Over the past couple of weeks, new studies analyzing the implications of e-cigarettes have been popping up. The Economist reported that the tobacco industry is wrestling with this new alternative. E-cigarettes serve as a great option for smokers looking to kick the habit and do less harm to the environment. The Food and Drug Administration should not ban this alternative for smokers. An e-cigarette is a battery-operated nicotine inhaler that contains a rechargeable battery, a cartridge and an LED light that glows to indicate the burn of tobacco. They are, in essence, miniature vaporizers; a heating element boils liquid until it creates a vapor.
Though invented in the 1960s, e-cigarettes really began to spark public interest about a decade ago. The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association estimates about 4 million Americans currently use e-cigarettes.
Primarily, e-cigarettes have proven just as effective as the nicotine patch, if not more. A study presented at the European Respiratory Society demonstrated that smokers using the patch “[abstained] from smoking in equal proportions after 6 months.” In comparison to the 21 milligrams of nicotine found in the patch, the e-cigarette contains slightly less at 16 milligrams.
Critics argue that the e-cigarette contains a high concentration of nicotine when compared to the average cigarette, which contains about 1.5 milligrams, but the smoker does not smoke the e-cigarette as regularly as the cigarette. Since the e-cigarette mimics the action of smoking a regular cigarette, the device can wean the smoker off consistent smoking more than a nicotine patch could, according to USA Today.
Yes, nicotine dependence is still involved in the process, but as Dr. Chris Bullen says in an article from Medscape Medical News, “At least it is better than having the person continue to smoke.” ProSmoke, an e-cigarette brand, says that smokers need high levels of nicotine to help them quit, otherwise their bodies react to a drastic nicotine level drop.
ABC News states that researchers also found a significantly low number of toxins in e-cigarettes. The FDA reported nine contaminants in e-cigarettes, as opposed to the 1,000 found in traditional cigarettes.
Furthermore, encouraging the use of e-cigarettes as opposed to regular cigarettes prevents innocent bystanders from inhaling dangerous fumes. The vapor from e-cigarettes is not the same as secondhand smoke.
Only a handful of states have excercised limitations on e-cigarette usage, but others are starting to jump on the regulatory bandwagon. The FDA should not ban the sale of e-cigarettes because of their proven benefits, but if the FDA is going to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes at all, there should be an age restriction to prevent minors from abusing the product.
Since the dawn of the e-cigarette craze, minors have picked up the habit as a trend, rather than a cure for cigarette addiction.
Advertisements should not glamorize the product as a fun toy with different flavors. Ads should strictly promote the product as a mechanism to quit smoking, and companies should limit the variety of e-cigarette flavors. The more flavors e-cigarette companies promote, the more likely it is for smoking to become a leisurely way to inhale flavored tobacco.
Reducing e-cigarette regulations would also help promote sales of this alternative to regular tobacco. Restricting sales ultimately harm those looking to end a nasty habit and aid the tobacco industry.
In the end, this innovation could be one of the few things that help smokers break a life-threatening habit.
Hallie Roth is a sophomore majoring in policy, planning and development.
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