Nov 282013
 

The debate over e-cigarettes continues to rage, with statements that are often so extreme as to be laughable. I particularly enjoyed the latest from the European Commission’s proposal for Article 18 which states

Electronic cigarettes are a tobacco related product.

This makes as much sense as saying

Caffeine is a cocaine-related product

because they have similar-sounding names. Nicotine can be synthesised in a laboratory. The fact that it is cheaper to extract it from tobacco demonstrates convenience, not necessary relation.

Let’s look at some facts about nicotine’s properties, in relation to other common drugs (I add the adverb ‘quickly’ as a reminder of Haber’s Law):

  • Caffeine is a widely-used addictive drug that is perfectly acceptable. The lethal dose of caffeine for rats is 192 mg/kg. A cup of coffee contains 40mg of caffeine. A 70Kg human will thus die on drinking 192*70/40=336 cups of coffee quickly.
  • Nicotine is widely portrayed as an addictive poison which should be avoided at all costs. The lethal dose of nicotine for rats is 50mg/Kg. A cigarette or equivalent use of an e-cigarette delivers about 1mg to its user. A 70Kg human will thus die on smoking (or equally vaping) 50*70=3’500 cigarettes quickly.
  • Alcohol is a widely-used addictive drug that is perfectly acceptable. The lethal dose of ethanol for rats is 7’060 mg/kg. A 70Kg human will thus die on drinking 7’060*70=~494g (about 1.2 liters of vodka) quickly.

I’ll be accused of bias, but it seems much easier to drink a couple of bottles of vodka than it is to to drink 33 liters of coffee. Smoking a few thousand cigarettes (or vaping the equivalent) is simply impossible, in a relatively short space of time. The point here is that abusing anything quickly enough will kill you.

Long-term use presents a different picture.

  • Caffeine has no known dangers.
  • Cigarettes are a health risk. “In 2000–2004, cigarette smoking cost more than $193 billion“.
  • Alcohol is too. “The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion“.
  • Vaping is recent, so there are no long-term studies, but nicotine alone has never been associated with a health risk and propyl glycol is innocuous.

The medical profession seems to agree with me:

“Nicotine itself is not a particularly hazardous drug, says Professor John Britton, who leads the Tobacco Advisory Group for the Royal College of Physicians. It’s something on a par with the effects you get from caffeine.
If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”.

How is it that policy makers ignore this? The answer is obvious, unless you fall under Hanlon’s Razor; the truth is this:

  1. Governments collect some 400 billion $ in cigarette taxes yearly
  2. The tobacco industry profits were ~$35 billion in 2012. They have both the clout and a strong incentive to eradicate vaping by promoting regulation to restrict e-cigarettes.
  3. The pharmaceutical industry sells close to a billion $ in Nicotine Replacement Therapy products. They will logically lobby to maintain this profitable business.

My advice to vapers: Buy a 20-year stock of 100mg/mL e-liquid (a few liters) whilst you can and hide it in your cellar; the 600% nicotine tax is just around the corner.

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