August 22nd, 2009 17:30 EST
E-Cigs, Souped Up, Swine Flu Advice
By Curtis Porter
ACSH staffers were baffled by the news that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has vowed to ban e-cigarettes, saying that they are no safer than regular cigarettes. Why would he say that? It`s absolutely false. This man clearly does not understand the situation with this product, " says ACSH`s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, who recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times arguing for e-cigarettes as an excellent means of harm-reduction and even smoking cessation.
We`ve become increasingly interested in e-cigarettes as part of our harm reduction work, " says ACSH`s Jeff Stier. In terms of the risk continuum, they are somewhere between smokeless tobacco and not using tobacco at all, since, well, there is no tobacco in them. They are very far away from cigarettes, at the opposite end of the spectrum. But if you were to believe what the FDA and Richard Blumenthal are telling you, you would think they are as bad as real cigarettes. Anyone who is addicted to smoking and believes this alternative is about as dangerous is going to continue to smoke the more satisfying, real thing. "
Stier brought an e-cigarette to our morning meeting and lit up " so we could see the device in action. An LED light on the end glows at varying intensity during inhalation to simulate a cigarette`s ember, and propylene glycol (a food additive recognized as safe by the FDA) is vaporized with liquid nicotine to create the very convincing illusion of smoke. Separate, disposable cartridges made to appear like a cigarette`s filter end are sold with variable levels of nicotine -- ranging from none to approximately the amount of a cigarette -- to aid in weaning one off of nicotine addiction.
Stier, a non-smoker, has enjoyed using the device in public to the confusion of those around him. Last night I went to a bar for my friend`s birthday and brought the e-cigarette with me, " he says. I took it out and started "smoking` it, and the bartender immediately yelled, "Jimmy!` trying to get the bouncer to come over. As soon as I unscrewed the filter to show my friend how it works, I heard the bartender yell, "Nevermind!` " So there you have it: a promising harm-reduction device and excellent social networking tool.
Campbell`s Quest to be Healthy
After over 110 years of making tomato soup the same way, Campbell`s is changing the recipe to contain less sodium, since, according to the Sacramento Bee, under federal rules, a food can`t be advertised as "healthy` unless it contains 480 milligrams or less of sodium per serving -- exactly what`s in the new Campbell`s tomato soup. "
They`re talking about changing their flagship soup, " says Dr. Whelan. If they just put an alternative on the market there`d be no gamble. In the processed food business, this is a big deal. "
So says the article as well: Salt is an effective and cheap flavor enhancer with no known substitute. Even a 10% cutback can drive a nosedive in a product`s "Hedonic Index` -- an industry measure of how much an eater enjoys it. "
Dr. Whelan can vouch for that: I love tomato juice, and one time I accidentally bought low-sodium tomato juice. It was awful. Lowering the sodium in this soup won`t make anyone any healthier, but I would still give it a try to see if it`s any good. Hopefully it`s not like that juice. " The memory is clearly a painful one. ACSH`s Todd Seavey accidentally bought salt-free pretzels recently, an experience that taught him that pretzels are basically stale bread.
Swine Flu Round-Up
Just in case you were enjoying your Friday, here`s some H1N1 flu news:
"French researchers report that half of deaths from H1N1 have been in high-risk groups such as pregnant women and people with obesity-related illnesses.
"The ever-empathetic CDC is advising college students with H1N1 to stay at home at keep it to themselves.
"According to the WHO, There will soon be a period of further global spread of the virus, and most countries may see swine flu cases double every three to four days for several months until peak transmission is reached. "
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