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New DNA damage claims from US study

A new paper presented to the American Cancer Society claims that chemicals found in e-cigarette vapour increase the risk of DNA damage, which can cause cancer. However, despite extensive media coverage, the story doesn’t really add anything new to the debate – and may repeat the errors of previous negative studies.

The researchers, from the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, tested saliva samples from a group of vapers and identified raised levels of three substances that can damage DNA – methylflyoxal, acrolein and formaldehyde. The inclusion of formaldehyde is likely to raise suspicions among many vapers, because repeated experiments have shown that properly set up vaping equipment does not produce significant levels of formaldehyde.

Another worry about the experiment is its small scale; only five vapers took part, which is far too small a sample to tell us anything about potential risks. It also relied on a new mass spectrometry technique developed by the same researchers to assess the effects, which is an unproven way of assessing DNA damage.

 

JUUL pushes back against Israel ban

Popular California e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs has sent a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice contesting the country’s recently-imposed ban on their products. A decree signed by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Monday, and effective from 1 September, bans the import or sale of any e-liquid containing more than 20mg/ml of nicotine; JUUL pods contain 50mg/ml liquid, which will become illegal in less than a week.

Israel’s health ministry says that nicotine strengths above the new limit pose a “serious danger to public health”. However the ministry has previously admitted that the limit is based on the EU’s flawed Tobacco Products Directive specifications, which a UK parliamentary committee recently found to be “without scientific rationale”. The company’s petition cites leading Israeli researchers who have found that vaping does not carry the same health risks as smoking.

Now JUUL is asking for an interim injunction to block the law, claiming that the new limit selectively targets their products and violates their rights. A public statement issued by JUUL Israel also accused the health ministry of strengthening the tobacco industry at the expense of safer products.

 

US tariffs hit Chinese vape imports

The first round of US tariffs on Chinese imports came into effect last Thursday, and vapour products were among the first sectors to be affected. All Chinese-made mods, batteries and liquids coming into the USA are now subject to a 25% import duty – and that’s going to mean higher prices across the board, with brick and mortar vape shops likely to feel the effects first. A second round of tariffs, applied to atomisers and spare coils and also likely to be set at 25%, is likely to be introduced within weeks.

Vaping advocates have criticised the decision to include vapour products in the tariff schedule. The aim of tariffs is to encourage the purchase of domestic goods by making imported ones relatively more expensive – but while the USA has a thriving e-liquid industry, there are few significant manufacturers of mods and atomisers. American vapers don’t have the choice of buying a tariff-free US mod or a taxed Chinese one, so the only effect of this move will be higher prices that reduce vaping’s economic advantage over smoking. That’s likely to result in fewer switches.

 

British government drops planned vape tax

Several weeks ago the British treasury floated a plan to hit vapour products with a 5% “sin tax”, with the aim of raising revenue to prop up the country’s out of control public spending. However, analysts estimated that it would raise a mere £44 million, while reducing the incentive to switch to vaping – a trend that’s already saved the publicly funded National Health Service billions of pounds.

Now, following a pro-vaping report by parliament’s Science and Technology Committee and a strong backlash from advocates, the unpopular plan has been officially dropped. A Treasury spokesman even suggested that devices approved by the NHS could benefit from a lower rate of VAT.

 

Wigan man injured in e-cig fire

A vaper in northwest England was injured last week when an e-cigarette battery went into thermal runaway in his trouser pocket. The man, from Shevington in the Wigan area, suffered burns on his legs and hands after the battery overheated and caught fire; he then collected more burns trying to throw it out of the house.

Media reporting gave no details of the kind of battery involved, but most incidents of this type happen when someone puts a loose 18650 battery in a pocket that also contains metal objects such as coins or keys.

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