Back in June of 2011 I emailed Dr. Carl V. Phillips asking for an email interview. Dr. Phillips is a researcher and consultant on subjects related to epidemiology, scientific epistemology, and social research. He has dedicated much of his career as a professor of public health and now works independently, primarily through Populi Health Institute.
Dr. Phillips kindly agreed to answer a few scientific questions for us, but he asked us to emphasize that he does not endorse ours or any other specific product.
Question 1: How do tobacco companies add 4,000+ chemical compounds such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and nail polish remover to their product under FDA regulation?
Answer: They don't. That refers to the chemicals that have been detected in tobacco (which has many thousands of chemicals in it like all plants) when burned (which creates a lot more). That 4000 number is actually a joke. Unlike the anti-tobacco people who traffic in those numbers, anyone who understands chemistry will tell you that that the smoke from (any) burning plant matter has a lot more chemicals in it than that -- they just have not catalogued them all yet.
But much more important, I would urge you not to get caught in the chemophobia propaganda. With sufficient detection sensitivity, which may well already exist, it is be possible to find 4000 chemicals, including all those you listed, in e-cigarettes. The science is simple: there is a little bit of most everything in most everything. Stick to the actual or predicted health effects -- those are what support THR. Avoid the scary sounding claims that are used to try to manipulate people who do not know any better; those are bad science and bad science is not on the side of THR.
Question 2: Why is the FDA fussing over propylene glycol and trace amounts of nitrosamines found in electronic cigarettes when tobacco companies are legally selling a consumable suspected of being far more toxic under their (FDA) regulation?
Answer: The reason certain actors at FDA are fussing about this is because they are opposed to harm reduction, and this is a good way to discourage people from adopting it. It is as simple as that.
That said, we should not ignore the risk of contaminants (important ones, not the barely measurable traces of TSNAs). If FDA was interested in really doing its job instead of producing anti-THR propaganda out of pique, they would look into that.
Question 3: Is it more beneficial for the electronic cigarette industry to be regulated as drug delivery devices or tobacco product?
Answer: That really depends on what happens. Whatever the rules say, what matters is the implementation, and that is not terribly predictable right now. However, since right now in the US, if they were regulated as a drug delivery devices e-cigarettes would be banned indefinitely, that would obviously be a poor option.
Question 4: As a former smoker I find cigarettes to be far more addictive than nicotine alone. Do you believe cigarettes are more addictive than nicotine alone? Why?
Answer: Let me respond first with a question: What do you mean by "more addictive"? I do not doubt that you mean something and I am not questioning your experience. But when real scientists try to unpack that term, they discover that it is not well defined.
That said, there are many analyses that suggest that cigarettes have greater appeal compared to other delivery systems because:-there is lung absorption and even lung receptors that come into play-the habit and aesthetics of smoking itself are appealing-there are other active chemicals in cigarette smoke-nothing else on the market produces the same bolus delivery (spike) that cigarettes do
Some combination of these likely makes cigarettes more beneficial for some people as compared to alternative products, and thus make those people less inclined to give them up.
Question 5: I personally do not think electronic cigarette brands should market electronic cigarettes as "safe" or "healthier" given they are not safe or healthy; however they are without argument, a significantly less harmful product in comparison to tobacco. What advice would you give to these irresponsible electronic cigarette brands who are marketing their product as "safe" or "healthier?"
Answer: That calls for some correction: They are significantly less harmful compared to *smoking*. There is no basis for claiming e-cigarettes are less harmful than modern smokeless tobacco.
Indeed, nothing is *safe*, as in 100% safe. They are undoubtedly health*ier* compared to cigarettes -- there is no serious doubt about that. As for *healthy*, that depends on what you mean. For many people, consuming nicotine improves their health, all things considered, so if any long-term physical health costs are low enough (as we currently estimate), then a case could be make for that word.
As for what companies should do, I think the clearest need is to not violate the law or provoke a backlash. There are enough of us who have full free speech, because we are not selling products, who can tell people about the comparative risk. I would suggest that merchant just point to what we are saying and avoid getting themselves -- or the industry as a whole -- in trouble. Yes, much of what they are claiming that is forbidden by regulators is true without a doubt, but sometimes it is easier to just avoid the fight.