Smoke & Mirrors

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Lifestyle Issue: April 2014
Group Free
Pin It

E-cigarettes could usurp tobacco as the nation's nicotine delivery system of choice, and Scottsdale-based NJoy leads the charge. But how safe is “vaping”?

There are no Marlboro Men lassoing cattle in the “wild west” of North Scottsdale, especially not here in the Kierland Commons corporate offices of NJoy, a Valley-based manufacturer of electronic cigarettes. Instead, there’s curvy custom furniture, cushiony cubicles, and offices framed in full-panel frosted glass walls, inside of which hang dry erase boards filled with formulas and scientific scribbles. The clean, streamlined office design – along with the three 30-inch Apple Studio monitors on his desk – reflects company president and CEO Craig Weiss’ love of the high-tech.

Weiss’ affinity for technology is also reflected in his company’s product. He views electronic cigarettes, which use batteries to heat liquid nicotine and release a vapor, as the wave of a better future. Weiss says NJoy’s company mission is to make tobacco cigarettes obsolete. “Our competitor with the cigarette, their strategy is to light their product on fire. That’s a pretty archaic, primitive concept,” he says. “We’re using integrated circuits and software and biochemistry and power sources and heating elements and all sorts of stuff to bring technology to bear and to deliver something we think is a satisfying alternative to that product.”  

NJoy electronic  cigarettes

NJoy is the largest independent manufacturer of e-cigarettes in the world, with the second-highest market share in the industry (26.5 percent), behind Lorillard-owned Blu (40.6 percent). And business only figures to improve. The global e-cigarette industry’s value topped $2 billion in 2013, and Bloomberg Industries predicts electronic cigarette sales will overtake sales of combustible cigarettes by 2047.

E-cigarettes are seen as a more socially acceptable form of nicotine delivery, and many people use them as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Companies market their products as trendy and satisfying, using the same advertising avenues once cruised by Big Tobacco. Proponents, including some medical experts, say e-cigarettes are potentially safer than tobacco cigarettes, because they lack the carcinogens produced by combustion. But there’s a bit of an X factor, too – e-cigarettes have only been around for about a decade, so no long-term studies have been done on their effects. They’re not yet regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, though the agency has announced its intent to invoke the federal Tobacco Control Act to bring e-cigarettes under its purview. NJoy executives say they’ve been self-regulating in the meantime, and pursuing the company’s goal: to make cigarettes obsolete. After hiring a slew of anti-tobacco iconoclasts to its board of directors and scientific advisory board – including Tucson resident and former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona –  they may be well on their way to accomplishing that mission.

But it’s doubtful Big Tobacco will go down without a fight; some companies are already marketing their own e-cigarettes. After all, they’ve spent 70 years building brand awareness and making billions off cigarette sales, and the past several years atoning for lost lives through lawsuit payouts. The notion of NJoy taking them on and fighting for a piece of the estimated $700 billion worldwide cigarette market sounds almost noble – and definitely profitable.

NJoy CEO Craig Weiss at the company's Scottsdale offices.

“We’re trying to build a brand, in kind of the way that there’s energy drinks, and then there’s Red Bull. Well, there’s electronic cigarettes, and then there’s NJoy,” Weiss says. “We represent something really profound – an alternative lifestyle for a smoker. It’s something they can engage in that’s aspirational.”

In 1963, a man named Herbert Gilbert patented a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” that used “heated, moist, flavored air” to simulate smoking. But Gilbert’s device was never commercialized, and it wasn’t until 2003 that somebody else picked up the idea of smoking without fire. Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik is credited with inventing the modern e-cigarette, which first hit the Chinese market in 2004, and was marketed as a smoking cessation aid. China began exporting e-cigarettes in 2005. That same year, one of future NJoy CEO Craig Weiss’ brothers went to China to visit a client of the family’s patent law business, and saw what Weiss describes as “kind of a crude version of an electronic cigar.”

“He thought, ‘This would make a really great product in America,’” Weiss says. “Especially if they could ever get it down to the size of a cigarette, because at the time, it was a really big device.”

PHM 0414 CIG4a

So in 2006, Weiss and his brothers Mark and Jeffrey created NJoy. The first NJoy offices housed 10 employees in Scottsdale Airpark. The newer, larger loft offices in Kierland Commons employ more than 50 people, and the company has satellite offices in New York and London. All of their products are developed and manufactured in the U.S. before going global. “We went from a relatively small company selling products in a few stores, to we’re now sold in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and we’re in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Holland, Ireland, the U.K.,” Weiss says. “We’re in probably almost 150,000 stores, globally, now.”     

While some electronic cigarettes don’t list the amount of nicotine they contain (a benefit of not being FDA-regulated), most single e-cigs are marketed as having the puffing equivalent of two packs of cigarettes (two packs of cigarettes contain roughly 30 mg of nicotine). The two products NJoy has on the market – their “gold” and “bold” e-cigs – contain 3 and 4.5 percent nicotine by volume, respectively. With an average price of $10 per e-cigarette, as opposed to the $8 average for a pack of cigarettes, e-cigs present a more cost-effective option for smokers – and a definite lure for investors. 

Electronic nicotine-delivery devices,  left to right: A customizable  "vaping" system and nicotine refill, and e-cigarette brands NJoy,  Blu and MarkTen.

NJoy’s investors include pop star Bruno Mars, Homewood Capital owner Douglas Teitelbaum, and Napster founder Sean Parker. It’s a smart investment so far: Retail sales of e-cigarettes neared $2 billion in 2013, and Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Bonnie Herzog predicts e-cig retail sales will top $10 billion by 2017. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found one in five current smokers reported having used an e-cigarette. In addition to Lorillard, other tobacco companies are introducing or acquiring their own e-cigarette brands, including British American Tobacco (owner of Lucky Strike and Pall Mall), which launched an e-cig brand called Vype, and Altria Group, Inc. (previously known as Philip Morris Companies, Inc.), which bought the Green Smoke e-cig brand for $110 million in February 2014.

The self-actualization fantasy conjured in this cigarette ad  from a 1975 issue of PHOENIX magazine

While profits rise and competition increases, the product continues to evolve. E-cigarettes that mimic the look, feel and flavor of traditional smokes remain the most widely sold at convenience stores, but there are also cigar-shaped e-cigs, pipe-like products, and even devices resembling items like pens and USB memory sticks. Weiss isn’t worried about competition. “From my perspective, this is a marathon and not a sprint, so I’m not really concerned with what’s happening in the marketplace today,” he says. “No tobacco company can be focused on obsoleting cigarettes, because they’re a tobacco company – they sell cigarettes. So they can’t have that sort of drive... it’s the classic innovators dilemma. For me, we say, ‘How can we be as good as or better than a cigarette?’ They can’t have that focus. It doesn’t even make sense because they’re cannibalizing themselves.”

Weiss points to several framed news stories about NJoy gracing the walls of the company’s offices. They include coverage in TIME magazine, Forbes and The New York Times. “Nobody wants to shill for the tobacco companies and tell their story,” Weiss says. “I think what we’re doing is very much what makes America this amazing place. You’ve got private enterprise, using technology, to try to overcome what appeared to be this really incredibly intractable social problem.”

The self-actualization fantasy conjured in the cigarette ad (left) from a 1975 issue of PHOENIX magazine is mirrored in modern ads for e-cigarettes

At the Macy’s thanksgiving Day Parade in 1929, newspaper cameras captured something the American public had rarely seen before: women smoking cigarettes. More specifically, debutantes smoking cigarettes. This image of high society women wielding a previously verboten male totem was part of a potent “Torches of Freedom” campaign to encourage cigarette smoking among women, which, up until then, had been socially unacceptable. Afterward, the percentage of female buyers comprising overall cigarette sales jumped from 12 percent in 1929 to 18 percent in 1935, peaking at 33 percent in 1965 (the percentage of women smokers in the U.S. today hovers around 18 percent).

The mastermind behind the parade’s planted puffing debutantes was Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud and a pioneer of public relations. One of his theories behind the appeal of smoking tobacco was that it satisfied the Id, a Freudian psychic apparatus said to govern basic human drives, including the oral fascination instinct of putting things into our mouths. The decades of billboard, radio and television advertisements that followed – until such ads were banned nationally in 1971 – portrayed cigarette smoking as variously alluring, adventurous and youthful, through iconic figures like then-movie star Ronald Reagan (shilling the Chesterfield brand), the rough-and-sexy Marlboro Man, and the Joe Camel cartoon. Cigarette ads portrayed the product as satisfying, and even healthy, with various brands using images of doctors and making claims like “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette” and “20,679 physicians say Luckies are less irritating.”

Later studies demonstrated that chewing and smoking tobacco causes catastrophic health conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and emphysema, and that even breathing combusted tobacco secondhand is unhealthy. Smoking has been banned in most public places throughout the U.S. and has assumed the role of social pariah. One cannot light up in public without expecting a nasty look or two.

Today, e-cigarette advertisements use the same sort of “sexy” imagery their tobacco-touting predecessors did, promising all the “benefits” of smoking – feeling free, satisfying cravings for nicotine “anytime, anywhere” – without the negative aspects of tobacco. Advertisements for e-cigs prominently present the idea that nicotine users should swap their smokes for e-cigs. NJoy’s latest marketing slogan is “Cigarettes, you’ve met your match.” One advertisement for Blu asks the viewer, “Why quit? Switch to Blu,” while another Blu ad features actor Stephen Dorff elaborating his reasons for switching, including “I’m tired of being a walking ashtray.”

“The product itself is just a substitution. It is everything cigarettes are, but it is not. That’s what you’re supposed to focus on,” says Majia Nadesan, a professor of communication at ASU West who teaches a course called “Communication and Consumerism,” which focuses on the embedded messages in advertisements. “[It’s saying] ‘You can have all of that – all the coolness, all the history, all the sophisticated postures – but now you can have it without any of the risks.’”

Therein lies the concern for some medical experts, including Dr. Mazda Shirazi, medical director of the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “I worry about both the false advertisement and the false promise of e-cigarettes,” he says. “People perceive these are quitting devices, devices that will help them quit tobacco. So far, we are not seeing that in literature. The promise is not being kept. What’s happening is, they’re being used in spaces where tobacco was actually banned.”

In addition to electronic nicotine-delivery devices that emulate cigarettes, there’s also an emerging market for “vaping systems,” which, most simply put, are like e-cigarettes on steroids, the Ferraris of electronic nicotine ignition.  

The latest vaping systems/electronic cigarettes look like futuristic wands from a sci-fi film. Ranging in length from a few inches to a foot, many of them display glowing colored lights, which illuminate when somebody takes a drag from the mouthpiece. They are refillable with liquid nicotine, and rechargeable with lithium ion batteries (many of which have USB ports for computer charging). Completely customizable “kits” include the e-cigarette pipe stem and mouthpiece, the battery and charger, and “tanks” or chambers in which to pour nicotine refills. Everything’s available in a variety of colors and materials. Nicotine refills – which provide a more potent, concentrated amount of nicotine than disposable e-cigs – run a gamut of flavors, from “classic tobacco” to piña colada and chocolate. The scent of the vapor depends on the flavor of the nicotine liquid. If someone’s smoking a tobacco-flavored liquid, the vapor smells of stale cigarette smoke. If they’re smoking fruity flavors, the vapor can emit a potpourri of citrusy scents, not unlike the various smells of molasses-moist hookah tobacco.

Butt Out, “The NON-Smoke Shop” on the corner of Seventh Street and Virginia Avenue, smells just like a hookah lounge, with pungent peach aromas mingling with vanilla bean. This sliver of a space wedged next to the Virginia Market convenience store houses a retail counter that sells vaping systems ranging from $40 to $150, and includes a long bar where patrons can sit at stools with their custom e-cigs and partake of flavored nicotine in dark amber bottles with eyedropper tops (refills run around $12 for a 15 ml bottle). On a balmy Saturday afternoon in February, five twentysomething guys sat at the counter, puffing away to the sounds of Sublime on the store’s sound system, gazing at the colorful, psychedelic pebble-rock mural on the mellow-yellow brick wall behind the bar.

Licensed “vaping lounges” for medical marijuana have operated inconspicuously since shortly after Arizona voters legalized medical marijuana in 2010, but vaping lounges exclusively for e-cigarettes have increasingly popped up over the past year. There are currently more than a dozen such places in the Phoenix Metro area, and they’re emerging in other areas of Arizona. “Here in Tucson, I just saw an e-cigarette bar and shop, right next to a Starbucks. Like a lounge. And it’s very chic, very attractive,” Shirazi says. “So I can see people going from Starbucks with their latte and sitting in the lounge, wanting to smoke this. It’s highly electronified, so you have all these nice, large-screen TVs in there, and nice colors.”

In addition to the growing social buzz, e-cigarettes and vaping kits capitalize on the popularity of technology and electronic devices, Nadesan says. “This idea of customization... it then becomes a status symbol, if you have a particular brand that’s cool or hot,” she says. “[The ads] have a strong resemblance to Apple ads – the black and white, the clean graphic design, and the colors. That’s the hook for the new generation.”

Also appealing: Fame. Like cigarette ads of yore, e-cigarettes pack star power. Celebrities who’ve been spotted toking them include Courtney Love, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jenny McCarthy and Leonardo DiCaprio. The celebrity-rich ad blitz, with its colorful icons and taglines about flavor, led five Democrat senators to introduce a federal bill in February 2014. The “Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act” would give the Federal Trade Commission power to “determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children” and work with state attorneys general to ban such marketing. The bill was being debated as this issue went to press.

The appeal of e-cigs to a new generation of potental nicotine addicts concerns medical experts, too. “I’m surprised that some of the individuals advertising e-cigarettes are actually actors who are very opposed to smoking cigarettes,” Shirazi says. “[Ads show women] in the short dresses, the tight dresses, [and] the good-looking, muscular men in nice jeans or a nice suit, smoking these, and of course they all look healthy and happy and they’re not diseased. It is a true threat that our teenagers and young adults will start picking up on these advertising tools, and we will see e-cigarettes become the 21st century’s disease of the century.”

During the 2013 Super Bowl broadcast, viewers saw something they hadn’t seen for more than forty years: a television commercial for a cigarette – albeit an NJoy e-cigarette. The ad features a handsome man taking a long drag from an NJoy over the strains of Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” and ends with the tagline, “You know what the most amazing thing about this cigarette is? It isn’t one.” NJoy ran a TV ad during the 2014 Super Bowl, as well. That commercial featured guys saving their friends from all sorts of bad situations – being arrested for streaking, carrying a couch up some stairs alone, getting into a bar fight – and of course, swapping that old cigarette for an NJoy, with the hook that “Friends don’t let friends smoke.”   

“There are some people who have concerns about advertising, but my view on that is, we should be applauded by people for advertising a product that’s an alternative to this toxic product that kills people,” Craig Weiss says. “We want to get smokers off of their toxic cigarettes, and the best way to do that is to let them know they have an alternative available to them.”

The idea of an “alternative” to cigarettes attracted Dr. Richard Carmona to become the chair of NJoy’s scientific advisory board last November. Carmona took a staunch anti-tobacco stance as U.S. Surgeon General under President George W. Bush. “I’m thrilled that NJoy’s proposition is to make tobacco obsolete,” Carmona says. “It’s one of the reasons I decided to join them, after doing considerable due diligence on what they were trying to accomplish.”

Carmona had conditions in joining NJoy’s board of directors and leading its scientific advisory board. One condition was the company would not sell its products to anyone younger than 18. He says he was adamant that NJoy approach the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and ask to be “regulated appropriately,” but not as a tobacco product “because there’s no tobacco in it.” Lastly, Carmona demanded more scientific studies and medical research into e-cigarettes. “[NJoy] has stuck to that all the way through,” Carmona says. “They continue to be honest people with integrity, [with] good practices, building a business that will not only bring economic benefit, but will bring health benefit to the nation and the world.”

No studies have been done on the long-term health effects of smoking electronic cigarettes, because the products themselves have been on the market for barely a decade, and the industry didn’t start gaining  traction until around 2010, a year after the passage of the federal Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), which gave the FDA broad regulatory powers over tobacco products. That year, the FDA tried to assert regulatory control over e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices (the agency regulates smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches and nicotine gum). NJoy took the FDA to court in 2010 to fight classification as a smoking cessation device – and won. “The position that we took was, in order to be regulated as a drug, you’ve got to make health claims, or drug claims, about your product. And we didn’t do that,” Weiss says. “We’ve always marketed our product as an alternative, just a smoking alternative.”

But the judge in that case gave the FDA the option of trying to regulate e-cigarettes as a “tobacco product” under the TCA. The FDA announced its intent to regulate a few years ago, but has yet to move forward. The fact that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco could prove problematic in regulating it as a tobacco product. But the tobacco’s not really what smokers are after: They want the nicotine that comes from the tobacco plant, just as a pot smoker wants the THC from the cannabis plant. Carmona says having e-cigarettes as an alternative “nicotine delivery system” could bring public health benefit. “We recognize that some of our colleagues feel otherwise, because there’s kind of an abstinence-only approach: ‘We don’t want anything to do with cigarettes. Everybody should just stop.’ Well, that’s failed,” he says. “We’ve done that already for decades, and we still have a fifth of the people – 20 percent – smoking. So we need other methods to be able to continue to eradicate tobacco usage, and we feel that this is a very viable one.”

Dr. Joshua Rabinowitz was recruited along with Carmona into NJoy’s stable of scientific researchers. Currently on leave from Princeton University, where he’s a professor of chemistry and integrative genomics, Rabinowitz has spent years developing drugs to treat various cancers and respiratory diseases. For him, the benefits of e-cigarettes over traditional ones is a no-brainer. “Tobacco as a plant is not a very safe plant. People who chew tobacco have a greatly increased risk of oral cancers, and this is due to the carcinogens that are found in the tobacco plant. This is compounded by the smoking process, and this being a combustion process,” Rabinowitz says. “The burning of tobacco produces more carcinogens, and it also produces various forms of debris that people call ‘tar,’ and it produces carbon monoxide, and carbon monoxide contributes to the risk of heart disease and stroke that occur with the smoking of tobacco. All of those risk factors are eliminated in electronic cigarettes. So there are no known carcinogens, there’s no carbon monoxide. Period.”   

But what about nicotine? The FAQ on NJoy’s website describes nicotine only as “an alkaloid found in certain plants, predominantly tobacco, and in lower quantities, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, cauliflower, bell peppers, and some teas.”

Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, now head of NJoy's scientific advisory board

There’s a little more to nicotine than that, according to Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director of the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center. “Nicotine is a very toxic substance. The concentration of this product is very, very toxic,” LoVecchio says. “Regardless of the form, nicotine is addictive... nicotine makes you more prone to cardiovascular disease. Nicotine causes your blood pressure to rise... nicotine also causes increases in your lipids. Lipids are commonly associated with cholesterol.”

LoVecchio concedes there may be some credence to claims that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional ones, but cautions there’s no evidence supporting them. “If you ask me what causes cancer, is it the nicotine or is it the products of combustion, our best understanding is, it’s the products of combustion,” he says. “If I was just lighting up paper and inhaling it every day, I could potentially get cancer from that. Theoretically, [e-cigarettes] might be safer, but there’s no study yet showing that.”

Of greater concern to LoVecchio than adults buying disposable e-cigs is the growing trend of refillable, customizable e-cigarette kits, with their attendant liquid nicotine refills – most of which are packaged in colorful, non-child-proof vials, and available in a variety of bright colors, candy flavors and fruity scents, and all of which are highly concentrated; a 12 mg vial contains roughly the nicotine equivalent of 60 cigarettes. As of this writing, Banner Good Samaritan’s Poison Center has seen 26 reported cases of nicotine poisoning in the past year linked to e-cigarettes and nicotine refills; 13 of those exposures were children younger than 4 years old. That’s a big uptick from the four cases of nicotine exposure the center saw in 2011, and more than twice the 10 cases cited in 2012. Shirazi says they’ve seen a ten-fold increase in nicotine poisonings over the past year at the University of Arizona’s poison control center, too. All the reported cases of nicotine poisoning in Arizona so far have been non-fatal, primarily resulting in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and dizziness. “So far we have not had death nor severe illness from it, but that’s a matter of time,” Shirazi says.

LoVecchio doesn’t downplay the danger, either. “If a little kid cracks open an e-cigarette and drinks it, they definitely could die,” he says. “No doubt about it.”  

Batteries present another potential hazard. Some brands of e-cigarettes contain button cells, like watch batteries. “And button batteries, we know from experience because many toys have them, have been associated with burns to the esophagus,” LoVecchio says. Most e-cigarettes use lithium ion batteries, and if there’s a deformity in the battery, it could potentially explode. In February, The Arizona Republic reported on a small explosion at the Phoenix home of a man named Ron Sambriski. His eGo brand electronic cigarette (manufactured in China) had been hooked up to his laptop USB port, charging, for about 20 minutes when it “shot right across the table and right into my loveseat arm,” Sambriski said. It left a blazing hole in his furniture, and he used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

Exploding batteries aren’t an issue for NJoy, Weiss says. “We use what’s called soft cell technology... if there was some kind of a build-up, it would just leak, as opposed to exploding,” he says. “Unfortunately, people write about it because it makes the news, but nobody writes about the billions and billions of lithium ion batteries that get used every day without incident. They’re extraordinarily safe, and we haven’t had any issues.”   

Dr. Joshua Rabinowitz, chief scientist for NJoy

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes contain propylene glycol, an organic compound “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA for inclusion in food as a preservative. It has also long been used to simulate smoke in movies and theatrical productions, but its use as a smoke simulator is not a recognized use by the FDA. Propylene glycol produces the cloud of white vapor from e-cigarettes. Shirazi says studies were done 10-15 years ago on theater troupes that had been exposed to propylene glycol’s faux smoke for years, and the results of the studies describe “cough, asthma attacks... and with chronic exposure, irritation of the respiratory tract,” he says. “Now we’re seeing this being loosened on the whole of the population, and people perceive that it’s safer than a cigarette, and people sit next to somebody else and smoke it and blow it out, and they don’t leave, because they’re not aware. They don’t believe it has an effect similar to secondhand smoke, but indeed, there is a secondhand fume or smoke associated with this, and it is an irritant. It is not good for you. If the individual who’s exposed to it is a child with asthma, or an adult with asthma or anyone with any kind of respiratory illness, they can actually get worse, with this.”     

The third component in most e-cigarettes is glycerol, a simple sugar alcohol compound approved by the FDA for, and widely used as, a sweetener and preservative in foods. Other ingredients found in lab tests of different e-cigarette brands and liquid nicotine refills include diethylene glycol (commonly used in antifreeze), tin and copper. Without FDA regulation of e-cigarette products, there’s no way to verify ingredients or the amount of nicotine in a product. “The assumption is made that there’s some standard applied to these,” Shirazi says. “These are really electronic delivery devices for nicotine, without any standardization. There’s no industry standards, there’s no health care regulation, there’s nothing.”

But that may soon change, if the FDA has its way.

The Federal Drug Administration regularly receives voluntary reports from consumers of “adverse events involving e-cigarettes.” These reports include hospitalizations for illnesses including pneumonia, congestive heart failure and seizure, but the FDA’s website contains the caveat “whether e-cigarettes caused these reported adverse events is unknown.”

After a judge ruled in 2010 that e-cigarettes and other products derived from tobacco can be regulated as “tobacco products,” the FDA announced its intent to regulate. Reached via email, FDA spokesperson Jennifer Haliski says the agency is preparing to release proposed regulation for public comment, but would not say when the proposed regulation would be released, nor comment on its contents. “The FDA intends to propose a regulation that would extend the agency’s ‘tobacco product’ authorities – which currently only apply to cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco – to other categories of tobacco products that meet the statutory definition of ‘tobacco product,’” Haliski writes. “Further research is needed to assess the potential health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products.”

Dr. Frank LoVecchio of Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center

Until recently, Arizona, like most states, had no law prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. That changed last September, with the passage of Senate Bill 1209, which added e-cigarettes to the list of tobacco-related products that may not be sold to persons younger than 18. Weiss says his company’s ready for FDA regulation. “We’ve been self-regulating for all these years. For example, we don’t sell our products to people who are under legal smoking age. We joined the ‘We Card’ age-verification program, so we could ensure our retailers weren’t selling to people below legal smoking age,” he says. “We sell products in non-self-service displays so that kids can’t get access and it requires retail assistance. We disclose our ingredients on the website, we manufacture in GMP [Good Manufacturing Practices] facilities, we do all these things – the kinds of things we’d expect to have regulations for in the future, we’re doing now, in advance of that.”

As head of NJoy’s scientific advisory board, Carmona espouses the virtues of more research as they look toward the future. “We will do research, and we’ll drive the market with good research, and we’ll differentiate ourselves from other companies by being a leader in scientific research to study the benefits of e-cigarettes through NJoy,” he says.

NJoy continues to try and recruit notable anti-tobacco crusaders to its boards. But some experts, like Shirazi, say they aren’t interested in participating in research sponsored by e-cigarette manufacturers. “The concept of ‘harm reduction’ with e-cigarettes [is doubtful],” he says. “If you get something that is going to revert the success of the public health sector on decreasing smoking, and most people realizing that cigarette smoke is bad for you, if you reverse that, and now just loosen e-cigarettes on the population, I don’t think there’s going to be much risk-reduction.”