Monday, August 31, 2009

Electronic Cigarettes in the Military

The military should take a serious look at the electronic cigarette as a way of solving several problems. The military is reluctant to ban smoking because it helps troops remain alert and helps relieve stress. But it isn't the smoke that does it, it's the nicotine.

Tobacco smoking is an effective, but dangerous, way of getting sufficient nicotine. Currently available "nicotine replacement" products contain low levels of nicotine, by design, because the goal is to wean people totally off nicotine. With the e-cigarette, the user can control the amount of nicotine and take in enough to remain alert and relieve stress.

E-cigarettes deliver vaporized nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and multitude of toxins and carcinogens that tobacco smoke inflicts on its users. Over 13,000 people have signed the Electronic Cigarette Petition ( Users are reporting that they have been able to successfully substitute the e-cigarette for their tobacco cigarettes after trying every other method of quitting. They are also reporting greatly improved lung function and better blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.

There is every reason to expect that military personnel would see the same type of health improvements after switching to e-cigarettes, thus saving both the military and the VA substantial expenditures on tobacco-related illnesses.Since e-cigarettes deliver no side-stream smoke, and the exhaled vapor is non-toxic, there is no need to have people leave their work-station for "smoke breaks". Thus the military gains productivity improvements. E-cigarettes are battery operated, so there are no sparks and no fire hazard. One final benefit is that there will be fewer unsightly cigarette butts to deal with.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Failure to Communicate

When the FDA says "smoking cessation," what they really mean is "nicotine cessation." Simply ceasing to smoke isn’t good enough for them. And when the FDA says "Nicotine Replacement Therapy," what they really mean is "Nicotine Weaning." The FDA-approved NRT products supply levels of nicotine well below what smokers get from smoking tobacco. This is by design. The FDA and misguided health policy-makers are concerned that people will continue using the NRT products after they have stopped smoking. They call this "abuse potential."

The term "abuse" as applied to nicotine is misleading. The public has been brainwashed into believing that smokers light up to "get high." Addictive drugs that people actually do use for the purpose of getting high, such as alcohol, heroin, etc. impair the user's ability to think, reason, and remember. That's why they call it, "DWI," for Driving While Impaired.

Nicotine does the opposite. Nicotine enhances alertness, visual memory, and the ability to concentrate. People who don't need any help in this area have little trouble giving up smoking. People who have problems with attention deficits, memory lapses, and who have mood disorders can become dependent on nicotine to be able to function like "normal" people. "Dependent on" is a more accurate term than "addicted to."

For those who are dependent on it, trying to function without nicotine can cause cognitive impairment as serious as the impairment caused by using alcohol or street-drugs for recreational purposes. People don't get arrested for driving while smoking. But smokers who are trying to "be good" and reduce or stop using tobacco can become impaired enough to cause accidents. And this can happen, even when they are using FDA-approved NRT products, because those products just don't provide a "therapeutic dose."

Would we really want the U.S. President to be making decisions about whether to push the red button while he is trying to fight the effects of nicotine-deprivation?

Theoretically, these impairments are temporary. They call them "withdrawal symptoms" because they are supposed to disappear once the drug has cleared out of the users system. But for millions of nicotine-dependent people, the impairments appear to be permanent.

Electronic cigarettes provide a cleaner and--dare I say it?--healthier way for users to take in sufficient nicotine to remain unimpaired. Electronic cigarettes provide this nicotine without subjecting users, as well as the people around them, to the debilitating effects of tobacco smoke.

Former smokers who have managed to switch over to electronic cigarettes are concerned. If the FDA is allowed to “regulate” electronic cigarettes as a drug-delivery device, it appears likely that FDA will do one of two things: Keep electronic cigarettes off the market permanently, or reduce the nicotine content to such a low degree that they will be just as ineffective as the current "approved" products.