E-cigarettes are a tobacco product, so please stop wasting time arguing otherwise

by Carl V Phillips

CASAA’s Kristin Noll-Marsh just posted an excellent analysis of why it is a bad idea to try to argue that e-cigarettes should not be considered a tobacco product.  If you are reading this post, you will definitely want to go read it.

For those who do not know, approximately once every five minutes in some forum somewhere, someone who is new to vaping or otherwise unfamiliar with the THR debate and regulatory issues declares that if e-cigarette advocates only pushed back against the categorization, or even the name “electronic cigarettes” itself, then…  Well, actually I am not quite sure.  Then something wonderful and positive would happen, though it is never quite clear what or why it would happen.

Noll-Marsh does a good job of explaining how if this succeeded, it would accomplish nothing in terms of improving regulatory prospects, and indeed is almost certain to make them worse.  She also points out how e-cigarettes so obviously occupy the exact same niche as other tobacco products that it is perfectly accurate to call them tobacco products for any practical purpose.  It is not even misleading about risk, since smokeless tobacco is the proof that smoke-free tobacco is not substantially harmful.  (And for those who are merely obsessed with the literal meaning of words, every tobacco product contains part, but not all, of the tobacco plant, just like e-cigarettes do.)

She does not go into much detail about another good reason to not pursue this fight:  It cannot be won.  Regulators will declare e-cigarettes to be tobacco products if they want to — and if you are a vaper who lives somewhere this is happening (e.g., the USA), count your blessings, because the leading competing alternative is to regulate them as medicines.

As for changing the name “e-cigarettes”, there are several reasons why the current name is good and the proposed alternatives have serious flaws, but those are moot because the ship has long-since sailed on that one.  I cannot think of any example where a political effort to change the name of a popular consumer product succeeded, other than with the intention of slandering the product (e.g., “alco-pop”)  Do you really want “e-cigarettes” to be officially called ENDS?  Because if the name were really put in play, that is the likely landing point.

Apart from some vague (and clearly incorrect) notion that somehow a re-categorization would lead to more consumer-friendly regulation, why is there so much interest in this?  I think a lot of it comes from smokers learning to accept the characterization of themselves as pathetic or evil — a very typical pattern among those who are the victims of systematic abuse by those who hold power over them — and so wanting to declare, after switching to vaping, that they are no longer that.  It is understandable, and if you need to personally declare that you no longer use tobacco because you use e-cigarettes, then you can do so (just do not expect most of the world to agree with you).  But if instead you were to fight back against the self-perception that your abusers inflicted, and declare that you are a willing, knowledgeable, and happy tobacco user, you might feel better still.  And if not for yourself, consider doing that for the good of the cause and others who practice or might practice THR.  Because it seems that proud and happy self-declared tobacco product users, united rather than divided, are much more likely to have a positive influence than what — to the outside observer — mostly comes across as apologetic.


38 responses to “E-cigarettes are a tobacco product, so please stop wasting time arguing otherwise

  1. Just another case of big companies losing too much money to e-cigs and trying to find a way to stop their uptake.
    Classing something as tobacco that is clearly not tobacco is taking it to another level though.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I am not sure I understand what you are claiming. No company, big or small, seems to have anything to do with the fact that e-cigarettes are tobacco products, nor do they have anything to gain from it. Several of the biggest companies in the sector would probably benefit from categorization as a medicine. As for your second sentence, you might want to read the posts — even if you want to argue against the conclusions, you need to recognize that that “clearly” is wrong — clearly.

  2. While you have some valid points, I’d like to say that a lot of nicotine used in electronic cigarettes does not come from tobacco per se. Much of it comes strictly from vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplant.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I am really curious about where you are hearing such claims. I have heard there is a flurry of such claims being made and it would be interesting to figure out whether the source is random, or whether suppliers are actually lying about this. There is no conceivable way that nicotine could be extracted from another plant and be anywhere close to cost competitive. The farm door price of enough eggplant (probably the cheapest option) to fill one carto would be over $100 — that is the price of the vegetable itself, to say nothing of how expensive it would be to extract. It is conceivable that someone might have done it as a lark once, but it is obviously not really being done.

      In any case, even if this were done, the product would still be occupying the same niche and mind space as other tobacco products. It would only not be a tobacco product in the most literal sense, but for all practical purposes, it still would be.

      • There is no non-tobacco nicotine used in ecigs, just as there is no synthetic nicotine. The costs are prohibitive. However I have come across senior e-cigarette management who have believed it; when I said this is impossible because your product isn’t 100 times more expensive, they all replied; “OK I’ll get (Fred) to give me the documentation”. Fred etc is the person in the organisation who told them this.

        Either nothing more was ever heard, or it came back: “I was told that we pay about 3x the going rate for a barrel of pharma nic and the quality is so high (no tobacco TSNAs measurable) that Fred assumed it was synthetic / came from tomatoes / etc – sorry I misled you”.

        Ask for proof – not hearsay but proof. There isn’t any. I even heard stories of a huge plant built to extract nic from recycled junk veg in N Carolina or somewhere. But such a plant would cost $5m and $1m a year to run and the product would cost 100x the normal price for nic; and there still wasn’t any evidence to support its existence. Just hearsay. It’s fairy dust.

  3. Pingback: E-cigarettes are a tobacco product, so please stop wasting time arguing otherwise | vapeforlife

  4. I am still mulling over the legalese.
    – If I make a 100% non tobacco based nicotine delivery device it would be considered a tobacco product under “intended use”.
    – If I make a 100% non tobacco based, low dosage, carbon monoxide inhaler it could be considered a tobacco product under “intended use”.
    – If I make a 100% tobacco nicotine based, FDA approved ‘cessation product’, it is not considered to be a tobacco product.
    The “intended use” criterion is replaced by stuff like “products are effective and that their benefits outweigh any known associated risks”.

    To me it looks like different strokes for different smokes.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I guess I would tend to use some concept like “common use” or “predominant use” rather than “intended use”. There is a skin moisturizer that is popular in the US as use as a bug repellant (though lab tests have suggested it is not really very good for that, many people believe (or at least used to believe) it is); the sales seem to be dominated by people who want to use it for its bug repellant properties; therefore, it is a bug repellant in the marketplace and on the street, even though it was not designed and is not labeled as such. The regulators sometimes pay attention to the declared intended use (labeling and marketing) when applying regulation (the manufacturer of the above product might need to show that it actually repels bugs if they actively marketed it for that purpose, but do not have to if they just rely on word-of-mouth), but that does not mean that the rest of us need to think that way.

  5. if an e-cigarette does not use nicotine, is it still a tobacco product?

    A car could use different fuels. Are all cars regulated as if they were petrol products or, perhaps, diesel products? No. There are regulatory frameworks for cars and regulatory frameworks for the fuel. These frameworks overlap.

    In the same way, when talking about e-cigarettes, we are talking about the hardware and the juice. The hardware needs separate regulation from the juice, which to some extent is the situation in the UK, despite claims of e-cigarettes being unregulated.

    Whether an e-cig is a tobacco or medicinal product depends on the hardware and the intended use of the the e-liquid as well as whether the liquid contains nicotine.

    If a vaper claims to be using an e-cig to help them quit, are they taking a medicine? If so, efficacy and nicotine dose are important.

    If a vaper claims to use an e-cig as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes, are they using a lower risk tobacco product? If so, relative risk is important.

    If a vaper claims they use a zero nic e-cig because they like the taste and different flavours, what are they using? Is it a medicinal or a tobacco product?

    When using the term ‘e-cigarette’ many assume it is a single ‘thing’ that contains nicotine. The image invoked is that an e-cigarette is just a cigarette with a battery, so all e-cigs need to be categorized one way or another. This polarization is imho unhelpful, though I fear we may be stuck with it for the reasons you outline.

    So, the EU goes medicinal, the US tobacco product. A step back would enable a workable framework for the ‘e-cigarette’ that overlaps both, yet is separate.

    wrt your last paragraph. I agree with you. Given the position in the EU, those who have switched to e-cigs to be ‘tobacco free’ in the belief they will be free from persecution may well find themselves in an unenviable position. Is their choice an admission they are hopeless addicts requiring a medicine to feed their ‘addiction’? Alternatively, are they goody-goodies, held up as role models, to undermine the choices of others? All ways round, these are just unhelpful divisions.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Thanks for helping expand on my last paragraph. I could not quite nail down some of those thoughts, and I think you nailed it.

      It is always the case that any worldly definition has fuzzy edges and sometimes not-yet-drawn borders. My guess is that the concept will evolve to say that an e-cigarette without nicotine is not a tobacco product, but I could be wrong. (And, of course, that brings in the fuzzy issue: what if it has 0.01% nicotine?, but worrying about the exact placement of the fuzzy edges do not really make for very interesting questions.)

      Whether an e-cigarette is a tobacco product or medical device or whatever for purposes of regulations depends on none of these things. It depends merely on what the regulators (or those who authorize them) decide, and they are not going to care about what vapers decide, even if it is unanimous, any more than the authorities would care if cannabis users universally declared that their drug of choice is salad. Regulations need not blindly apply the same rules to everything in a category, like fuel, of course. As I mentioned re Jonathan Bagley’s comment, we expect that the FDA will not blindly apply all their tobacco rules to e-cigarettes, but localities sometimes to propose to do that because those processes tend to be largely thought-free, based on a few tens of person hours of thinking, rather than the thousands that are needed.

      But setting regulation aside, I think that perhaps an individual who is consciously using an e-cigarette as a medicine — say in a way akin to on-label NRT use, for a two month weaning process — could legitimately think of it as entirely different from the act of “using tobacco” (though the product itself would still draw its definition from the larger world).

  6. Jonathan Bagley

    Here in the UK, most vapers would consider it a disaster were ecigs classed as a tobacco product. Currently they do not attract extra tax and can be used in many indoor buildings where smoking is banned. That they contain nicotine, which is most cheaply extracted from the tobacco plant, does not make them a tobacco product. If an aubergine could be genetically engineered to contain a huge concentration of nicotine, would ecigs still be sa tobacco product? huge concentration of nicotine, would

    • Carl V Phillips

      Since what you have in the pipeline right now is medicalization that is close to a ban, wouldn’t that be better?

      You are right that being subject to all laws that affect cigarettes would not be a good thing. CASAA fights (generally successfully) state and local laws that would simply declare e-cigarettes to be a tobacco product and subject to all rules, which is mainly a tax increase. But that is local-level lawmaking where most things are on autopilot and they have probably never thought through the implications of the simplistic move. At the national level we expect a lot more thought will go into what the designation means. Here there are very very few places where “tobacco product” use is banned (places like kiddie playgrounds; and even then, only smoking is prohibited in practice), and I would guess that is true there (it is just that you do not have much smokeless tobacco use so the distinction is easier to overlook). In any case, e-cigarettes can be taxed and place-banned quite easily without the “tobacco product” legal designation (as is done in a few places where we lost battles in the US) — after all, that is what is happening over there.

      It is worth reminding everyone of Kristin’s point, that regulators can and will choose to categorize the products in whatever way suits their practical goals (they want taxes? they will call them tobacco products; they want a ban? they will call them medicine), and they will care not at all how the users think of them.

      It is also worth reminding everyone that the argument about why e-cigarettes are tobacco products is based on the practical niche they occupy, not the provenance of their materials. The parenthetical aside in the post about provenance was just to point out that even if someone clings to that source of identity, it is still true. But the main point was that it really has nothing to do with that.

  7. Ecigs are a nicotine containing product rather than a tobacco product or a medicine. The difficulty is that this is a new type of product and trying to define it as something else is not efficient for any purpose. The clearest sign this is true is that there is intense argument from all sides – if the issue were clear, there wouldn’t be. As regards regulation, a new system needs to be created because trying to regulate a new product area using existing regs for other products is the worst solution. In countries with full consumer protections there is no need to do anything; but that is an unusual case. See Clive Bates for the best solution yet:

    Kristin’s argument is well made but may involve a US-centric influence (and there is nothing wrong with that). The equivalent in the EU is to argue as I do. There are probably good reasons for both of our positions: in my case it might be because tobacco classification in the EU would be a disaster – certainly 99% as good as medical classification for removing ecigs from the market. In practical terms we have to consider the timescales in all regulatory processes, which tend to be extended; there is no immediate threat anywhere – but that day will come.

    The best outcome for all would be a new classification class for leisure nicotine products. It is also the most satisfying logically because at some point in the future there won’t be any smoking, and at that point classifying products as being related to something that no longer exists and has to be imagined, for torturous historic reasons, will be pointless. We don’t consider art in the Louvre to be a type of cave painting because that’s how it started and its intention is and always was to brighten up our walls; things moved on a bit. How something originally evolved eventually has little relevance. You don’t regulate a 2,000 ton commercial wave-piercing catamaran ferry like a dhow or a Polynesian double canoe, just because one came from the other and they kind of sort of do the same job.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I can’t say I agree with your test of whether something is genuinely unclear — that there is intense argument. Some issues pass that test (the morality of abortion; the nature of climate change) but others are characterized by intense arguments in spite of there being no doubt (humans evolved and the plant is old; austerity makes things worse in a demand-driven depression; tobacco harm reduction works). There is something in common about the latter list: one side adopts quasi-religious beliefs that are not supported by any evidence, just belief. Not that that describes the present issue, because there is relatively little concrete evidence to be had (though not none — it seems to be empirically the case that the 99.99% of the world who are not particularly interested in this debate tend to think of e-cigarettes as tobacco products — or, that is, those that think of them at all tend to think that).

      Again, this was not primarily about regulation, but about popular identity. But if e-cigarettes were simply defined as cigarettes in the UK, what would be the problem, particularly as compared to being medicines that need MHRA approval? Serious question — I am not aware of why that would be the disaster you suggest it would (yes, there would be punitive taxes, which are inappropriate, but what else?). I realize that the micromanagement of cigarette form factor and such from the latest TPD proposal would create an issue, but that is basically an attempt to all-but ban cigarettes. But since that proposal all but bans e-cigarettes quite directly, it seems like it would be better.

      And again, there is no reason that being in the same category implies the same regulation, and no reason that not being in the same category promises different, let alone better, regulation. After all, e-cigarettes and cigarettes are clearly both in the category “consumer products” or “corporeal objects”, which does not imply similar regulation. Believing that popular identity categorization will determine regulation is part of why people are obsessing about and thereby are wasting a lot of energy on something that does not matter. The regulators will not be influenced by what e-cigarette users call it. At all. On the other hand, the fierce arguments denying its identity as a low-risk tobacco product are pretty much certain to offend other tobacco users (both low- and high-risk varieties), which is a gift to the ANTZ.

      • Good points.

        The reason that tobacco classification will be a disaster for us is because we don’t live in the UK, we live in the People’s Republic of the EU (anywhere that has PR in the name is a ruthless dictatorship as far as I can see). Imagine Glantz and Chapman in charge of the rules, with no real possibility of mitigation, and you’re getting there.

        We face no flavours (immediately) – this means no e-liquid. All other aspects will be rigorously restricted with a view to removing ecigs as soon as possible. At some point there will be no web sales. So we are in a situation that conceivably is worse than any FDA deeming reg scenario, no matter how restrictive.

        How does that sound?

        • Carl V Phillips

          Ok I understand that — the no characterizing flavors rule (which for e-cigs would mean flavorless) would apply. That would be bad. I am not sure that an alternative designation (for regulatory purposes, regardless of the popular conception) would protect you from the vandalous type of people that you mention, though. This special interest group (or are they a hate group) would be likely to capture the regulation of the new category just as they have capture regulation of cigarettes and snus.

        • Chris,
          The EU does pose a big threat – but as I understand it, strong legal challenges are being raised on this matter, and the foundation for the strongest of these challenges is based on the fact that Ecigs are tabacco products .. that the banning of flavours is inconsistant with the way other tabacco products (cigarettes) have been treated (there has never been any EU objection to menthol) – It is my understanding that this whole matter is likely to be challenged in the European
          If all vapers in the UK (and other EU nations) contact their local MP’s and their EU MPs, we may stop the moves – I think Carl is right – we cannot afford to indulge in argument about whether Ecigs are “tabacco products” – They are! We need to remain rational and scientific, or we come over as fools! We need to be cleverer and better informed than they are!

        • @FJM
          The main resistance to the anti-ecig provisions in the new TPD is based on rejection of the medicalisation clause. Tobacco classification has been ignored. Given that a very large amount of money has been expended on producing the TPD and getting it through committee, and given that people with a lot of money to expend here are not especially stupid in these matters, it seems to me that they would have realised from the outset that medical classification is unlikely to survive – it’s a fun bet that may work, but the odds are that it won’t get through to the end of the process or will be struck down by courts (as there is a 100% record of them doing so which is added to almost every month, it seems – latest example yesterday in Germany). Therefore a good guess is that it’s a sideshow: the real aim is to go to the fallback position, tobacco classification. In the EU, this will do 99% as good a job as medicalistion for removing ecigs. There are a multitude of reasons (too many to list comprehensively) but you can start with prohibition by taxation, removal of all useful refills, banning of web sales, imposition of a large annual fee to tobacco product importers/distributors/manufacturers for the right to stay in business, etc.

          Please do not make the mistake of thinking that tobacco classification, in the EU, is some sort of better option – it is actually worse in some respects. For example if ecigs received a medical classification then the products affected would move to the black market, and there would be a great deal of sympathy for inconvenienced purchasers by the rest of the population. With a tobacco classification, the same products can be taxed out of contention or banned by regulation, and as they are ‘tobacco products’ no one will have any sympathy for those forced to obtain them by other means.

          The best solution (simply in order to be able to say that something had been done for those countries in the EU that do not have effective consumer protections – not for any reasons related to health or safety) would be a separate regulatory system; perhaps something similar to that for cosmetics (advocated by Bates) or that for dietary supplements (advocated by Polosa). But as CVP points out, it doesn’t matter what regulatory system applies, the people eventually (or even initially) in control of it will be people who want to kill ecigs off. Almost everything is regulated by the makers or the haters, and in this case it will be the haters.

          In 30 years’ time all these issues will have been resolved because voter pressure will ensure that politicians have to act, to a certain extent, in accordance with what a significant and vocal part of the electorate want (most people couldn’t care less what politicians do as the result is pretty much always the same for the average person, anyway); but if there is a group of 20% who are prepared to vote according to how a party stands on one issue then it does affect what happens (as we saw with the recent terror at the top caused by a 20% shift to UKIP in UK local elections). Between now and then, you can expect very severe regulations on ecigs. Such regulations are 99.9% unjustifiable but that’s the power of money.

          The smoking economy is worth more than $1 trillion and it can protect itself very well indeed. At some point you will have to go to the black market to get what you need in order to prevent relapse to smoking, and that’s all there is to it. Anything else is a fairy story. We are trying to fight billions of $$ and it can’t be done.

          People who hope that ‘the right thing will be done’ are living in cloud cuckoo land: the right thing is to enforce normal consumer protections and maybe add some sort of simple enforcement of refill quality perhaps administered by the trade. There are numerous examples of important product areas subject only to trade regulation, and indeed one or two of the oldest and most successful product regulation schemes in existence are of this type. There are also examples of such a system that doesn’t work (such as Press self-regulation), but the issues are different: the Press, politicians and Police have all colluded to evade the law and pervert outcomes to the detriment of the public interest, and this would not normally be applicable to a consumer product range.

  8. harleyrider1978

    Theres no tobacco in them so how can they be a tobacco product?

    Does this mean food can now be called a tobacco product if it contains Nicotine in it……………..lol Keep fighting Carl your great!

    • Carl V Phillips

      (a) As I noted, there is part (not all) of the tobacco plant in them, just as there is part (not all) of the tobacco plant in cigarettes. You will not find any bright line there.

      (b) That does not actually matter and is not the point. This discussion was about identity, and to a much less extent regulation, not about provenance. If you made a cigarette using a Star Trek version of a 3-D printer, out of a bin of raw elements or whatever input they use, it would still be a tobacco product as a matter of identity. Perhaps if e-cigarettes did not intentionally imitate the most common tobacco product (now and for the last several generations) in terms of both form and drug delivery, there would be a distinction to be made. (I.e., while I choose to classify NRT as a tobacco product also, it is definitely getting into a more grey area.) But there is no chance that e-cigarettes are going to be thought of as other than something in the niche that cigarettes occupy. This needs to be dealt with, not pretended away.

  9. In the past, or should i say, in the beginning of e-cig evolution, yes, e-cig’s imitated cigarettes, and your argument about identity would have had teeth. But now, in 2013? A large proportion of e-cigs look nothing like cigarettes, and in fact i would go as far as to say, the majority of “non-novice” vapers around the world today do not use such devices.

    The e-cig market is evolving exponentially and even as i write, new models are being released that bear no resemblance to tobacco cigarettes. So you have to look at your ‘identity’ argument quite carefully. Of all the vapers i know, no-one uses their device in the same manner as they would ‘smoke’ a cigarette. They don’t hold it the same way, they don’t put it into their mouth the same way. Vaping in its current form is a completely different animal to what you are describing here.

    So, the similarities you are putting forward just don’t exist in today’s society. Vaping and Tobacco smoking are two completely seperate activities that bear no familial links with each other apart from the nicotine aspect. Yes, there are still going to be “cig-a-like” style devices around for a while because they are cheap, easy to use, and easy to produce. But eventually those kind of devices will disappear in favour of the more common “vaping” devices that we have now as they become cheaper to buy and to produce.

    We have to fight any kind of regulation by governments, wherever they are, as this is a human rights issue. It is our RIGHT to choose a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, and not to be punished for that choice. Big tobacco and big pharma stand to lose billions because we choose a healthier life, and they don’t like it. They will put every obstacle they can in our way to try and stop this, and we all have to be strong and stay focused. Stick together people. ECIGS SAVE LIVES.

    • Carl V Phillips

      I think you are missing the forest for the trees. Of all the zillions of activities humans engage in, inhaling through a device that you hold in your hand for purposes of filling your airway with particulates that deliver a psychoactive drug is a rather odd niche. The only practices of that that are popular (among populations that are currently relevant to this debate) are smoking tobacco via cigarettes/cigars/pipes and smoking cannabis (or the heat-not-burn variations on these, like hookahs and vaporizers). But smoking tobacco has the added similarity of delivering the same primary psychoactive. How you hold the device, how fast you inhale, or its form factor hardly matter compared to that (and the majority of the devices sold are still cigarette form factor, and that is unlikely to change for quite a while — the vapers you know and the ones who participate in activism or chat sites are a minority of users).

      Re your last paragraph, once again, there is no way that fighting the existential characterization is going to help with the regulatory fight. And I think you have been tricked into targeting the wrong players as your opponents: The serious opponents are the ANTZ and governments seeking to preserve tax revenue. Pharmaceutical companies do not really care much. Tobacco companies care a lot, and so have sensibly entered the market and will soon be selling more e-cigarettes than other companies. While some of them have made moves that seem to be motivated by giving advantage to their own e-cigarette products at the expense of competitors, I am aware of nothing they have done to stop the growth of e-cigarettes. Are you?

  10. Carl – why argue that they are tobacco products? No users or vendors see it that way, and surely a product should be characterised by the perceptions of those buying and selling it – not whatever regulatory framework a lazy regulator wants to drop it into to save the effort of regulating it for what it is? Given these will be a massive and diverse category in their own right before long I think we should avoid miscategorisation from the outset and users should expect regulators to regulate them as ‘e-cigarettes’, not medicines or tobacco (I have drawn a comparison with the approach taken to cosmetics: http://www.clivebates.com/?p=1396). A lot of grief (potentially) comes from tobacco categorisation: excise taxes; bans on advertising and marketing; provisions of the FCTC; sweeping regulation of things like additives or flavours; big misleading warnings; and even more black propaganda… It need not be so, but it just is. I think we need to recognise a class of nicotine products with continuum of risk – some with therapeutic claims, others sold as recreational drugs, and design something that recognises that reality. There isn’t a calamity happening that demands an urgent response (quite the contrary – the urgent response would be the calamity) so why not get it right and fit for purpose?

    • Carl V Phillips

      Clive, it is not about arguing the one side, it is about trying to dissuade people from the wasted effort (and misplaced faith in effectiveness) that goes into fighting for the other side. It is about the point I led off with, that people are constantly wanting to make a campaign of this, and that they mistakenly believe that lobbying for a label (or lack thereof) will affect regulation. Sensible regulation is not created based on such labels and bad regulation is not stopped (or even slowed) by them. A regulator who wants to impose bad rules can — and will — respond to such a campaign with, “[shrug] Ok, they are not tobacco products. Whatever. Now here are the rules they have to obey….” Meanwhile, a sensible regulator of tobacco products (should they have the jurisdiction, which will not be influenced at all by whether there is a campaign to declare that they are not tobacco products) will respond to their actual features and their contrast with smoking, and make appropriate rules.

      There is not a continuum of risk. There basically just two (very) different risk categories: 1. cigarettes and 2. ST/NRT/ecigs. Good regulation will recognize this and act accordingly.

      I am sure that you do not believe that the FCTC et al. are going to care whether e-cigarette users and advocates are campaigning to have e-cigarettes called “not tobacco products”. But all the effort wasted on that, in the vague believe that somehow it will accomplish something, creates the illusion that something is being accomplished and takes away resources that might be used for something else. There are, in fact, calamities in process — the EU, the WHO/FCTC, etc. And yet a remarkable portion of the discourse about these consists of “if we can just get them to understand that e-cigarettes are not tobacco….”

      As for black propaganda, a strenuous effort to protest the designation seems to just further it. This is a real concern that perhaps is a reason for affirmatively arguing the other side. First, it almost always leads to implicit or even explicit attacks on other tobacco users, including those who use the low-risk (probably lower risk than e-cigarettes) versions. At the very least, it almost always involves denigrating smokers — often worse than the serious people among the ANTZ do. “I am not one of those nasty dirty tobacco users” — and, implicitly, “they should just do what I did” — is every bit as harmful as the ANTZ who say, in effect, “everyone should just quit — I did!”

      Second, protesting “I am not one of them, so your denigration does not apply to me” is an implicit endorsement of the denigration. And since there is little chance either the attackers or general public are going to buy the “I am not one of them” argument any time soon, it is an implicit endorsement of the attacks on vapers. This is especially true when the protests have the characteristics I noted in the previous paragraph. Then it becomes rather reminiscent of the closeted gay person actively joining in verbal gay bashing (perhaps genuinely believing that he is not one of those gays that are being bashed). It is easy to understand the urge, but it is harmful in the long run. Better to stand up and fight against the black propaganda (all of it) than going along with it.

      Third, there is a rather important practical side to the latter. Making common cause with other tobacco users and advocates is not just the morally right thing to do, it is tactically wise. The government of Sweden and even defenders of smokers have a lot more pull in Brussels than do e-cigarette advocates, and that will remain the case for quite a while. If they perceive that e-cigarette users and advocates are as opposed to their side as the ANTZ are, they will have no reason not to throw e-cigarettes under the bus to further their aims.

      • I completely agree with your above post Carl, especially the last paragraph.

        I have a bit of a different view on this discussion as I am a ST user and used
        ST to quit smoking. I have found the whole “this is not a tobacco product” push to be a good study on how successful the ANTZ have been in demonizing tobacco. Vapors have a lot to gain by joining with ST users in educating the public about the concepts of THR, and nothing to gain by running away from tobacco. It may be a good idea to look to ST regulations as a model (though not perfect) rather then smoking.

        ST users do not have nearly the same restrictions as smokers. Taxes, at least on a federal level are also much lower then for cigarettes (though there are a few prohibitionist who push for higher taxes on ST on a federal level, as of yet they have been unsuccessful). There is no reason e-cigarettes can’t follow suite. That is a much more rational approach then trying to carve out the essentially impossible task of trying to create a whole new category.

        I guess I could extract the active ingredient of Cannabis and try to sell it as….. not really Cannabis, but I somehow think that may not go over well with the legal system. That’s about as silly as saying e-liquid is not really a tobacco product.

        • Carl V Phillips

          Alan, thanks for helping clarify. I agree that the intense feelings that this — something that is basically an arcane point — generates seem to be due to some vapers buying into the ANTZ demonization of tobacco. Even more strongly, I agree with the “running away” point. I realize that relatively few smokers will ever see what a few thousand vapers are writing to the choir, but if they do (or if the leaders or public faces of THR advocacy start echoing what appears there, even inadvertently) I fear that some will end up thinking of e-cigarette users as being similar to ANTZ and not want to have anything to do with it. I would guess that CASAA loses smokeless tobacco users because of this — if I were an ST user who was toying with the idea of becoming political and peeked in, I could imagine reaching the conclusion that the atmosphere is as hostile as the ANTZ are. (Note that the official CASAA statements take care make clear that we support all low-risk alternatives, and try to police this on the chats too, but there is still plenty of the sentiment to be found even on the CASAA members facebook page, for example.) Being anti-tobacco is not a good way to (a) promote THR or (b) help smokers — hostility born of pride (or insecurity) is a very costly indulgence.

          I believe that most of the people who have commented about their fear of regulation are from EU countries, and given that their overlords have banned ST it is easy to see why your point might not be obvious to them. But it is a good point: ST is not regulated the same as cigarettes — almost everywhere and in most ways — in the USA. Thus my point that not only does avoiding the designation not help in terms of regulation, but accepting (or embracing) it does not mean that the regulations have to inappropriate.

          Of course, the point I keep making (and that the comments keep implying I am saying just the opposite) is that accepting the existential claim has nothing to do with accepting any particular regulation. People do extract THC from cannabis and otherwise alter the plant (e.g., hashish) and sell it, of course, and it falls under basically all the same laws as selling the leaf itself — if prohibitionists are in charge, they do not really care about nuances like that, no matter what the users might think (I have no idea if those who use the variants think of themselves as doing something different from other cannabis users, but the rest of the world certainly does not).

        • I should note that I was talking about the situation in the US which has a long history of ST use and there are still far more ST users then vapors. I can guarantee the “we are not tobacco” push is a big turn off for ST users. Having followed the situation for over 4 years I think part of the problem is many new vapors believe THR begins and ends with e-cigarettes. It can take some time to educate themselves that e-cigarettes are just the new kid on the block and there are in fact a number of other low risk alternatives that actually have a much larger user base (at least for now). A new generation of vapors comes along about every 3 to 6 months with the same misconceptions so it is an on-going issue that I don’t expect to end anytime soon.

          I can’t say I understand the situation in the EU nearly as well as in the US. It appears being classified as a medicine, like in the US, is a de facto ban on e-cigarettes. I’m not at all sure what being classified as a tobacco product means.

  11. I agree Clive. There needs to be some kind of classification for e-cigarettes that keeps them apart and away from tobacco and medicines regulations, a kind of Nicotine Products Directive as opposed to a Tobacco Products Directive. This would solve many problems. As you say, classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products would have quite the same effect as a medicines legislation, in such as the vendors would still be left in a situation where they would be faced with the almost inevitable reality of being put out of business.

    But one way or another, the proposed medicines regulation has to be stopped, it is ludicrous, and there is no justification for such a move. The continued ‘shielding’ of the tobacco industry from anything that seems to threaten it must stop. It’s days are surely now numbered, and they have to concede that their dominance has ended.

  12. Speaking as a simplistic oaf, it seems to me that calling an ecig a ‘tobacco product’ is similar to calling a teaspoon a spade. Sure, you can dig a hole in the ground with a teaspoon, but it would not be much of a hole, and certainly not as extensive a hole as compared with a spade.
    Calling an ecig a medicine is like calling a brisk walk in the fresh air a cure for lung cancer.

    The point that I make is that the alternatives (teaspoon/brisk walk) are not true alternatives. Ecigs are neither tobacco products nor medicines, and, until some harm from them is actually demonstrated, they should not be regulated at all, except in retrospect, should they in the future be found to be harmful.

    There are times when simple common sense defeats legalistic hair splitting.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Calling an e-cigarette a cigarette is like calling a teaspoon a spade, perhaps. Categories do not imply complete equivalency, but rather shared key characteristics. Calling a teaspoon and a spade both “tools” or “tools for scooping”, even though it is not difficult to identify differences between them, seems difficult to dispute.

  13. I personally see vaping as neither medical (by MHRA own definition) nor tobacco as it contains NO tobacco. It would be fair in my eyes for there to be a regulation for vaping. There are (in the EU) regulations for hundreds of things so why must vaping only be put into existing regulations. A regulation similar to the cosmetics would fit. Stuff in cosmetics are active like nicotine, the are applied to the body and some even claim efficacious outcomes.

  14. I definitely agree that e-cigs are a tobacco product. There are even certain tobacco companies that are buying up stocks in e-cigarette companies and/or buying e-cigarette companies so they don’t fall behind. I know this has nothing to do with the e-cigs themselves but still it’s about what the consumer believes and consumers believe that they are tobacco products.

  15. There is at least one tobacco-based e-cigarette that is sold in the US as a tobacco product:


  16. Nic I use is extracted from tomatoes and flavors are artificial. How is that a tobacco product?

    • Carl V Phillips

      Um, no it isn’t, and if someone is telling you that, you are being lied to. The farm-door price of enough tomatoes to contain enough nicotine for 1 ml of e-cigarette liquid would be in the order of $200 (not even considering extraction costs). I assume you are paying less than $200/ml for your liquid.

  17. I’m new to vaping, but have smoked cigarettes for over 20 years. And I guess I also internalized enough of the stigma against smoking that I hated the term “e-cigarette”.

    But after reading your arguments, I have to admit you are right. Demonizing tobacco isn’t only a waste of valuable time and energy – as bad as that is – it makes us vapers just as bad as the zealots by promoting that same stigmatization and excluding the smokeless tobacco users who, as another commenter reminded me, vastly outnumber us.

  18. Pingback: What do you call your e-cig? I don't want to think of it as a cig at all. - Page 4

  19. Pingback: Why is there anti-THR? (3) Anti-tobacco extremism | Anti-THR Lies and related topics

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