The electronic cigarette has been steadily growing in popularity. E-cigarettes are fast becoming a fixture of modern society, as just last year, the number of students using the device doubled. E-cigarettes are a form of electronic vaporizer which imitate the process of smoking. Commonly known as vaping, smoking e-cigarettes do not have the harmful side effects of smoking regular cigarettes — namely due to the inhalation of tobacco with the latter. E-cigarettes, however, still provide users with their nicotine fix. They should be championed by governments keen to promote a healthier society and appropriately regulated.
Consumers are switching from smoking to this alternative version for good reason — 440,000 people die each year in the United States due to smoking related diseases. Or to put it another way, a fifth of deaths in the United States are attributable to smoking. If every smoker in the country switched to an e-cigarette, one in three cancer deaths would never happen. Notwithstanding the secondary benefits of e-cigarette usage — they do not produce toxic ash or have a foul odor. It has also been shown that secondhand smoke’s negative effects are significantly reduced with e-cgiarettes.
So why is there hostility toward this device? Opponents of vaping, such as journalist Diane Cole in this week’s National Geographic, are quick to point out that e-cigarettes may contain more harmful substances than just nicotine. But the evidence supporting these claims is nonexistent. As a study from the Food and Drug Administration stated, e-cigarettes contain far fewer harmful carcinogens than cigarettes. Of course, vaping is not entirely risk free, as dependence on any substance can be dangerous. In many cases, an addiction to nicotine is not much worse than one to caffeine.
Judicious and balanced regulation is still necessary though. Now, advocates for e-cigarettes are quick to suggest that any form of government regulation would stymie the adoption by potential vapor users. The question they should be asking is “Who are the consumers of e-cigarettes?”
Presently unregulated by the FDA, e-cigarettes are vigorously marketed by firms toward kids with flavored versions including cotton candy and bubble gum. This shouldn’t be allowed to occur. Any addictive substance from alcohol to nicotine must be kept out of the hands of children. But any regulation that does occur must be carefully balanced in case it smothers any chance of adult smokers transitioning to the device.
It’s now time that we welcome e-cigarettes into the mainstream of society. They are a positive health and social enhancement. Like with all new products appropriate regulation is required — in this case, ensuring that an addictive substance is out of children’s reach. Ultimately, we must encourage the transition to e-cigarettes and make vaping the new smoking.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 30 print edition. Harry Brown is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]