Editor of major science journal bans use of term ‘tobacco products’ in vaping research

Editor-in-Chief Marcus Munafò of the major science journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research (NTR) is now prohibiting contributors from publishing research which describes vaping and e-cigarettes as tobacco products.  The announcement is based on indisputable evidence that the e-liquids used in e-cigs is essentially 100 percent tobacco-free.

In his eloquently-worded opinion piece entitled Are e-cigarettes tobacco products, Munafò begins by referencing the often-confusing use of the term “tobacco products” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In short, he seemingly implies that just because the FDA intentionally lumps zero-tobacco vaping with tobacco-based smoking is no reason for academic scholars to make the same assertion.  Any reputable scientist should probably be smart enough to know the differences even if officials at the FDA are not.

“Our preference is for the term ‘tobacco products’ to be reserved for those products that are made from and contain tobacco (rather than contain constituents such as nicotine extracted from it). The term ‘nicotine-containing products’ is more general, and can be applied to tobacco products but also non-tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies. However, even the term nicotine-containing products does not apply to cases where aerosol-producing devices are used with liquids that do not contain nicotine – in this case distinguishing between vaping devices and liquids (which may or may contain nicotine) could be helpful.”

Munafò’s manuscript appears on the Oxford Academic website.  In his dissertation, he also takes issue with the common description of vaping devices as electronic nicotine-delivery systems or ENDS.  After all, not all ENDS are necessarily electronic, and not all electronic delivery systems are necessarily filled with nicotine-infused e-liquid.  As is referenced above, zero-nicotine e-juices also exist.

Vaping is not smoking, and e-liquids are not tobacco.

As an appropriate alternative, Munafò offers a common-sense solution.  Why not just call them cigarettes or e-cigarettes and be done with it?  The only except for use of the term tobacco products will be when the material intended for NTR publication directly refers to specific regulatory language as per the FDA.

“Another common description is electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS), but again this is potentially problematic because not all devices are electronic (and again may deliver liquids that do not contain nicotine). A simpler approach would therefore be to refer to “cigarettes”, “e-cigarettes” and so on, without reference to broad categories. The exception would be cases where e-cigarettes are being referred to in a specific policy context (e.g., in relation to the FDA). The guiding principle is that the terminology used should be clear, unambiguous, and scientifically appropriate.”

The Editor-In-Chief also goes on to explain that references to e-cigarettes as tobacco products is purely an American “phenomenon.”  Just because tobacco leaves contain nicotine does not mean that any consumer product containing nicotine is tobacco.

Know what else contains nicotine?  Tomatoes contain nicotine. Eggplant contains nicotine.  Potatoes contain nicotine.  Using the logic of the FDA, all spaghetti sauces, eggplant fettuccinis, and French fries should be regulated as tobacco products too, just because they contain trace amounts of nicotine.  It is small acts of courage and bravery by true leaders of the scientific community like Marcus Munafò that may be the determining factor in winning the war on vaping.  Well done, Mr. Munafò.  Well done!

Related Article: Secret benefits of nicotine that FDA e-cig regulations want to hide

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