California Class Action Lawsuit Challenging E-Cigarettes – Who Is Guilty of False Advertising?

Vaper’s Vortex

 

April 30, 2015


“Mainstream and secondhand e-cigarette aerosol has been found to contain at least ten chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.”


A class action lawsuit was filed last week in California Superior Court charging Lorillard Tobacco Company with falsely advertising its Blu brand of electronic cigarettes as “safer” and “healthier” than standard smokes when they’re not.

As soon as I read this I tried every Google search I could think of for anything that could even be remotely construed as Lorillard advertising Blu as “safer” and “healthier”. I got nothing. Zip. Nada.

I’m not exactly shy when it comes to my willingness to drive a stake into Big Tobacco’s heart (here). But I must confess that I would have been shocked to find even a single example of a blunder of that magnitude by a company with the resources of Lorillard. They may be evil. But they’re definitely not stupid.

What could the law firm possibly have up their $2,000 suit sleeves that would support this accusation? While trying to answer that question something kept nagging at me – Blu e-cigs. Blu e-cigs. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’m certain that I have read something that dealt specifically with Blu e-cigs. It took a glass of wine and a lot of searching through my files but I found what I was looking for.

In December of last year, a study was published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. The study had the catchy title of:

Comparison of select analytes in aerosol from e-cigarettes with smoke from conventional cigarettes and with ambient air

Stated simply, the idea was to use smoking machines to capture smoke from a selection of conventional cigarettes. Then capture vapor (technically “aerosol”) from a selection of e-cigarettes. Finally, capture “blank samples” which simply meant plain old air. Analyze the smoke, the vapor, and the plain old air for nicotine and “harmful or potentially harmful components” (HPHC). Then compare the results.

Their findings:
  • The e-cigarette aerosol produced little or no detectable levels of the HPHCs tested.
  • Conventional cigarettes produced 3,000 µg/puff of the HPHCs tested. Compared to <2 µg/puff in both the e-cigarette aerosols and the plain old air – 1500 times less than conventional cigarettes.
  • In the e-cigarette aerosol samples, five of the fifty-five HPHCs tested were detected in small, but measurable quantities. Those quantities were 50-900 times lower than those found in the cigarette smoke samples.
  • Nicotine levels in e-cigarettes samples were 30 µg/puff or less. 85% lower than the 200 µg/puff for the conventional cigarette smoke samples [emphasis mine].
  • The researchers concluded: “The deliveries of HPHCs tested for these e-cigarette products were similar to the study air blanks rather than to deliveries from conventional cigarettes; no significant contribution of cigarette smoke HPHCs from any of the compound classes tested was found for the e-cigarettes. Thus, the results of this study support previous researchers’ discussion of e-cigarette products’ potential for reduced exposure compared to cigarette smoke.”

Or to put it more simply, the levels of HPHCs in the e-cigarette aerosols were more consistent with the plain old air than any comparison to the smoke from the conventional cigarette samples.

Others weigh in:

Michael Siegel (MD, MPH and Professor in the School of Public Health at Boston University) commented on this study in his “The Rest of the Story” blog:

“This study adds to the abundant and growing body of evidence that electronic cigarettes are orders of magnitude safer than tobacco cigarettes and suggests that brands of e-cigarettes that do not overheat the e-liquid may be associated with very minor absolute health risks.”

Jacob Sullum (Senior Editor for Reason.com and Columnist for Forbes) not only wrote about the results of the study, but put it in the context of California politics:

“In light of data like these, anyone who implies that e-cigarette vapor is about as dangerous as tobacco smoke cannot be taken seriously. That includes Mark Leno, the California legislator who predicts that “we’re going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use, just like we did from traditional tobacco use.” It also includes Ron Chapman, [former] director of California’s Department of Public Health, who recently declared e-cigarettes “a community health threat” in a report that includes panic-promoting pronouncements like these:

E-cigarettes do not emit water vapor, but a concoction of chemicals toxic to human cells in the form of an aerosol. The chemicals in the aerosol travel through the circulatory system to the brain and all organs.

Mainstream and secondhand e-cigarette aerosol has been found to contain at least ten chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

“You would never guess from such dire warnings that the toxic chemicals Chapman cites are present in e-cigarette aerosol at levels nearly indistinguishable from those in the air he is breathing right now. But since that appears to be the case, there is no justification for this sort of scaremongering.”

Now what?

Will the results of this study be presented in any court proceedings that may result from this class action lawsuit? Is it germane to the question of the safety of Blu electronic cigarettes? Does the publication of this study constitute false advertising?

This study was funded by, performed at the labs of, and completed by researchers employed by – Lorillard Tobacco Company. Three of the e-cigarettes analyzed in this study were Blu e-cigarettes. “False advertising”? If it gets that far, the Court (or courts) will have to answer that question.

 

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Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at dave@diyels.com .

The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.

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