Revelations of a Steam Powered Human – Part II

steam-powered-human“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger.”
-William Shakespeare, Henry V

In the first revelation I talked about my early experiences and gave some evidence of advocacy. I will be furthering this effort in this post as I will include my response to the FDA regarding their proposed deeming. Why do this? Because it might give some who follow this on Twitter and Facebook a chance to crib from my response and make one of their own.

Before I include that communique I want to share a few other revelations I’ve had since Part I.

The first is the realization that I’ve spent a lot of time doing the research, i.e. reading my backside off. For my friends and family that meant being uninterrupted and unavailable, up at all hours and with no real explanation other than: “The future availability of vaping as an alternative to smoking is at stake.” That’s hard for some to understand. It’s far easier to believe that other, better qualified and paid spokespeople should be doing the work. Unfortunately, while such people do exist they are few in number. The organizations who are attempting to regulate vaping out of existence are many, well funded and with much longer experience at manipulating public opinion. It is only when we the people add our voice that the message may begin to make a difference. So I am becoming one of those ‘better qualified’ albeit unpaid spokespeople because I can carry the message.

Second is the realization that the opposition doesn’t really have anything better in mind than their own self-importance and the preservation of their revenue stream. That and the idea fixed firmly in their rhetoric that the only good smoker is a dead smoker. I’ve either watched or read many transcripts from efforts around the country to deal with vaping in a reasonable way. Every time without exception I’ve seen the same players (the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Center for Tobacco Free Kids to name a few of the most egregious) demonize vaping, ignore the preponderance of evidence, outright fabricating “facts” and lobbying against their own proposed legislation when they didn’t get what they wanted. Most telling was our recent efforts to ban the sale, use and possession of e-cigarettes by minors in Missouri. The legislation was clear, easy to understand and comprehensive. Amendments were attempted to define e-cigarettes as tobacco products. These amendments were defeated and the bill passed and was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk for signature. A bill that would ‘protect the children’ from the evils of vaping was passed and ready to be enacted into law with the stroke of the Governor’s pen. What happened? The very same above mentioned organizations who purport to be all ‘for the children’ lobbied the Governor’s office and he vetoed the legislation. Really! Governor Nixon vetoed legislation that would protect children by making the sale, use and possession of electronic cigarettes by a minor illegal, complete with provisions and penalties against the vendor who sold the youth the product! This is not an isolated incident either. In other states and counties legislation has been voted down, tabled, or withdrawn which would do exactly the same thing at the urging of these very same organizations because they couldn’t get the legislators to endorse their rhetoric when the science was clearly against them.

Third was the realization that our congress-critters have absolutely no clue what’s going on. Really it is the plethora of aides and staff members that habit the halls of government that determine what’s really going on. Congress members may come and go, but these dedicated government employees have been there forever. They are masters of Govspeak and can craft a form letter to constituents (if there isn’t one already in the files) that makes it look like your representative is on the ball, no matter which side of the issue you’re on. I’ve accumulated a nice collection of these missives of mediocrity. At least they all thank me for expressing my concerns. In talking directly with them they will listen once you can make it clear that the member’s stance will either gain or lose votes.

Finally I’ve realized that no matter how important something might be to someone, their ability to act on a threat is inversely proportional to the amount of time it takes away from the fun stuff in their lives. This may be the root of the problems in America today. A wise man once said: “Evil only succeeds when good men do nothing.” Indeed, we have acculturated entire generations to ‘do nothing’ because someone else will do it for them. Thus, even for something as seemingly important as freedom from smoking it is well near impossible to get most of the people who directly benefit to get motivated to act. Because of this I fear vaping will become extinct in two years. C’est la vie.

With all that having been said, one would think I’d give up myself. Well if it weren’t for the fact that I am a nurse and have acquired a deep affection for the health of my patients, many of whom smoke, I might have. But for them I’ll try to fight the good fight. For the person who hasn’t yet had the chance to experience freedom from tobacco having tried every other means to gain it is why I choose to do this. They truly don’t have a voice. The Anti-Nicotine and Tobacco Zealots (ANTZ) want them to die.

With all this in mind here’s the letter I sent to the FDA:

June 30, 2014

To:          The Honorable Mitch Zeller, J.D.
Director, Center for Tobacco Products
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002

From:     Robert Bruce Nye, RN
1105 Hickory Hill Rd.
Papillion, NE 68046

Re:          FDA, Docket No. FDA-2014-N-0189, Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 0910- AG38

Dear Mr. Zeller,

I am writing in regards to the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) Proposed Rule Deeming Tobacco Products to be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended by the Family Smoking and Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (the “Proposed Rule”) published at 79 Fed. Reg. 23,142 and Federal Register No. 2014-09491.

I am both a Consumer and a Registered Nurse. I am very concerned that the proposed deeming regulation, while representing a sincere effort on the part of the FDA to bring order to tobacco harm reduction specifically in regards to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), falls short of its goal. The proposed regulation will forever damage the current availability of all harm-reduction products and stifle innovation which produced these products.

I am further concerned that we are perceived at odds simply because the voice of the industry and its consumers was not present at the table to help craft regulations and support changes in the enabling legislation to enable the FDA to do a proper job of regulation. As a result I write this in opposition to the proposed deeming regulation with recommendations for more appropriate and meaningful legislation. Regulations that would more closely align the FDA with its goals of reducing the prevalence of tobacco use and promoting the public health both of current smokers and the non-smoking public.

I smoked since I was 12. I started when I found I wouldn’t get sick on the second-hand smoke from my parents cigarettes. After 42 years of smoking 1½ packs per day my lungs protested violently. On September 25, 2012 I was diagnosed with Stage II Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) subsequent to my smoking history and my fifth episode of bacterial pneumonia. My physician, Dr. Shalindra Saxena, MD urged me to do whatever it took to stop smoking as my health would likely rapidly deteriorate from this point forward. For the previous 22 years I tried every form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), pharmaceutical (bupropion and varenicline) and alternative therapies, none of them effective for more than 3 months (usually far less) and always ended up smoking again. Knowing I had to kick the burning leaf I researched e-cigarettes and, using advice from the E-Cigarette Forum and information provided by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), made a committed purchase of equipment. It took a little while to learn to ‘vape'; once some skill is acquired it became natural. In short order I found the burning leaf intolerable, preferring my e-cigarettes instead.

After three months, I had a follow-up visit with my doctor. He immediately commented on how much better I looked, and after doing his assessment, how much better my chest sounded and how much my lung function had recovered. While I’ll always have stage I COPD due to the emphysema the chronic bronchitis flares very rarely now without the use of drug therapy. Concentrations of cigarette smoke and other lung irritants will set it off as will seasonal allergies.

It is now well over a year since my last tobacco cigarette on September 27, 2012. I’ve reduced the strength of nicotine from 24mg/ml to 6mg/ml and I am comfortable and much healthier. Before the switch to electronic cigarettes I was guaranteed to have two to three upper respiratory infections per year, to date I have had only one cold and it did not develop into pneumonia as was so typical when I smoked. Consider the economic and health impact for both me and my employer in reducing absence due to smoking related illness. Thanks to the free availability of an electronic vapor alternative I am tobacco free for the longest I have ever been. I don’t smell awful, I don’t hack constantly, I can taste and smell subtleties I’ve missed while smoking and I spend a fraction of what I paid for tobacco products or prescription NRT.

As a nurse with first-hand experience I have been called upon by colleagues to give information, including risks and benefits regarding my success. This has required diligence in keeping current with the state of research as it relates to e-cigarettes. As a result I am well aware of the weight of evidence that exists supporting the harm reduction and efficacy e-cigarettes represent. I am also well aware of the concerns and questions that are still in study or awaiting study. Indeed, my hospital began one of the larger longitudinal studies looking into the effectiveness and harm-reduction from the use of electronic cigarettes and the initial (unpublished) results are in line with other published studies in Europe that show the relative safety and effectiveness of this game-changing technology. There is a growing body of evidence which I cite only a few examples, that electronic cigarette use is an effective alternative to and radically less harmful than tobacco use (Brown, et al. 2014, Kotz, Brown and West 2013, Burstyn 2014). Studies which show the presence of harmful chemicals demonstrate both that they are far fewer in number and quantity (Goneiwicz, et al. 2014). The only study to achieve comparable levels of harmful chemicals to cigarettes (carbonyls) appears to have done so under conditions which are contrary to the actual use of the product and requires further study to validate this finding (Kosmider, et al. 2014).

Thus I am opposed to classifying electronic cigarettes as tobacco products for the purpose of regulation. Foremost among the reasons for my opposition is the association of electronic cigarettes with tobacco regulation creates a perception that electronic cigarette use is the same as smoking tobacco. This is at odds with the goal of harm reduction and smoking cessation. To create a false equivalence may damage the ability of citizens such as me to promote this safer alternative against the perception that it would be “just as bad as smoking the real thing”.

My second objection to regulation of electronic cigarettes as tobacco products stems from the treatment of other nicotine sources (e.g. Nicotine patches, gums, lozenges and inhalers) as exempt from tobacco regulation where their ingredients are basically the same as that found in electronic cigarettes: Those ingredients being a base, a variable amount of nicotine, and an optional flavor. To include electronic cigarettes as tobacco products will not likely survive legal challenge. The efforts to defend such challenges would be a drain on precious public revenues.

My third objection to regulation of electronic cigarettes as tobacco products stems from the problem of what constitutes the target of regulation. In the construction of an electronic cigarette there are three main parts: A battery, the vapor producing mechanism (often called an atomizer), and the liquid which is used to produce the vapor. As I mentioned previously, but worth repeating, the liquid consists of a base, a variable amount of nicotine, and optional flavor agents. In erecting a regulatory structure related to the notion of a tobacco product how would the FDA handle the fact that the nicotine content is entirely variable by user selection? Regulating a non-tobacco product without even a trace of nicotine simply because it used the same hardware (battery and atomizer) would open the regulation to litigation which would eventually overturn it. Basing the regulation on the nicotine content would complicate compliance to a point where the enforcement revenues required would be substantially increased by the likelihood of fraud, and the reporting, enforcement and prosecution required. That kind of legislative inefficiency is counterproductive to our society.

I get it. I do. I don’t want children to start smoking, I don’t want them to become addicted to nicotine, I don’t want them to suffer the harm that tobacco produces when ‘used as directed’. But I also don’t want children to suffer the loss of their parents and other family members from the harm produced by smoking. I am not alone in the sentiment, supported by a growing body of evidence, that the electronic cigarette products represent a huge step forward in reducing the harm from tobacco use. I support the idea of having a Federal law preventing the sale and marketing of any nicotine containing product, including all smoking alternatives to children. However I have yet to see evidence that the provisions in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) has produced a meaningful difference in the smoking uptake of youth as promised when the legislation was enacted five years ago. I suggest that regulation of this kind is best encouraged locally and I have had success with our state in achieving this end. I am, however, dismayed that our neighboring state of Missouri has vetoed a similar provision based upon the advocacy of those who are at the forefront in opposition to electronic cigarettes leaving the matter of sales and marketing to youth an open issue. Federal guidelines and economic pressure would likely prevent this kind of shenanigans from happening and ensure universal and enforceable legislation amongst the several states.

I must now turn to the consequences of the deeming proposal for me and many of my fellows. After considered reading of the proposed regulation and the body of the FSPTCA, it becomes clear that the FSPTCA never anticipated such radically new technologies to come along in the fight against tobacco use. While the FDA is to be commended in attempting bring regulation to the industry to ensure consistent quality, prevent fraudulent and misleading products from entering the marketplace, and ensure the safety of the public health, the controlling law is insufficient to the task before the agency.  The effect of the proposed deeming erects hurdles that will be insurmountable by the small businesses that are the bulk of the industry. While much focus has been on the larger suppliers of cigalike (Blu, NJOY, R.J.Reynolds, etc.) it is important to note that their market share is less than half of the total market. Most users surveyed by a number of sources use the cigalike products as a bridge to the second and third generation devices developed and marketed by small businesses. With the regulations in the FSPTCA requiring either Substantial Equivalence or New Product registration at enormous cost prior to being allowed to enter the market it is clear that most of the small businesses that are responsible for innovation will likely exit the marketplace, leaving only the larger suppliers with ties to the tobacco industry to fill the gap with inferior and ineffective products. This will effectively kill progress and availability of what a growing body of evidence shows is a significant technology in the fight against smoking and tobacco harm.

Should the proposed deeming be enacted without modification of the enabling legislation the consequences will throw those of us who use e-cigarettes into a vacuum of support for our efforts to remain tobacco free. I believe that within that vacuum will arise several probable and unintended consequences:

  • First, those that are not yet committed to using e-cigarettes exclusively will return to smoking tobacco and any reduction in harm from reduced tobacco use will vanish.
  • Second, a black market will likely emerge wherein equipment and liquid will be produced out of the public eye. The consequences of a shadow market would be diametrically opposed to the goal of the deeming regulations.
  • Third, the products that will survive in the open marketplace will be produced by the same tobacco industry that the FSPTCA was designed to regulate out of existence. These products are the very ones which promote dual-use (the use of both tobacco products and electronic cigarettes). As the industries producing these products do not have a strong financial or social motivation to improve the harm reducing product they will most likely languish in the market becoming nothing more than a novelty.
  • Other innovators who may be attempting to create new alternatives to the harmful tobacco use will abandon their efforts as the message will be clear, if it relates to smoking it is tobacco and it is unwelcome in the United States.

Again, I get it. I want the FDA to be able to enforce reasonable and sensible regulation of this emerging tobacco harm reduction technology. But the enabling legislation is inadequate to provide the FDA with the means to enact reasonable and sensible regulation. What is needed is a change in the FSPTCA or new legislation, to allow the FDA to regulate without killing the industry it is trying to regulate.

What would the type of legislation look like? What I would propose would have the following elements:

  1. Legislation at the Federal level that would make sale, possession and use of nicotine containing products illegal for minors, enforceable at the State level and funded from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). This would be expansive and include both tobacco products, e-liquids containing nicotine and all other tobacco alternatives regardless of their status as drug or tobacco product.
  2. Requirement that any nicotine containing product, whether a drug, tobacco product, or tobacco alternative not be marketed in a way that demonstrably encourages use by youth.
  3. Require that all nicotine containing products whether they are drugs or not be sold in childproof containers with addiction warnings and tamper evident packaging.
  4. Tobacco alternatives and nicotine containing drugs must be sold only by face-to-face transaction or online with age verification at time of sale using data that is independently verifiable. [I would also propose that this same type of regulation be required for all sales of alcohol as that is also a product which is obtained too easily by youth and its abuse is far more immediately lethal.]
  5. Regarding the manufacture of liquids, waxes and other products containing nicotine which are intended to be vaporized and not sold as drugs under the F.D.&C. act, ingredients used must have traceability to an FDA approved source and be Generally Recognized As Safe by the FDA. The constituent products must list the ingredients, nicotine strength, and flavorings used. The manufacture of these products should conform to the guidelines set forth be the American Eliquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA) found at aemsa.org.

In short, there is much to be gained in having the FDA support tobacco harm reduction in whatever form it exists. This benefits public health and our economy. But the FDA needs to support legislation which has the flexibility to do the job of regulating the emerging products without tying them to the very product which has proven harmful to over 40 million Americans. We need coherent and cogent legislation to enable this result, and not what will result when putting the square peg of tobacco harm reducing products through the round hole of tobacco product regulations.

I will address the issue of characterizing flavors in regard to harm reduction products (e.g. SNUS, dissolvable films and e-cigarette liquids) simply. The FDA currently allows marketing of NRT’s in characterizing flavors as a result of studies done which showed a greater likelihood of use and compliance, particularly with polacrilex and troches when flavoring is added. Indeed there is a growing body of evidence which the FDA ought to be well aware of that flavors, particularly candies, mint and fruits are particularly helpful re-enforcing agents in any smoking cessation regimen regardless of the nicotine content.

Much has been made of the notion that flavored liquid in electronic cigarettes is designed to attract youth. Certainly we can understand that this is not the intent any more than it is the intent of alcohol distillers to market their flavored products to youth. We can also understand that, if a product is illegal to sell, possess or use by youth then the only way to obtain or use such a product would be an illegal act. Thus I strongly support universal regulation making and enforcing the sales, possession and use to an adult only population while I strongly oppose the restriction on characterizing flavors. It is simple and clear logic that flavors cannot attract youth to a product which is unobtainable by legal means.

In closing I want to thank the FDA for taking the time to consider regulation of the emerging tobacco harm reducing products. I applaud the effort of the number of people within the organization concerned for the public health leading to the proposed deeming. It is a truly difficult task at hand. However well-intentioned the effort has been, it will fall short in achieving the FSPTCA’s goal “to make tobacco-related death and disease part of America’s past, not  America’s  future, and, by doing so, ensure a healthier life for every American family.” This is through no fault of those whose efforts went into the work, but a result of enabling legislation that did not anticipate such game-changing new technologies would be developed outside of the traditional tobacco industry. As a result I must, in good conscious, oppose the current effort in the form of the deeming regulation, and offer the simpler and more effective alternative that will accomplish both the public goals to ensure the safety of our children as-well-as the availability and safety of tobacco harm reduction products. I look forward to working to support the FDA and the regulations that I have proposed. As I am a member of CASAA I feel confident that including them in your efforts will yield results that more closely fit our mutual goals.

Respectfully,
Robert Bruce Nye, RN
(rbnye@cox.net)
References:

Brown, Beard, Kotz, Michie, and West. “Real-world effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: a cross-sectional population study.” Addiction, 2014. doi: 10.1111/add.12623

Burstyn, Igor. “Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks.” BMC Public Health, 2014. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-18

Goneiwicz, Maciej L, et al. “Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vapour from electronic cigarettes.” Tobacco Control, 2014. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050859

Kosmider, Leon, et al. “Carbonyl Compounds in Electronic Cigarette Vapors—Effects of Nicotine Solvent and Battery Output Voltage.” Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2014. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntu078

Kotz, Brown, and West. “Real-world effectiveness of smoking cessation treatments: a population study.” Addiction, 2013. doi: 10.1111/add.12429

 

An astute reader will notice that parts of this letter appeared in previous communications in Part I. This is by design. One of the most valuable resources an advocate can develop is a library of thoughts to copy and paste into a coherent response. Modern word processors are to advocates what programming libraries are to software engineers, a way to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

So if you vape, know someone who vapes, smoke or know someone who smokes borrow from my letters. Fold the text into something of your own and send it to the FDA. Please. This may be the last opportunity to turn the tide and get more reasonable regulation to come forth. There are those in the FDA, including Mitch Zeller himself who would like to say that a majority of the responses they received wanted something other than what was proposed and that something other was coherent, effective and better than what was proposed.

Here’s a few links to help:

The call to action with instructions on how to comment to the FDA is here:
http://blog.casaa.org/2014/07/streamlined-version-of-fourth-call-to.html

A great summary of the FDA deeming regulation’s effect is here:
http://www.fda.gov/downloads/TobaccoProducts/NewsEvents/UCM397724.pdf
(But it is also important to note HOW these things specified will be accomplished, that involves a LOT of reading the legislation known as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control act. The text of that act can be found here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ31/pdf/PLAW-111publ31.pdf and a summary can be found here: http://www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/ucm246129.htm)

 

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Revelations Of a Steam Powered Human – Part I

steam-powered-humanThis may be a long post because it details something that has been life-changing for me and thousands of others.  Parts of it will be technical, parts may use jargon which I will do my best to define, and parts will include research links.

I am a steam-powered human.  For a bit of background:

I’ve smoked since I was 12. Started when I found I wouldn’t get sick on the second-hand smoke from my parents cigarettes. After 42 years of smoking my lungs protested violently. I’ve tried every form of NRT (the gum works, sort-of as a short-term (hours) substitute), but couldn’t stick with them and always ended up smoking again. Knowing I had to kick the burning leaf I researched e-cigarettes and, using the advice of the fellowship at E-Cigarette Forum, made a committed purchase of equipment. It takes a (very) little while to learn to ‘vape'; once some skill is acquired it becomes natural. In short order I found the burning leaf intolerable, preferring my e-cigarettes instead.

After three months, I went for a visit with my doctor. He immediately commented on how much better I looked, and after giving me the once-over how much better my chest sounded. While I’ll always have stage I COPD due to the emphysema the chronic bronchitis flares very rarely now. Heavy concentrations of cigarette smoke will set it off as will seasonal allergies. However, being in our local e-cigarette shop does NOT cause a flare up! I’m impressed as there is usually a large number of fellow ‘vapers’ gathered and the clouds, were they cigarette smoke, would certainly cause a flare.

It is now well over a year since my last tobacco cigarette, I’ve reduced the strength of nicotine from 24mg/ml to 6mg/ml and I am comfortable and much healthier. Thanks to the free availability of an electronic vapor alternative I am tobacco free for the longest I have ever been. I don’t smell awful, I don’t hack constantly, I can taste and smell subtleties I’ve missed while smoking and I spend a fraction of what I paid for tobacco products or prescription NRT.

My vaping equipment list has grown and changed as I’ve become more experienced and developed my tastes:

- I still have my 510 pen-style with a Vision Nano clearomizers for discrete out-and-about use but this is rarely used. Vapor production is fair and really easy to stealth.

- There are quite a few eGo style VV batteries in 1100mA and 900mA. I use these mostly for work and discrete vaping.  They’re topped with either Smok Aero’s at 1.8ohm or Artemis slim locking tanks with 1.5ohm DCT cartos. Very discrete and very reliable. The adjustable voltage is a must for me now.

- I broke into mechanicals with a KTS Storm using an 18500 with a Kick. Set to 10.5Watts a ProTank II sits on this one with hand wound 1.6ohm Kanthal coils over cotton wick. I use this for my signature flavor, Kashmir; a tobacco flavor blend I spent a long time tweaking and its my All Day Vape.  This is my pocket rig.

-I switched to a Kayfun/Russian 91% clone on a Nemesis with a kick-tube for daily use.  It’s setup for Kashmir at 1.4ohm (10 wraps 28ga Kanthal A-1 on a #50 (0.0700″) drill) with a cotton wick.  It’s a heavy monster but it is reliable and tasty.

- I have a Innokin SVD for my UDCT tanks and for flavor testing at my local B&M’s as it is quickly adjustable for wattage/voltage as the tank/clearo and juice toppers change. It’s a beast but very reliable.

-My dripping rig is a Stainless Steel Electric Angel clone with gold plated switch parts and a copper atty pin. The atomizers are both Patriot clones from Fasttech. Closed circuit resistance at the atty posts is 0.079 ohms (that’s why my lowest regular build is 0.15 ohms! [That’s 0.24ohms 4.2v 18.26A 76.7W]). My ‘daily’ setup is two coils 10 wraps of #28ga Kanthal on a #50 (0.0700″) drill bit (1.4 ohm per coil) wicked with cotton. The Patriot hood is drilled out with two #54 (0.0550″) holes and I use AW 18650 1600mAh batteries for this configuration.  The experimental Patriot hood is drilled out with 4 holes 5/32″ (0.0781″).

Self-blended flavors: Kashmir, Irish Coffee, Chocolate Cherry, Amaretto Creme Truffle, Strawberries & Cream, Butter Rum Truffle

Purchased flavors: CoffeeShop Hodgepodgery (Plumes), Belgian Cocoa (Halo), Creme Brule, Custard’s Last Stand, PBC and Doodle (Nickoticket).

Vaping has become a very satisfying hobby and I’ve met some really good folks, converted some good people and enjoyed the experience.  I am a CASAA member and actively work with the legislators at the state and federal level.

Recently several things are happening at the federal level to regulate the industry and its customers.  Not all of these regulations (proposed) may be a Bad Thing™ but enough of them are sufficiently questionable to give a reasonable man cause to pause, reflect, and take action.  This blog entry is a collection for the actions taken as of this date.

It begins with the local effort to regulate electronic cigarette sales to minors and consider taxing them.  This was my response to our unicameral legislative committee:

 

September 30, 2013

The Honorable Members of the General Affairs Committee:

Senator Russ Karpisek (Chairperson),
Senator Bob Krist,
Senator Scott Lautenbaugh,
Senator Colby Coash,
Senator Dave Bloomfield,
Senator John Murante,
Senator Ken Schilz,

And including my representative

The Honorable Senator Jim Smith (District 14),

And including the committee secretary

Ms. Christina Case.

I am, by distributing a copy of this letter to Ms. Case, authorizing the following as a statement to be included in the record of the General Affairs Committee’s special hearing set for Friday October 4th at 1:30pm in regard to LR283 to “Examine issues related to the acquisition and use of electronic cigarettes by minors”.

Dear Senators,

I write this in support of certain efforts, and opposition to certain efforts of the General Affairs Committee in regards to the regulation, sale and use of electronic cigarettes. I am a citizen of Sarpy County, City of Papillion, Legislative District 14 and I am represented in the legislature by Senator Jim Smith.

First a very brief introduction: I am a 55 year old registered nurse currently working in the field of surgical trauma at one of Omaha’s Level I trauma centers. I had smoked tobacco cigarettes from the age of 13. That’s a 42 year history of smoking.

I developed the smoking habit after exposure to the second hand smoke of my parents’ cigarettes appeared to no longer make me ill after smoking my first cigarette. I was no longer bothered by the smell of their tobacco use either. I attempted over a dozen times to quit the habit once I was on my own and noted the impact my habit was having on my ability to breathe. My longest previous success was 10 weeks in 1991 using support therapy and nicotine replacement patches. I was able to get through the entire reduction therapy of 8 weeks and remained nicotine and tobacco free for two weeks. Sadly that attempt was ruined when I was again exposed to tobacco smoke and stress and took up the habit again.

Over the next 22 years I tried again to quit with each new resource, including several combinations of drug therapy, nicotine replacement, counseling and environmental changes. None had the success at relieving the craving for nicotine and the habit would quickly return.

On September 25, 2012 I was diagnosed with Stage II Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) subsequent to my smoking history and my fifth episode of bacterial pneumonia. My physician, Dr. Shalindra Saxena, MD urged me to do whatever it took to stop smoking as my health would likely rapidly deteriorate from this point forward.

I had heard of electronic cigarettes from a colleague who had some success in smoking cessation with these devices. After researching the subject, including reading several journal articles available at that time though The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), I discussed the alternative of using electronic cigarettes with my physician and was encouraged to try it. I purchased my first electronic cigarette kit two days later on September 27th 2012.

That day I began using the electronic cigarette as an exclusive alternative to smoking. Even with a spouse who continued to smoke, I was able to continue the use of the electronic cigarette and completely avoid primary smoking. As the weeks elapsed my spouse graciously limited her smoking to specific areas of our home to reduce my exposure to second-hand smoke. My lungs began the course of healing.

Today, I am one year tobacco free and I have reduced my nicotine exposure through the strength reduction of the liquid that is used to refill my electronic cigarette. My COPD is now at stage I and I am able to take the entire flight of stairs at my place of employment from the first to fifth floors where before I could barely do one floor without severely impairing my breathing.

Having experienced this result of tobacco harm reduction directly as a result of using electronic cigarettes I have chosen to become an active advocate for their use as an alternative to smoking. Through CASAA I have become aware of this committee’s hearing regarding the perceived need of regulation of these devices to minors in our state and the possible taxation or other regulation of electronic cigarettes. I do support the idea that those of adult age should have free and unfettered access to these devices. I strongly support the idea that minors in our state should not have access to tobacco, alcohol, nicotine (the addictive substance in tobacco) and street and pharmaceutical drugs for illicit use. As such I believe that legislative support for our local retailers of electronic cigarettes (see Appendix I) in banning access to their facilities to minors would be beneficial.

I am opposed, however, to classifying electronic cigarettes as tobacco products for the purpose of taxation. Foremost among the reasons for my opposition is the association of electronic cigarettes with tobacco use creates a perception that electronic cigarette use is similar to tobacco. This is at odds with the goal of harm reduction and smoking cessation. While studies are still sparse, there is a growing body of evidence that electronic cigarette use is an effective alternative to and radically less harmful than tobacco use. To create a false equivalence may damage the ability of citizens such as me to promote this safer alternative against the perception that it would be “just like smoking”.

My second objection to special taxation of electronic cigarettes stems from the treatment of other nicotine replacement therapies (Nicotine patches, gums and inhalers) as exempt from tobacco taxes where their ingredients are basically the same as that found in electronic cigarettes: Those ingredients being a base, a variable amount of nicotine, and an optional flavor. To make a separate law for electronic cigarettes will not likely survive legal challenge. The efforts to defend such challenges would be a drain on precious public revenues.

My third objection to special taxation of electronic cigarettes stems from the problem of what constitutes the taxable entity. In the construction of an electronic cigarette there are three main parts: A battery, the vapor producing mechanism (often called an atomizer), and the liquid which is used to produce the vapor. As I mentioned previously, but worth repeating, the liquid consists of a base, a variable amount of nicotine, and optional flavor agents. In erecting a tax structure related to the notion of a tobacco product how would the committee handle the fact that the nicotine content is entirely variable by user selection? Taxing a non-tobacco product without even a trace of nicotine would open the legislation to litigation which would eventually overturn it. Basing the tax on the nicotine content would complicate compliance to a point where the revenues received would be substantially reduced by the likelihood of fraud, and the reporting, enforcement and prosecution required. That kind of legislative inefficiency is counterproductive to our society.

My final objection to special taxation of electronic cigarettes is the public perception that such taxes are “Sin taxes”. Reduction of harm from tobacco use should never be considered a “Sin”.

In closing, I urge the General Affairs Committee to proceed with haste to legislatively limit the availability of electronic cigarettes to minors. Such legislation would relieve the public concern that a possible route for an addicting substance (nicotine) to minors should have the same level of regulation as other nicotine replacement and tobacco products. I further urge the committee to proceed with due caution in further legislation of these products for purposes of taxation. At this time there is a growing body of evidence supporting the reduction of harm that electronic cigarettes afford those who, like me, are unable to quit tobacco use through any other means. To legislate from emotion, ignorance or incomplete knowledge is a fool’s errand which would likely have harmful unintended consequences.

I have included in Appendix II some internet resources that will help to educate the senators further on this issue. Let us all work together to help make a healthier Nebraska.

Thank you for your consideration. I can be reached for questions through the following means:

Robert Bruce Nye, RN
1105 Hickory Hill Rd.
Papillion, NE 68046
Phone: 402.980.1068
Email: rbnye@cox.net

Appendix I:

Exclusive retailers of electronic cigarettes personally known to me to limit sales to adults only:

Plumes (Omaha location)
725 North 120th St.
Omaha, NE 68154

Plumes (Bellevue location)
11527 South 36th St.
Bellevue, NE 68123

Husker E-Cigs
14803 W. Maple Rd.
Omaha, NE 68116

Appendix II:

Sources for further information:

CASAA – The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association
c/o Elaine Keller
7481 Huntsman Blvd. #420
Springfield, VA 22153
Website (Clinical Research): http://casaa.org/Clinical_Research.html
Website (Scientific Opinion): http://casaa.org/Scientific_Opinon.html

The final bill passed and contained only language limiting the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.  Hallelujah!

I continue to follow news about electronic cigarettes with increasing vigilance.  Finally there was this article published at Huffington Post’s website that really irritated me.  The inaccuracies contained in it were just too much to bear.  It took two posts in reply to decimate the article’s premise:

From the first paragraph: “Vaping” is the word used by the majority of e-cigarette users to distinguish it from smoking.  It differentiates the act of inhaling the vapor produced by an electronic vaporizer from the act of inhaling the smoke produced from cigarettes, cigars and pipes.  It is not originated by or limited to middle and high school students.

It may be a shock, but a majority of e-cigarette users support the idea that e-cigarettes should not be sold to minors, just as the majority of drinkers support the idea that alcohol should not be sold to minors.

The FDA is currently studying the flavor issue, though what research we have has shown that flavorings do not favor any particular age group.  Perhaps taking a look at the sales of breakfast cereal preferences would be illuminating.  The point, just because someone has aged into adulthood is no reason to believe that flavor isn’t important.

The FDA is also cautious and deliberately points out, in several places in the ruling, that the efficacy of e-cigarettes as harm reduction is both important and in need of further study.

The information regarding nitrosamines and diethylene-glycol being contained in e-cigarettes is from a single source study that has long been shown to be in error.  In truth there are far more studies completed and more in progress that show or will likely show that there are both far fewer carcinogens in e-cigarette vapor and the levels are orders of magnitude lower than those in traditional tobacco products.  Add to that the numerous studies that demonstrate that the risks to health of unintended exposure (aka second-hand vapor) is vanishingly small.

The statement: “We do know that e-cigarette manufacturers have been very clever in marketing to middle- and high-school students with colorful packaging, fun flavors and cool accessories.” is completely without reference or support.  Indeed, when challenged it is nearly impossible to find 1st hand proof of such tactics.  Why? Because the “industry” is based on folks who are making products for people who want to *quit* smoking.

The CDC study citation leaves out the most important information in that study, and one glaringly obvious fact.  The most important information is that the survey questions are “ever used” and not continue to use.  The most glaring information is the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco is significantly higher than the use of e-cigarettes.  All of these are obtained the same way e-cigarettes are obtained, they are stolen or paid for by adults.  It is the adults who are responsible for these phenomena, not the manufacturers.

The ‘gateway’ idea postulates something that is not provable and is mere speculation.  The notion of the gateway theory is currently being challenged by research in a variety of areas and is coming up short.

Again, the notion that an industry has to “do right by America’s children” attempts to lay blame for adults failing to care for their children at the feet of some pseudo-anonymous oligarcy.  This is fallacious reasoning at best.

In conclusion, it appears that an MD diagnostic radiologist who’s father was a well connected politician has taken half-baked facts ex-totum of the growing body of research along with a grand misdirection of culpability to make an emotional appeal to ban something that could, could, just be the next big thing to lower the death rate from tobacco use.  Perhaps this is because without tobacco use the need of her services, and the viability of the organizations she directs would suffer economic harm due to a declining rate of cancer caused by smoking.

Hippocratus gave us Primum non nocere: First, do no harm.  It would be a wise physician who studied and weighed the benefits and harms thoroughly before prescribing treatment.  The author has demonstrably failed this basic tenet of medical ethics.

References:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/04/25/2014-09491/deeming-tobacco-products-to-be-subject-to-the-federal-food-drug-and-cosmetic-act-as-amended-by-the

http://casaa.org/uploads/8_Biggest_Electronic_Cigarette_Myths.pdf

http://casaa.org/uploads/FDA_Evaluation_e-cigarettes.pdf

http://casaa.org/uploads/Exponent_Response-to-the-FDA-Summary.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm#estimates

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_taodu_trend_yrbs.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2136102?dopt=Abstract

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/14/18/abstract

http://www.healthnz.co.nz/2010%20Bullen%20ECig.pdf

http://www.ajpm-online.net/webfiles/images/journals/amepre/AMEPRE3013.pdf

http://www.lesscancer.org/board-of-directors/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere

Most recently I’ve had to take on the fight at the federal level, responding to the ludicrous ravings of a would-be distinguished senator. I look at this senator’s publications and note that he believes he and some of his colleagues do science to prove that electronic cigarettes are advertised to attract children with this.  And then he joins a few other colleagues in evidencing prescient understanding of research as-yet-unpublished because it is still under review here.  Finally he decides to hold a hearing on the subject of tobacco regulation and turns it into a pseudo-referendum against the industry and its customers prompting this response.

Senator Harkin,

Having finished watching the recent hearing you chaired of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee entitled “Progress and Challenges: The State of Tobacco Use and Regulation in the U.S.” I am disappointed.

I am disappointed first because, during your opening statement, you attempted to demonize electronic cigarettes without acknowledging any of the redeeming qualities that have multiple scientific studies supporting them. You assume that flavors like “Gummy Bear”, “Rocket Pop” [A Cherry, Lime and Raspberry flavor reminiscent of a Bomb Pop popsicle], “Cotton Candy”, “Strawberry”, and “Cherry Crush” are only marketing to children. Indeed “Gummy Bear, that appeals to adults doesn’t it?” was uttered by you in a derisive tone as a rhetorical question. Senator, your conduct is demeaning to your intelligence and stature as an adult, let alone as a representative legislator of these United States. To imply that any of these flavors is exclusively meant to “target” children is ludicrous. To further imply that any flavoring would be evidence, a priori, of a campaign to target youth ignores evidence from food research going back many decades. Adults like flavor too. Indeed human beings are wired physiologically to respond to flavor, especially to fruits and other sources of carbohydrate energy the consumption of which gives a temporary feeling of well being. In considering the reenforcing effect this may have to a smoker trying to quit using electronic cigarettes, this reward system is a positive.

I get it. I do. I don’t want children to start smoking, I don’t want them to become addicted to nicotine, I don’t want them to suffer the harm that tobacco produces when ‘used as directed’. But I also don’t want children to suffer the loss of their parents and other family members from the harm produced by smoking. I am not alone in the sentiment, supported by a growing body of evidence, that the electronic cigarette products represent a huge step forward in reducing the harm from tobacco use. With statistics from the CDC as cited by your coleague Senator Alexander, that one in four high school students are smoking cigarettes, it would behoove a thoughtful man to ask the question of the CDC: “What percentage of high school students who are using electronic cigarettes smoked, and how many of them continue to use cigarettes or their electronic counterpart on a regular basis?” This would be a thoughtful question meant to discern further the impact that electronic cigarettes may be having on our youth. Instead, you assume facts not in evidence and attempt to condemn an entire industry on the basis of this assumption. You assumed that any game on a website is targeted at children. This, again, represents a narrow and uninformed viewpoint. If this were true, what accounts for the massive success of games like “Candy Crush Saga”, “Angry Birds” and other games among adults? Surely these are not targeted at children exclusively and are enjoyed by folks of all ages. I acknowledge that the site “White Cloud E-Cigarettes” does not appear to have a means to verify the age of its viewers. Certainly you realize that completing an on-line transaction would require a willing adult with a credit card or an act of theft and deception on the part of the child.

Mr. Zeller’s testimony that “the reality is that one in five adults continue to smoke” is telling. In your opening statement you declared you know what works. Indeed you have some success. The reduction of smokers from 50% to 20% is significant. But the numbers from the CDC demonstrate that the 20% of the population that continues to smoke has not changed significantly or sustainably for many decades, despite numerous efforts at control, the availability of newer forms of support for smoking cessation and the efforts of the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act now 5 years in effect. The only thing that has moved the needle may be the rise in use of electronic cigarettes. Since their introduction in 2007 there has been a reduction in tobacco use among adults, sometimes reported as high as 10%. Still, there is no correlating questions being asked. No studies or research by the CDC at present that would help to understand whether or not this is the case. But, rather than encourage such research, you focus on speculation and innuendo as evidenced by your recent letter to the FDA using the statements made by a reporter in a New York Times article: “A study to be published this month in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research found that the high-power e-cigarettes known as tank systems produce formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, along with the nicotine-laced vapor that their users inhale.” Yet the current issue of the journal does not, in fact, have such an article nor alludes to the second article mentioned thus you could not have had access to the facts. While Dr. Goniewicz and colleagues have done significant research in this area, enough to warrant recognition as an authority, the article presents de-facto hearsay evidence that you have misinterpreted as fact. I’ll cite two of her other studies which demonstrate a positive effect of electronic cigarettes.

In summary, your behavior evidences a bias, based on conjecture and emotion, against what may be the most significant development in the field of tobacco harm reduction to come along in decades. Such a bias in unworthy of an educated man, and certainly inappropriate for a United States Senator, whose job is to legislate based on both upon the will of their constituents and the facts in evidence that support it. I am reminded of the words of a very wise man: “The considered views and opinions of even the most highly qualified scholars and experts seldom outweigh the determinations of the voters. When challenged, however, the voters’ determinations must find at least some support in evidence. This is especially so when those determinations enact into law classifications of persons. Conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough. Still less will the moral disapprobation of a group or class of citizens suffice, no matter how large the majority that shares that view.” – Judge Vaughn R. Walker. I strongly urge you to reform your thinking on this issue, evidence some concerted effort to understand the breadth of evidence, and to take some time to personally explore both sides of the issues in both their scientific evidence and the effects on the lives of those whom you would propose legislation. I recommend that you invite representatives of the following organizations to be witnesses at a further hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on the subject:

CASAA – The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association
c/o Julie Woessner
PO Box 652
Wilbraham, MA 01095-0652
Phone: 202-241-9117

AEMSA – American E-liquid Manufacturing Standards Association
Phone: 877-682-3672
email: info@AEMSA.ORG

SFATA – Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association
1155 F Street NW, Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 218-227-3282

These organizations can provide valuable information which can inform you and the committee regarding tobacco harm reduction.

With regards,

-Robert Bruce Nye, RN
rbnye@cox.net

Citations follow:

Maciej Lukasz Goniewicz, Jakub Knysak, Michal Gawron, et.al., “Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vapour from electronic cigarettes”, Tob Control tobaccocontrol-2012-050859 Published Online First: 6 March 2013 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050859

Jan Czogala, Maciej L. Goniewicz, Bartlomiej Fidelus, et.al., “Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes” Nicotine Tob Res (2014) 16 (6): 655-662 first published online December 11, 2013 doi:10.1093/ntr/ntt203

Okay so reading all of this it is reasonable to conclude that I’m some sort of “Vaping Zealot”.  That may be true, it may not.  The point is that there is a sea-change movement that is helping thousands of Americans give up cigarettes successfully.  The scope of this revolution hasn’t happened since the Surgeon General’s report on tobacco’s harmful effects in the 1960’s when we began the decline from nearly 50% of our population using combustible tobacco products to the near 20% use levels in the 1990’s.  And our public servants want to take steps to squash this evolution.

Imagine what would happen if these tactics had been applied to the burgeoning computer and software industry in the 1970’s when folks were suffering tremendous job losses and inflation.  Using the reasoning that passes as acceptable, legislators and regulators could have squashed the industry on the basis of harm to workplace job security and privacy concerns.

Instead we let the industry grow and change under the pressures of a free market.  Sure there were problems, and those problems were addressed successfully.  Certainly there have been impacts both economic and social.  Yet those impacts have been overwhelmingly positive, enough so that the negatives are still the exception rather than the rule.  And even the shortcomings are being addressed by the industry.

That is why, being an engineer and a nurse, I will continue to fight against the silliness that passes for legislative and regulatory wisdom that is being foist upon the electronic cigarette industry.  An industry that is just at the stage where personal computers were in the early 1980’s before the emergence of IBM Personal Computer Products, Apple, Microsoft, Borland, Lotus, VisiCalc, WordPerfect and others.  It is a time of invention and discovery, a time where the science and markets should prevail.

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Food for Thought…

by Bruce Nye on Wednesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:08pm

I’ve been searching long and hard for reference to an oft-quoted maxim, usually attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
To my never ending amusement, it is a mis-attributed quotation.  I commenced to find the source for the quote and came upon discussions relating two notions, published eight years apart, which generated an intrigue of thought about the solutions available to us in modern times.  As food for thought, here are the two quotations:

“Paradoxically enough, the release of initiative and enterprise made possible by popular self-government ultimately generates disintegrating forces from within. Again and again after freedom has brought opportunity and some degree of plenty, the competent become selfish, luxury-loving and complacent, the incompetent and the unfortunate grow envious and covetous, and all three groups turn aside from the hard road of freedom to worship the Golden Calf of economic security. The historical cycle seems to be: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.

At the stage between apathy and dependency, men always turn in fear to economic and political panaceas. New conditions, it is claimed, require new remedies. Under such circumstances, the competent citizen is certainly not a fool if he insists upon using the compass of history when forced to sail uncharted seas. Usually so-called new remedies are not new at all. Compulsory planned economy, for example, was tried by the Chinese some three milleniums ago, and by the Romans in the early centuries of the Christian era. It was applied in Germany, Italy and Russia long before the present war broke out. Yet it is being seriously advocated today as a solution of our economic problems in the United States. Its proponents confidently assert that government can successfully plan and control all major business activity in the nation, and still not interfere with our political freedom and our hard-won civil and religious liberties. The lessons of history all point in exactly the reverse direction.”

- Henning W. Prentis, 1943, “Industrial Management in a Republic”, p. 22

“Two centuries ago a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: ‘A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.’

This ought to be a waring sign of the times, for never before in this nation has there been such temptation to use the formal mechanism of democracy as a means for gratifying the selfish designs of the individual citizen. This applies not only to the corrupt high official who sells influence or conspires with crooks to steal money from the public. It applies, likewise, to the individual voter who seeks to profit personally by laying a heavier burden on his neighbor, through subsidies and other government gifts.

The hard core of freedom is the unselfish spirit of the citizen. Democracy cannot live long without this agency of conscience.

Unselfish motivation in politics is much more than a gesture of good morality. It is a practical factor without which democracy canot exist. In the long run nothing else will work.”

-Elmer T. Peterson, December 9, 1951, “This Is The Hard Core of Freedom”, The Daily Oklahoman,  p. 12-A

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GDP Percentage by Industry

by Bruce Nye on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 16:36m

This table shows the breakdown by industry of the percentage contribution to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product from 1998 through 2010. It is interesting to note that the largest contributors to the GDP are: Government, Real Estate, and Professional and Business Services totaling 38.2% of the 2010 GDP.


Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Affairs

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What the S&P downgrade *really* means…

by Bruce Nye on Saturday, August 6, 2011 at 13:57m

While pundits spin the recent downgrade of US sovereign from ‘AAA’ to ‘AA+’ it is important to understand what that really means.

To Standard & Poor’s, ratings are based on the entities ability to pay their debts under adverse conditions.  That is, will an entity continue to make payments under extreme conditions.  Ratings are based on the strength of the cash flow and balance sheets, combined with worse-case stress scenarios.  Thus an entity with a AAA rating is able to meet its debt obligations under the most extreme stress, while an entity of a lower rating will default (be unable to meet its obligations) under lesser degrees of stress.

To understand the rating change, therefore, it is important to understand what the stress tests are.  Here are the definitions from Standard & Poor’s:

‘AAA’ stress scenario:
An issuer or obligation rated ‘AAA’ should be able to withstand an extreme level of stress and still meet its financial obligations.A historical example of such a scenario is the Great Depression in the U.S. In that episode, real GDP for the U.S. declined by 26.5% from 1929 through 1933. U.S. unemployment peaked at 24.9% in 1933 and was above 20% from 1932 through 1935. U.S. industrial production declined by 47% and home building dropped by 80% from 1929 through 1932. The stock market dropped by 85% from September 1929 to July 1932 (as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average). The U.S. experienced deflation of roughly 25%. Real GDP did not recover to its 1929 level until 1935. Nominal GDP did not recover until 1940. We consider conditions such as these to reflect extreme stress. The ‘AAA’ stress scenario envisions a widespread collapse of consumer confidence. The financial system suffers major dislocations. Economic decline propagates around the globe.

‘AA’ stress scenario:
An issuer or obligation rated ‘AA’ should be able to withstand a severe level of stress and still meet its financial obligations. Such a scenario could include GDP declines of up to 15%, unemployment levels of up to 20%, and stock market declines of up to 70%.

In simple terms what the downgrade means is something we, perhaps, all may realize but haven’t talked about; The United States, who once weathered the Dust bowl, The Great Depression, and WWII successfully enough to “Save the World” is no longer able to do so.  As a country we would be behind Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Singapore and others in ability to weather the events of 1920 – 1940.  As a people, we have lost something valuable in the perception of the world.

The question to be asked: “Now that this has happened, now what?”  Your answer determines *your* future.  Will you blame the other guy, or seek something from within yourself to make a difference?

Knock, knock Neo.

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as freedom is a breakfastfood – E. E. Cummings 1940

by Bruce Nye on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 13:17m

I always loved the way Cummings was able to turn seeming non-sense into a profound statement.  Here he provides a view of love in several levels.  In one, as Ashleigh Brilliant observed, there is the sense of falling in love turning the world on its head.  In another, a look at how logic and the heart are oftimes at odds with one another.  And further that public norms are often absurd to the spiritual and emotional self.  For your enjoyment here is:



as freedom is a breakfastfood

as freedom is a breakfastfood
or truth can live with right and wrong
or molehills are from mountains made
-long enough and just so long
will being pay the rent of seem
and genius please the talentgang
and water most encourage flame

as hatracks into peachtrees grow
or hopes dance best on bald men’s hair
and every finger is a toe
and any courage is a fear
-long enough and just so long
will the impure think all things pure
and hornets wail by children stung

or as the seeing are the blind
and robins never welcome spring
nor flatfolk prove their world is round
nor dingsters die at break of dong
and common’s rare and millstones float
-long enough and just so long
tomorrow will not be too late

worms are the words but joy’s the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts and thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
-time is a tree (this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough

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Footsteps of Angels – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1839

by Bruce Nye on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 12:36m

This poem became dear to me in memory of my first wife, Jan.  I was reading Longfellow’s Voices of the Night collection and came upon this verse.  It described how it felt to be a new widower perfectly:  Trying to reconcile the world as it moved on, with the partner now departed.  A salient feature of a spiritual marriage is that our spouse becomes a reflection of our conscious.  Once that reflection is no longer animate, grief seeks to reconcile its loss.  Longfellow aptly captures the early part of that transition.  -bruce

 

Footsteps of Angels

When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight;

Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And, like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlor wall;

Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door;
The beloved, the true-hearted,
Come to visit me once more;

He, the young and strong, who cherished
Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perished,
Weary with the march of life!

They, the holy ones and weakly,
Who the cross of suffering bore,
Folded their pale hands so meekly,
Spake with us on earth no more!

And with them the Being Beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.

With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.

And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.

Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.

Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died!

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