E-Cigarettes, Are They Really the Healthier Alternative?

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Smokers may have felt slighted when the no-smoking bans started to go into effect in the mid-’90s. The first bans began in California in 1995. According to America for Nonsmokers’ Rights, the state called for a statewide smoking ban in public restaurants and bars and was 100 percent smoke-free by January 1998. Following suit in the mid-2000s, other states got in line behind California, enacting bans on smoking in public. The smoking bans can be vastly different in each state, and that should be taken into account when visiting different places. North Dakota is the last known state to enact the smoking bans and did so on November 6, 2012.

Regulating the use of tobacco is not new to the world. According to the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, laws go back as far as the 17th and 18th centuries. King James of England was strongly opinionated on the subject, calling it, “Loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs.”

The history of e-cigarettes goes back as far as 1963. Herbert A. Gilbert filed a patent for this type of product in August of that year. He, of course, was ahead of his time due to the fact that smokers in the 1960s were not ready to give up their cigarettes. Smokers were still allowed to smoke in classrooms and on airplanes because the cigarette had yet to be considered dangerous. There was just not a market for the e-cigarette as a healthier alternative.

Health warnings on smoking came to light between 1950-1954, when 14 studies were published on the correlation between cigarettes and serious diseases. Following the publications in June of 1962, the Surgeon General, Dr. Luther Terry, with the approval of the president, announced he was going to review all data on smoking and health – not that the warning bothered people too much in the 60s, as only a meager amount of people felt the need to quit in spite of the warning. Filtered cigarettes did become more popular after the health concerns arose.

E-cigarettes raised a weary head for a final reprieve in 2003. According to Vape Ranks, a Chinese pharmacist and smoker, Han Lik, went into the development of electronic cigarettes looking for a healthier alternative after his father died from lung cancer. He created a way for smokers to obtain the nicotine their bodies craved without the harsh chemicals, smoke or tobacco, which are known to be harmful. The company he worked for completely backed him, making his idea a reality. They then changed their name to Ruyan, which means “like smoke.”

Not yet reaching America, the e-cigarette first traveled to New Zealand in 2008. According to “Health New Zealand,” a study conducted and funded by Ruyan company found that there were no questionable chemicals at toxic levels to worry about. According to “ecigarette,” many countries have banned the e-cigarette, including Canada, Singapore and Panama, in 2009. Also, the U.S. FDA stopped product shipments from entering the country under the guise that the product needed formal registration.

On the other spectrum, smokers of regular cigarettes are continuing to be banned from places nationwide, although some states do not keep tabs on smoking at all. Others ban their citizens from smoking in almost all public places, including outside.

E-cigarettes are starting to be affected by public smoking bans. Tacoma-Pierce County says that secondhand vapor contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals. They say these toxins can cause respiratory problems, which, in turn, increase asthma risks, and that the effects of e-cigarettes are unknown. Basically, smoking anything foreign is harmful; both to the smokers’ lungs, and to the people who surround them, which poses the question of whether or not e-cigarettes are the healthier alternative.

Smokers are trading up their cigarettes for e-cigarettes for health reasons or to get around smoking laws. It would now seem that they are doing so in vain. Laws regulating e-cigarettes are quickly catching up to tobacco smoking laws as more people question if the e-cigarette is truly the healthier version of the cigarette.

By Tracy Blake

American Lung Association: E-cigarettes and Lung Health
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy: History of Tobacco Regulation
Health Department: Smoking and Vaping in Public Places and Secondhand Exposure
America for Nonsmokers’ Rights: California
Vape Ranks: E-Cigarette News, Reviews & Ranking
ecigarette Reviewed: Countries Where Vaping is Banned and Why
Health New Zealand: e-cigarettes need quality safeguards
Answers: Who is Herbert A. Gilbert and what did he patent in 1965

Image Courtesy of Ecig Click’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License