Bill Godshall at Vapefest 2010

I would like to thank Bill Godshall from Smokefree Pennsylvania for letting me post his email regarding his experiences at Vapefest 2010. It is long but it is worth reading. -PLB

This past Saturday morning I drove to Vapefest 2010 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fredricksburg, VA to attend the world’s largest gathering (so far) of electronic cigarette consumers (who prefer being called “vapers”) organized by the National Vapers Club.

Since those lobbying for laws/regulations to prohibit the sale and/or indoor usage of electronic cigarettes (also called “personal vaporizers”) have alleged the products are carcinogenic/toxic/hazardous for users and/or nonusers, and since some have claimed there is no evidence that cigarette smokers can quit smoking by switching to vaping, I decided to learn more about these novel products (whose sales have skyrocketed in the past two years) and their users.

Considering that the fundamental tenet of all toxicology is “the dose makes the poison” (e.g. consuming two gallons of water can kill a person) and that I experience severe headaches when exposed to even low levels of secondhand tobacco smoke, pesticides, glues and perfumes, I decided to expose myself to massive levels of e-cigarette vapor.

One hundred people registered for this free event held in the hotel’s conference room about 25′ by 50′ with a 10′ ceiling that displayed a Fire Marshall’s sign stating a room capacity of 98 people (although there were rarely more than 80 people in the room at any given time). Virtually everyone in attendance (except several spouses) was vaping, typically taking a puff or two every five or ten minutes.

Not wanting to stick out in the crowd, I also decided to try vaping an e-cigarette for the first time. Since I haven’t consumed nicotine since 1979 when I quit “cold turkey” my two/three pack a day cigarette addiction, Vapefest 2010 organizer Spike Babaian gave me a “no nicotine” vaporizer (that are used by about 10%-20% of vapers who have weaned themselves off nicotine) containing a “one day” disposable cartridge. Similar “one day” cartridges that contain nicotine are roughly equivalent to 15 tobacco cigarettes.

Over the next six hours, I deeply inhaled about 100 puffs from the vaporizer before it stopped emitting vapor. The only noticable symptom during and/or after my direct vaping experience was a bit of “dry mouth” that an was alleviated by an occasional drink.

My conversations with and observations of nearly all Vapefest 2010 participants revealed that:

  • every vaper had been a cigarette smoker until they discovered vaping during the past year or two,

  • nearly all vapers had been heavy smokers who had previously consumed one to three cigarette packs per day,
  • most attendees vape more often and in greate quantities than typical e-cigarette users,
  • the vast majority of vapers exclusively switched from smoking to vaping, while 10%-20% still smoked cigarettes occassionally,
  • nearly all vapers I spoke to indicated that their breathing, taste and smell had significantly improved,
  • many vapers had unsuccessfully tried to quit smoking using nicotine gums, lozenges, patches and/or other Rx drugs,
  • all attendees distrust and have a seething hatred for the FDA and others that are trying to ban vaporizers and/or vaping,
  • most attendees had considered themselves either apolitical or liberal, but nearly all now dislike Obama and Democrats for trying to ban e-cigarettes,
  • all attendees enjoyed the rally/party-like atmosphere, and most plan to attend similar events in the future,
  • all attendees but one were Caucasian, with one Asian, no Blacks and no Hispanics,
  • nearly all attendees were between the ages of 30 and 60, several were older, but nobody was under 25,
  • participants came from about 20 different states mostly east of the Mississippi, and virtually all drove to the event,
  • nearly all attendees were low or middle income, and a key reason many/most switched to vaping was to save money,
  • nearly all graduated from high school, about 30% had a college degree, and most lived in cities or suburbs,

As the only smokefree policy activist in attendance, the most common questions I was asked included “Why do e-cigarette opponents:

  • lie and scare people about the health risks/benefits of vaping compared to cigarette smoking?
  • have no respect for my right to decide what I put in my own body?
  • want to ban these products that are the only thing that got me off cigarettes?
  • want to force me to go back to smoking cigarettes now that I’ve finally quit?
  • hate smokers and vapers, and/or want to harm/kill us?

These were not easy questions to answer, especially since I’ve been asking many similar questions during the past 18 months about e-cigarettes (and during the past decade about smokefree tobacco products as harm reduction alternatives).

In response to these questions, I informed them that the goal of most public health and tobacco control advocates is to reduce tobacco disease and death (nearly all of which is caused by daily cigarette smoking) by encouraging/helping smokers to quit, raising cigarette taxes, preventing/reducing youth smoking, reducing secondhand smoke exposure to nonsmokers, and that a growing number of public health advocates are advocating e-cigarettes and other smokefree tobacco harm reduction products for smokers.

But I also explained that some abstinence-only activists (many of whom are government health officials or heads of well financed anti-tobacco groups that have received lots of drug industry funding) want to eliminate all tobacco/nicotine use and/or ban all tobacco/ nicotine products (except nicotine gums/lozenges/patches that are marketed only for temporary use as smoking cessation medicine). But since the new federal law lobbied for by CTFK, ACS, AHA, ALA, etc. prohibits the FDA from banning the deadliest tobacco product (i.e. cigarettes) and other traditional tobacco products (e.g. cigars, smokeless and smoking tobacco), I explained that these same groups (and others) are now aggressively trying to ban any/all new smokefree tobacco/nicotine product alternatives even though they appear to be at least 99% less hazardous than cigarettes and pose no known risks for nonusers.

During the ten hours I was in the Vapefest 2010 conference room on Saturday, participants collectively vaped the equivalent of 2,000-3,000 tobacco cigarettes. While the visible vapor disappeared one or two seconds after vaping occured, there was a slightly visible vapor mist in the room (but insignificant compared to outdoor fog or theatrical fog) since dozens of people were vaping simultaneously most of the day. There also was a mild pleasant smell in the room due to the many different flavorings that most vapers added to their e-cigarettes (by dripping a drop of flavoring into their vaporizer), and that were being sold by most of the ten e-cigarette vendors who paid $50 to sponsor (i.e. cover the costs of) the event.

As one who experiences severe headaches, sneezing, watery eyes and other sinus problems from exposure to very little secondhand tobacco smoke (a key reason I’ve been an outspoken smokefree indoor policy/law activist since 1986), I’m delighted and relieved to report that I experienced NO adverse reactions during or after my mega exposure to e-cigarette vapor.

Realizing that personal experiences are not a substitute for air quality data or other scientific research, I’ve been advocating laboratory emission tests, air quality tests and other studies on e-cigarettes and vapers for the past several years with limited success. Several days before Vapefest 2010, I invited many tobacco control advocates, researchers and public health officials to attend the event (and invited some researchers to bring testing equipment to measure air quality inside the conference room). Unfortunately, I was the only person from the tobacco control community that was interested enough to attend the event.

Ironically and tragically, it appears that the grass roots volunteer organizers and participants of Vapefest 2010 are now doing more (than are any tobacco control professionals) to help cigarette smokers quit and to truthfully inform the public about the known health risks/benefits of vaping e-cigarettes versus smoking cigarettes.

An estimated 300,000 – 500,000 cigarette smokers in the US have switched to e-cigarettes in the past two years. And an estimated $100-$200 million of e-cigarettes (and related vaping equipment and supplies) were sold in the US in 2009, which reduced tobacco cigarette sales by an estimated $200-$400 million (as vaping e-cigarettes costs about half the price of smoking cigarettes). It is critically important to understand that every dollar that smokers and exsmokers spend on e-cigarettes eliminates $2 that previously had been (and would otherwise be) spent on tobacco cigarettes.

If the number of vapers and e-cigarette sales continue growing at similar rates, another million cigarette smokers will switch to vaporizers in 2010, and sales may surpass the estimated $600 million in combined sales of nicotine gums, lozenges and patches. And if e-cigarette usage and sales continues growing at similar rates in future years, the number of e-cigarette users and sales could surpass smokeless tobacco products in several years, and could surpass tobacco cigarettes within a decade.

Ironically and tragically, while e-cigarettes appear to pose the greatest threat yet to the future of the cigarette industry, efforts by the FDA and others to ban the sale and/or use of e-cigarettes primarily protect cigarette markets and make it even more difficult for smokers to quit. So it is vitally important to continue asking why some tobacco control activists are aggressively campaigning to protect the cigarette industry at the expense of smokers and public health.

That is also why Smokefree Pennsylvania and other tobacco harm reduction advocates have been urging the FDA to reclassify and to reasonably and responsibly regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products (instead of trying to ban them by claiming they are drug devices), and have been urging the FDA to begin to truthfully inform smokers and the public that e-cigarettes and other smokefree tobacco/nicotine products are far less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes that pose no known risks to nonusers.

Since 1990, Smokefree Pennsylvania has advocated policies that have reduced indoor tobacco smoke pollution, increased cigarette taxes, reduced tobacco marketing to youth, preserved civil justice remedies for those injured by cigarettes, expanded and funded smoking cessation services, and to inform smokers that smokefree tobacco/nicotine products are far less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes. For disclosure, neither I nor Smokefree Pennsylvania have ever received any funding (directly or indirictely) from any tobacco, drug or e-cigarette company or trade assocation.

Bill Godshall
Executive Director
Smokefree Pennsylvania
1926 Monongahela Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15218
412-351-5880
smokefree@compuserve.com

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Comments

  • Kate  On March 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    But did Bill get drunk and wake up with his trousers on his head?

    Seriously, it sounds like Bill got a pretty good idea of how benign vaping is and how enthusiastically some hardcore smokers take to it.

    He notes some very interesting observations.

    It’s a pity there was no testing of the environment for possible pollution but hopefully there will be regular Vapefests now that the community is growing and developing its own ‘sub culture’.

  • Zofryer  On March 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Very good read.

  • Jeff  On March 19, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Great article glad to see someone else is noting what we as Vapers have been saying

  • taukimada  On March 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    as a quickie correction….

    there were two hispanics at vapefest 🙂

    otherwise… VERY nice article.. i never got a chance to interact with Bill while there… but i kept hearing others mention him.. and he sounds like a rather levlheaded guy

  • Kate  On March 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Next Vapefest is at Bill’s house, bring your own bottle and some clean underwear.

  • Brian  On March 24, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I heard about your appearance at Vapefest, then went to read your article. I just wanted to thank you personally for understanding why this is important and passing that word on. My state may prevent me from buying replacement items soon; I have no idea what I’ll do then, I never felt ready to quit until I found myself holding a 901SE and the question was rendered instantly moot. I hope I won’t have to choose between my health, my family (moving), or my legal status. Keep on talking, we need more allies who get it!

  • Chip  On March 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    If only more anti-smoking advocates could be as reasonable and open-minded as Mr. Godshall. At 31 years of age, I had been smoking for almost exactly half my life. Within 24 hours of buying my first e-cigarette, I gave up smoking tobacco completely and have never missed it. I feel healthier, and I AM healthier.

    Enough with the fear-mongering and bad science. Bring on the legitimate medical testing that will PROVE that e-cigarettes are far less harmful to users than tobacco, and PROVE that they are completely harmless to non-users. More anti-smoking groups need to step up and prove that they’re actually in this for public health, and not just to make a quick buck as lobbyists.

  • Vonda  On March 29, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Wow very cool!

  • Bonnie  On March 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Wow, it is not often you find a article on electronic cigarettes that is fair and balanced.
    I use the Torch E-cig…they just lowered their prices!!
    http://www.torchcigarettes.com

    I find it hard to believe that non-smokers are not “dancing in the streets”.
    No cigarette fires, no life and property loss due to butts.
    Even those on oxygen therapy can safely get the nicotine needs met safely.

  • Ben Adams  On November 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Smokers will be healthier if the decide to totally quit smoking. For some, e-vapors might be an alternative but it’s still harmful. Advocates of anti-smokers are doing great in letting the public know about the effects of smoking and even the effects of using alternatives of cigarette. I hope you could take a look at how smokers can best eliminate their dangerous vice: http://www.bestquitsmokingmethod.com/

  • Mary  On December 5, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Wow, that’s what I have to say about this article is wow!

    I am a smoker 15-year who has currently(and as knowledgeably as possible) made the decision to switch to electronic cigarettes. I have been in a snit for the last week and half as I await the arrival of my order. I find it cruelly ironic that I have to wait to be healthier when it only takes me ten minutes to get a product that will kill me.

    I live in Pennsylvania. Bill Godshall is a man who effectively put me out in the cold, literally, with his advocacy for anti-smoking laws in public.

    Yeah, hi, Bill, you really did and I don’t like being cold 😉

    But, his willingness to not only “invite” me back inside, but stand next to me while I vape, well, all I can say to that is WOW!

    Wading through the information on the internet, a testimonial from a family member, and ironically enough, Bill Godshall’s advocacy for this product are the factors I used in making this vital decision for my health. I like the “act” of smoking. As an informed adult I believe I am making a better health choice. Of course there is always a risk. I want the smaller risk rather than the larger one and I cannot thank Bill Godshall enough for helping me make that decision.

    If I am ever able to use the product to quit nicotine or not doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that I am taking a step in a better choice.

    Thank you,
    Mary

  • Curt  On January 9, 2013 at 9:09 am

    When someone writes an piece of writing he/she keeps the thought of a user in his/her mind that how a
    user can be aware of it. Thus that’s why this post is perfect. Thanks!

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