Okay, we know that pharmaceutical companies can be a little bit shady at times. They have lobbied government authorities against electronic cigarettes on numerous occasions. They’ve even had some people write articles on their behalf so they can present as being individuals with a negative opinion towards electronic cigarettes. But as far as we know, there has been no attempt to directly influence politicians.
This has allegedly just happened though, in the form of a letter sent via a PR company to MEPs in Europe. The letter was created by a pharmaceutical company, and effectively asked MEPs to reduce the levels of nicotine electronic cigarettes.
Why would they want to do that? Basically, if electronic cigarettes have less nicotine in them they will be less effective. Pharmaceutical companies want electronic cigarettes to be less effective because this means that their own products will still be used widely. If electronic cigarettes are weakened, the patches and gum can still be used.
The apparent mimicking effect of e-cigs
Nicotine patches and nicotine gum will still be seen as viable options in the fight against tobacco cigarettes, while electronic cigarettes will be, at best, seen as equals. We all know that electronic cigarettes are more effective than nicotine patches and nicotine gum because they offer a mimicking effect as regards cigarettes and how they are used.
It is all about this mimicking effect. People want to go to restaurants and bars, and some places they couldn’t with cigarettes, and then feel that they can have an electronic cigarette. They want to be at home and feel that they are indirectly still using their old friend, the cigarette.
They don’t want a physical addiction that they had with moving their hand to their mouth to go away. It’s difficult to quit cigarettes, and finding a simple enough replacement that mimics the actual practice makes the electronic cigarette a bit of a godsend.
Alternatively, quitters can take a piece of gum and stick it in their mouth and chew that all day. They don’t get the same feeling you do from electronic cigarettes, instead they’re just chewing gum. It uses an amazing amount of willpower to give up the physical act of using a cigarette. Gum does not help with that issue. Gum, instead, just feels like gum.
And patches are not much better. Just like sticking a big plaster on your arm, all they do is make you feel special. For a few minutes at least. They don’t provide anything like the physical sensation of using a cigarette.
Some people have even reported feeling sick after using patches. Some people have even left them on overnight and had nightmares. They are not good, and don’t provide the same level of support as electronic cigarettes.
E-cigs present as a viable alternative
Electronic cigarettes are indeed a viable alternative. There are worth switching to because they make you feel better because of the nicotine they contain. They also make you feel better because you feel like you’re still using a cigarette. And they are arguably much safer, even to yourself and other people around you. It is a win-win situation, so we are absolutely staggered that a pharmaceutical company thinks it’s appropriate to lobby MEPs in this way.
We will get on to the letter in a minute, but we have to thank Dr Farsalinos for allowing us to look at this letter. He broke the news on it, and it is on his website where we find a copy of the letter that the pharmaceutical company sent. Interestingly, later on this site, we see Dr.Farsalinos’reply to the MEPs, damning the original letter. It all makes for great reading. The letter itself will shock you.
We will take the letter apart first of all. In the letter the pharmaceutical company, which is not identified on Farsalino’ssite, states that a ‘minor modification’ threshold of nicotine to 12 mg/mL would lead to more balance in electronic cigarettes.
The letter is an interesting one. It actually starts off by talking about how electronic cigarettes reduce the desire to smoke. But it links this to a study that says a total content of 60 mg is adequate to produce a desire to not smoke.
The study they refer to is by Berlin and colleagues. The objective of the study, according to the stated abstract, is to measure the short-term effects of an electronic nicotine delivery device on the desire to smoke, as well as withdrawal symptoms,pharmakinetic properties and adverse effects.
The study was carried out with 40 smokers who are dependent, and who used 10 or more cigarettes per day. The participants were randomised completely and used electronic cigarettes either containing 60 mg of nicotine or 0 mg. Participants were also made to abstain from smoking overnight before the study.
Electronic cigarettes apparently created a desire to not smoke
The outcome of the study was primarily that the participants had a change in desire to smoke. Withdrawal symptoms were noted and the studies organisers did measure nicotine levels at some point in the study.
It kind of paints a positive picture of electronic cigarettes, stating that participants showed less desire to smoke than those that used placebo capsules. This sounds great at face value. But the study makes it clear that capsules of 60 mg nicotine were used in electronic cigarettes.
So this is the study that the pharmaceutical company points to in the letter to MEPs. It looks very official, and it looks very scientific. It also seems to paint a positive picture of electronic cigarettes, at least at face value.
But, the fact of the matter is, that the pharmaceutical company has used information to try and create an argument for reducing nicotine levels overall in electronic cigarettes.
In the next part of this post we will look at the letters themselves, both the original letter from the pharmaceutical company and the one that shows Farsalinos’ reply to the MEPs.