Some say that similar to the evolution from the typewriter to the computer, e-cigarettes will end smoking and tobacco use in America. Others say, e-cigarettes may only increase the number of smokers at a time when smoking is being reduced. What e-cigarettes actually achieves is still unknown, but what can be said is that the debate on smoking has now shifted to an entirely new topic.
Cigarette smoking kills approximately 480,000 people annually and remains the largest cause of preventable death. Thus, any debate regarding smoking is always brought to the forefront and in this day and age the question being asked is, will e-cigarettes lead to more smokers or less? The answer, if found, is a crucial one.
Using e-cigarettes is called vaping because instead of smoke, users are inhaling vapors. The device sometimes has nicotine, which experts in public health say is what people smoke for, but it does not have tar, the ingredient that kills people. Instead, e-cigarettes contains water and flavoring substances in replace of the tar. North of the border, there is no nicotine in e-cigarettes at all as Health Canada does not allow the device to be sold with this desired ingredient. The country also made it illegal to make such claims as e-cigarettes help kick the habit of smoking.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a Boston University public health researcher has come out to the media claiming that critics are so stuck on the ideology that smoking is bad they can not take an objective perspective on e-cigarettes. However, on the other side of the debate, Stanton A. Glantz, a medicine professor in California who was once Siegel’s teacher, says the modern cigarette will only hook adults longer to the addiction, especially now that they can get their fix indoors.
As the debate on e-cigarettes goes on, the science is also still developing – there is not enough evidence to draw a conclusion. However, it is predicted that in a year or two the findings will start to come out.
Currently, the debate has become a hot topic as it is expected in the U.S. that the Food and Drug Administration will soon have control over e-cigarettes with the introduction of new regulations. The devices thus far do not have any oversight federally in the U.S.; however, states such as New York and New Jersey have banned using e-cigarettes in public areas.
Nevertheless, e-cigarettes are seeing an increasing popularity across America. According to a representative at Wells Fargo Securities, in 2013 sales were almost double from sales in 2012 at $1.7 billion. It is believed that e-cigarettes consumption could outnumber that of regular cigarettes in ten years; already the Smoke Free Alternative Trade Association says the number of stores selling them has quadrupled over the past year.
As mentioned previously, the ingredient of nicotine, banned in e-cigarettes in Canada, is a specific point of discussion. Skeptics have expressed concerns that users of e-cigarettes will develop an addiction to nicotine; however, researchers say that whether it does or not, nicotine is not a health hazard by itself. There are some who make the comparison to caffeine – a substance that is addictive and helps stimulate ones mind, but not deadly.
More research is evidently needed and in the meantime the debate on e-cigarettes will continue to rage on. For the time being, however, it can be argued that whether e-cigarettes are harmful in some way or not harmful, the increase of sales of a smoking device without the fatal ingredient of tar is progress in the war against smoking.
By Kollin Lore