Eyes Wide Shut

In a seemingly all too familiar refrain there’s another DoH Director, this time in Rhode Island, making grandiose and thoroughly misleading claims on vapour products. Last May, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott became the new director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, where she stated quite categorically that “some” of her priorities included: “addressing disparities in the health-care system and providing high-quality health care to more people”. 

Frankly, that’s an admirable goal. As is building a “statewide, strategic plan” to address overdoses and a prescription monitoring system. So I guess in less than a year she’s figured all that out so she can turn her attentions to nannying the crap out of her state residents.

“We know that they’re not safe. Period,” Alexander-Scott said.

Of course she means electronic cigarettes, or vapourisers, or vapour products, or e-cigs whatever your chosen name for them is. Now a former colleague of Alexander-Scott, a Dr Amanda Jamieson of Brown University is also looking to get in on some e-cig research action.

refers to electronic cigarettes as the large unknown black box.

“They are billing it as the safer alternative but I don’t think you can really say that,” said Jamieson, who specializes in lung research.

Wait for it, I can sense a call for “e-cigs are dangerous, we need more research, money please!”.

That’s what led her to apply for and receive a biomedical research grant through the University of Rhode Island, so she can study the effects of electronic cigarettes on our lungs.

Quelle surprise. I can imagine more stupid studies like this one where they basically submerge altered cells in e-liquid for days on end and have absolutely nothing to compare them with. So forget all about relative harms between e-cig vapour extract and tobacco smoke, ‘cos it ain’t gonna happen. Natch.

“It does seem to have, depending on the concentration you add, the e-cigarette extract, it is having a definite impact on the lung epithelium,” said Jamieson.

Bingo! You’ll of course remember my take on the VA “Cell Study”, and Fergus Mason’s wonderful piece highlighting the problems of using laboratory cells.

That’s the respiratory system. Jamieson is especially concerned about the flavored e-cigs.

“What we’re finding, actually, is some of the flavors are even more toxic than the unflavored e-cigarette,” she said.

Ah yes, the infamous “Cherry” flavour study where they go looking for a particular chemical constituent and are not surprised when they find it. Of course, if there is something bad in vapour products we, the users want to bloody know about it.

And then there’s the nicotine. Previous research has shown inconsistencies.

Seven flaming hells, this again?

“What they found was that some of the cigarettes that said they had nicotine did not have nicotine and some cigarettes that said they did not have nicotine ended up having nicotine in them,” said Jamieson.

Bloomin’ nora, where did they find this one? Unfortunately, there is a small case to be made here there are inconsistencies in juice manufacturing. Not all makers have the same level of facility to prevent simple things like cross-contamination, but I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of US makers are pretty consistent and that the “inconsistencies” these researchers are finding are from non-US brands.

“The FDA is working on that,” Alexander-Scott said.

Of course they are, and by the way they are mostly ignoring any actual evidence except those from “popular” anti-tobacco smoker lobby groups.

There is also a law in Rhode Island that you have to be 18 or older to purchase e-cigarettes.

I’ve already outlined my thoughts on that particular nugget here.

You ready for the worst of this?

“They’re vapors, but the vapors are filled with lead and formaldehyde,” said Alexander-Scott.

“E-cigs have propylene glycol and some have ethylene glycol. These are compounds that in large enough doses can be toxic,” said Jamieson.

“They’re not regulated, so we’re not able to tell how many of the other additives that are there are there,” said Alexander-Scott.

I would hope that having now applied for a grant to study these products, they might actually take the opportunity to learn some more about them before jumping in with preconceptions, but somehow I doubt it.

And until they’re regulated, Alexander-Scott warns: “These are not safe. This is not a mechanism to try to quit smoking.”

There it is, the fundamental pre-conception behind applying for the grant. I can just see the headlines now “E-Cigarettes are not safe, scientists warn” and “E-Cigarettes are unsafe, won’t help you quit” and all the usual stuff. But of course a State run Quit Line can!

If you’re trying to quit smoking or e-cigarette vaping you can call this number: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.


By the way, when this study surfaces I will be taking a good long look.