As cities and states around the US push for a ban on electronic cigarettes, the question becomes whether e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. The jury is still out on this though.
One one hand, medical professionals generally support the use of electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. Since smoking is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year and 49,400 death related to second-hand smoke, it is impossible to ignore a device such as the e-cigarette that can help users wean themselves off of tobacco and regain their health.
Users who’ve been able to successful quit smoking by switching from smoking also support the devices. It’s when they are used as a long-term alternative to smoking cigarettes that the real concern develops.
Electronic cigarettes are battery powered. They use nicotine vapor to provide an effect similar to smoking a cigarette, offering the ability to control how much nicotine is being used. They can hold up to 24 milligrams. The idea is to start at the higher end of the spectrum and gradually reduce the amount of nicotine over time to wean off of it and quit smoking altogether.
Users report feeling better after switching from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes. Their lungs feel lighter, they breathe easier and they stop coughing and wheezing. Other benefits include the money saved by not buying cigarettes and the ability to smoke without making their clothes and other items smell like smoke.
Celebrities are appearing in ads for popular brands of e-cigarettes. Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff have appeared in ads for Blu, for example. They point out the smell and shame that’s associated with smoking regular cigarettes. They claim that e-cigarettes give smokers an opportunity to smoke while they “rise above the ashes.”
Sensationalizing the use of electronic cigarettes may be contributing in the rise of younger users, however. Paired with the flavor offerings of bubble gum and various candy, the e-cigarettes are made interesting to kids and teens. The CDC states that the number of middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes is growing.
On the other hand, not everyone is on board with promoting the use of e-cigarettes though. Banning electronic cigarettes has become a hot topic because the effects of the devices are unknown. According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, bans are cropping up around the US in response to the lack of regulation. The effects of smoking electronic cigarettes are still unknown, as is the effect of the second hand smoke that comes from them.
According to the president and CEO of the American Lung Association, Harold Wimmer, “there is no safe form of tobacco.” He’s pushing for the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes based on the fact that there are over 250 brands of e-cigarettes, all with different chemical makeups. It’s unclear what each of them contain, and some are known to contain harmful substances, such as those found in anti-freeze.
In the meanwhile, those opposed to e-cigarettes find them equally unhealthy as smoking tradition cigarettes. Including electronic cigarettes in the ban against smoking in public places and putting a restriction on selling them to minors are the first steps in cracking down on the use of nicotine.
By Tracy Rose