Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No e-cigs, so it's back to smoking

Earlier this month, in a post titled “Who stole my e-cig”, I mentioned that I had tracked an electronic cigarette I'd ordered to a customs office in Mississauga. It had apparently arrived there on November 4, 2009. Just before Christmas, over six weeks after the package arrived at customs, I received official notification from Health Canada (Health Protection Branch) advising me that the product contained “prescription drugs” and they were refusing entry.

“The above product(s) contain Schedule F drugs. The importation of prescription drugs is restricted to persons designated under Section C.01.045 of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. In the opinion of the undersigned, the sale of this product in Canada would constitute a violation of Section(s) C.01.045.”

Section C.01.045 of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations states quite clearly: “Importations of Schedule F drugs by Canadian residents are not permitted by mail or courier.”

The “Report of Examination for Customs Entry” identifies the product as an e-cigarette, with a quantity listed of 10 cartridges. Nowhere in the documentation I received, however, is the “prescription” drug identified, although we can safely assume it was nicotine. OK, maybe we shouldn't assume anything for fear of making an ASS out of U and ME. After all, I once assumed I could rely on Health Canada for accurate, science-based information.

What a crock of shit that turned out to be, at least as far as smoking and secondhand smoke is concerned.

But, the last time I looked, the pharmacy I deal with was selling at least some nicotine products “over-the-counter”, without the need for a prescription; nicotine gum, lozenges and the ever-popular patch, for example.

Schedule “F” of the Food and Drugs Act tells us that nicotine is on the list of prohibited drugs . . . unless it's in an acceptable form and dosage:
“Nicotine and its salts, [are prohibited] for human use, except
(a) in natural substances;
(b) in the form of a chewing gum containing 4 mg or less of nicotine per dosage unit;
(c) in the form of a transdermal patch with a delivery rate of 22 mg or less of nicotine per day;
(d) in a form to be administered orally by means of an inhalation device delivering 4 mg or less of nicotine per dosage unit; or
(e) in the form of a lozenge containing 4 mg or less of nicotine per dosage unit”

Surprise. Surprise. The acceptable forms of nicotine are those produced by the major drug companies.

The form letter explaining the refusal of entry suggests that if I have a prescription from a doctor, the drug (nicotine) is apparently acceptable, but . . . the prescription must be filled in Canada. “It is recommended that you contact your doctor to obtain a prescription for this medication which must be filled in Canada.”

But, would any doctor cut a prescription for nicotine to be administered via an electronic cigarette? Actually, I believe they would. Several prominent public health authorities have recently expressed support for the electronic cigarette as a means of harm reduction for smokers unable (or unwilling) to quit.

Professor Carl Phillips is one of a number of experts who have come out in favour of the device. Phillips, an associate professor at the University of Alberta, estimates that electronic cigarettes carry a risk that "is probably in the order of 99 percent less harmful than smoking." He adds: "I think there's absolutely no doubt that it is a safer alternative to regular cigarettes."

Other experts who have spoken out in favour of the electronic cigarette include Dr Joel Nitzkin, Chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force for the American Association of Public Health Physicians, Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health, and David Sweanor, a former advisor on tobacco control to the WHO.

And, during a visit with my cardiologist just before Christmas, I was told:. “I don't know that much about the electronic cigarette, but if it will get you off the (unprofessional expletive deleted) cigarettes, it's OK with me.”

Of course, I suspect he may have had a similar reaction if I'd told him I was going to dry and cure the bullshit spread by the anti-smoker cult and use it as a tobacco substitute.

But, it must be pointed out, that, even with a prescription, I still couldn't get my nicotine in Canada. None of the major drug companies in Canada provide medicinal nicotine in a format consistent with the particular delivery system with which I chose to experiment, an electronic cigarette. The drug companies, in fact, are in direct competition with the manufacturers of the electronic cigarette. Their nicotine replacement products (gum, lozenges, inhalors, etc) bring in billions in revenue annually.

So, it's not surprising that their industry allies in the anti-smoker brigade lobby against the new nicotine delivery system. What's good for big pharma is good for the anti-smoker zealots.

Health Canada has a legitimate role to play in protecting the public from potentially harmful products. The electronic cigarette should be regulated to resolve quality control issues and protect consumers. But the outright prohibition of electronic cigarettes deprives the consumer of choice and protects no one but the big pharmaceutical companies and their monopoly on alternative nicotine delivery systems.

And, if it's simply the nicotine cartridges to which Health Canada objects, why are they still holding my two spare batteries, the battery chargers and carrying case. Why not simply remove the objectionable material and send me the rest of the shipment?

I will be writing a few letters to various government agencies and ministers of the crown; to voice my disapproval. I won't hold my breath waiting for any kind of response.

That might prove a damn sight more hazardous to my health than the e-cig.


Anonymous said...

It's pretty depressing that 'they' won't even let us have access to something that has never been shown to cause harm.

Mostly it convinces me that the assault on smokers isn't about health, it's about power, control and money.

Anonymous said...

they used a similar approach where I live, declaring it a drug. (due to the extensive testing required to release a new drug in our country, they might as well could have banned it. but that wouldn't have looked so good, would it?)

but it's not illegal to buy a nicotine-free kit with just the vapor and flavour. as a matter of fact they can be had in many supermarkets here ;)

the small refill bottles with the interesting stuff still have to be bought of the internet of course, but so far that seems to pose no problems. Maybe due to the fact that we just need to import from other EU countries. (no real customs/borders :p )

as a matter of fact i'm puffing away right now and rather like it. especially the fact that i'm not throwing money at a government/industry that seems to be bent on spending it to harrass the hell out of me at every possible opportunity. (yeah I know, the gov signed the FCTC, well, f*ck 'em for that too ;)

so maybe that's the way for you: nicotine-free kit (or even buy the individual parts seperately!) + taking a chance (or prescription) on the refills.

hell, you must have smugglers over there too? these bottles are tiiiiny and go a long way ;)

good luck.

Jess said...

Canada needs the facts! Please look at this website I came across,
Scientific facts (period)