One of the things that irk harm reduction advocates and vapers is the frequent reference to vaping as something that uses “tobacco products”. This reference will now vanish from Nicotine and Tobacco Research, published by Oxford University Press. It is a popular monthly publication, ranked 2nd out of 18 in the SSCI category "Substance Abuse” by Thompson Reuters.
This month’s editorial carries the warning that future references to “tobacco products” will either be edited out or the submitted research papers rejected from publication.
“To date, Nicotine & Tobacco Research has not had an explicit policy on how e-cigarettes should be described,” the editorial states, highlighting that the problem of the misleading description stems from the American Food and Drug Administration’s policy developments.
“Describing e-cigarettes as tobacco products is a particularly US phenomenon,” it continues. “Some countries include e-cigarettes in tobacco product regulation, but others do not. This includes Canada, a near neighbour to the US. In Europe, while some elements of e-cigarette regulation are contained within the EU Tobacco Products Directive, the devices themselves are not referred to as tobacco products.”
It points out that, in order for balance, if ecigs are described as tobacco products then so too should nicotine replacement therapies like patches and inhalers. It’s a common sense perspective that highlights the nonsense of the current nomenclature.
“As a scientific journal, definitions matter, and a legal ruling in a single country is not a sound basis for determining whether a certain definition is valid.”
A halfway house could be the use of the term “nicotine-containing products”, but this is itself problematic. Although it can be applied to tobacco products and non-tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapies, it fails to address “aerosol-producing devices are used with liquids that do not contain nicotine”.
For a similar reason, the journal also rejects “electronic nicotine-delivery systems”, popularly referred to as ENDS.
So, the new rule is: “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.”
Pointing out the obvious: “Some of our readers may disagree with this position, but it is motivated by a desire for clarity of expression that reflects our status as an international journal with contributions from many countries, each with their own legal and regulatory frameworks around tobacco and other nicotine- containing products.”
“There is a great deal of ongoing debate about the potential relative harms and benefits of e-cigarettes (with heat-not-burn products likely to complicate the picture further), but we are fundamentally a scientific journal and should ensure that the terms we use a clear, unambiguous and valid.”
POTV welcomes this move towards clarity and science-based reason.