According to a recent article in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there is still not enough evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes reduce the use of conventional cigarettes or curb nicotine addiction. This comes with news of a group of scientists appealing to the WHO to not label e-cigarettes as tobacco products, as many believe they can reduce smoking.
These vapor gadgets have great appeal compared to normal cigarettes: there are many flavors to choose from; they can be sleek to the eye and discreet in smell. The vapors can be incredibly smooth when inhaled, which helps the idea that vapor is safer than smoke. There is also a chance to save money in the long run, especially if one uses cartridges of good quality.
There is a very strong belief that e-smokers are better off than those who take the conventional route. That, however, does not get rid of the fact that the FDA has yet to set regulations on the nicotine liquids that are heated to produce the vapors. So far, the FDA wants warning labels on packaging with no sales to minors, just like regular cigarettes. They also want public input on the matter before making a final decision.
Big Tobacco companies have not been shy to back scientists for their benefit. In fact, such companies are hoping onto the lucrative e-cigarette wagon. Lorillard, Inc., the makers of Newport cigarettes, acquired blu e-Cigs in 2012. These companies dig deep into their pockets to dole out $8.4 billion a year in advertising as recently as 2011.
The scientists that recently appealed to the WHO believe that e-cigarettes can help cut cigarette consumption, thus possibly decreasing the number of deaths from smoking. The latest statistics from the CDC show that smoking kills over 480,000 Americans per year, with almost nine percent of these deaths resulting from inhaling secondhand smoke. The number of deaths from tobacco use worldwide stands at over 5 million per year. Again, smoking takes the spotlight, with nicotine addiction pushed to the side when that is the main ingredient in the liquids used in e-cigarettes.
With youth, smoking appeals to many because one may acquire an air of cool and glamour. Many e-cigarette vendors sell stylish cartridges that light up and have marketing and advertising to attract young adults and even high school students. Another sign of the vapor trend is some users of marijuana preferring to vaporize the drug to cut out possible harmful by-products.
How safe the cartridges are is another concern, and whether or not they are under acceptable quality control in China, where most of them are made. Some e-cigarette users have received burns from malfunction. There have been additional reports of hypotension and disorientation in other users. It is important to know what nicotine does to the body, especially in high doses. Symptoms include paling of the skin and tremors.
As of April this year, there is still no indication of how much nicotine is inhaled when using e-cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive. E-cigarettes are not like nicotine patches or gum that could wean addicts off the drug. There is too much focus on vapor that could have just as much nicotine as in cigarette smoke. Time will reveal just how much good or harm e-cigarettes can do.
By Sibylla Chipaziwa