As a child of the 90’s, I have not even been alive during a time when cigarettes were promoted as safe. I remember seeing occasional cigarette ads but they always had the Surgeon General’s warning plastered over them; so from a young age I learned that smoking cigarettes is dangerous and unhealthy. It’s hard to imagine that there once was a time when cigarettes were considered safe and doctors were advertised recommending certain cigarette brands. I didn’t believe it when I heard it so I did some searching and found this old Camel commercial – which advertises Camel as “the cigarette preferred by doctors.”
Luckily doctors have come around and no longer promote dangerous cigarettes like they once did. However, there is a new alternative to common cigarettes that’s becoming more and more popular–Electronic Cigarettes.
What Are They?
Electronic cigarettes (commonly known as E-cigarettes) were introduced to the United States in 2007. E-cigarettes don’t actually contain tobacco-they use liquid nicotine which turns into a vapor that smokers can inhale and exhale. The thought is that because there is no tobacco a smoker will be able to get their nicotine fix and won’t breathe in as much junk as a normal cigarette. Supporters of e-cigarettes say they are safer than regular cigarettes.
Craig Youngblood, president of InLife, an e-cigarette company says:
They are electronic, alternative smoking devices that simulate the sensation of smoking. They do not expose the user, or others close by, to harmful levels of cancer-causing agents and other dangerous chemicals normally associated with traditional tobacco products.
Sounds good, right? However, Norman Edelman, MD and chief medical officer of the American Lung Association says:
They are nicotine delivery devices intended to be used like a cigarette. What happens to someone who stops inhaling the tars of cigarettes and inhales only nicotine? We don’t know.
While electronic cigarettes do not contain many of the chemicals that regular cigarettes contain, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of inhaling vaporized nicotine. I am not a medical professional, but I can’t imagine that inhaling nicotine (or any other substance for that matter) can be considered “healthy.” E-cigarettes are also not subject to U.S. tobacco laws and can be purchased without proof of age, especially online. This could potentially lead to hundreds of teenagers developing serious nicotine addictions.
It definitely is an interesting gadget. A user inhales through the mouthpiece which triggers a sensor on a battery-powered heater. The heater vaporizes the liquid nicotine and the user gets a puff of hot gas that feels quite similar to tobacco smoke and the user exhales the same way as a normal cigarette. Like I said, an interesting gadget–but does it serve a purpose?
An Alternative for Quitting
The New Year is always a popular time for quitting smoking. I talked about the reasons why you should quit smoking in a previous post but didn’t go into great detail about cigarette addiction or how the e-cigarette is being marketed as a smoking cessation product. Some smokers are choosing to use e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes because they assume that they’re safer. It’s an interesting theory–if nicotine patches are meant to give you doses of nicotine to help fight the cravings, could e-cigarettes serve a similar purpose? Some studies are suggesting that they might be a good tool to use when quitting.
However, those same studies are also citing that long-term use of e-cigarettes is a healthy alternative to tobacco cigarettes. While they may be an okay alternative for smoking cessation, they are NOT a good long-term replacement for regular cigarettes. The bottom line is that you’re still inhaling nicotine which will continue to fuel your addiction.
A Price to Pay
As I mentioned kid and teens are able to buy electronic cigarettes. E-cigarette use has more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students too. Kids aren’t stupid–they are able to easily get their hands on these nasty cigarettes and can start smoking at an even younger age. Cigarette companies claim they don’t market to kids (just like junk food companies don’t) but they sell e-cigarettes in cherry, strawberry, vanilla and other appealing flavors. There is also little to no regulation on these cigarette ads so electronic cigarette companies are spending millions promoting these products. E-cigarettes are also expensive but if a person is buying them to replace regular cigarettes then I’m guessing cost isn’t an issue. If a person is spending $50 a week on cigarettes, what’s $100 on a cigarette you can reuse?
The bottom line is that electronic cigarettes are not a safe choice. They can lead to costly addictions which can end up negatively impacting a person’s health. Electronic cigarette use has also not been studied enough. We don’t know enough about the long-term effects–maybe they’ll end up being even more harmful than regular cigarettes, who knows? More research needs to be done and more restrictions need to be put into place. There’s no reason teenage kids should have access to electronic cigarettes. The same, tough restrictions that are in place for regular cigarettes should be in place for electronic ones as well.
So, to answer the question that’s the title of this post, are electronic cigarettes safe? In my opinion, the answer is no. The best thing you can do is just not smoke at all.