reading.


Bullshit of the Week – “Diacetyle Causes Cancer”


Diacetyl Causes Cancer Story
Pictured: How not to report on research that has nothing to do with lung cancer.


With just about every news outlet willing to cover e-cigarettes picking up this week’s diacetyl study, it’s no surprise that one of them went beyond the standard formula of “explain the risks of popcorn lung and diacetyl, make no mention of the vastly higher levels in cigarettes” and took a nosedive into severe bullshit territory. In an article bafflingly entitled “e-cigarettes linked with lung cancer” (they aren’t), Ray Courtney of the Albany Daily Star seems to have gotten it in his head that diacetyl is a cause of lung cancer, or, to put it in his misspelled words: “Diacetyle causes cancer.”


What follows isn’t really that bad an article, though (and he even learns to spell diacetyl about half way through), but one which notably provides no explanation whatsoever for his bizarre allegation that diacetyl is a cause of cancer or that e-cigarettes have been linked with lung cancer. It’s as if a fairly reasonable person wrote the whole article, then instead of an editor, it was handed off to a click-bait headline writer with no morals who just put as many unsubstantiated claims of e-cigs causing cancer in there as the content allowed.


So, no, diacetyl doesn’t cause cancer. Since diacetyl does genuinely pose a risk, you’d think that the fearmongering wouldn’t need to depend on blatant lies, but apparently you’d be wrong.


Check Back Next Week for More!


So it’s been a largely buttery, lung-disease-y week for vapers, with the diacetyl-tinted storm of negative press undoubtedly turning tons of smokers off the safer alternative and encouraging them to continue inhaling hundreds of times more diacetyl as part of cigarettes. I’m sure by the time the next Week in Vaping rolls around there will be something else they’re trying to make us super-worried about.