E-cigarettes need federal regulation to reach right consumers

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]

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4 COMMENTS

  1. “Who are the consumers of e-cigarettes?”

    I am. I smoked for 36 years and had given up on quitting. I had resolved myself to being a lifelong smoker. If it weren’t for e-cigs I would still be smoking. I enjoyed smoking. A lot. I knew the risks, but no matter how many times I tried to quit, I still wanted to smoke. I was irritable and unable to concentrate, not for days, but for weeks, months, until I just couldn’t stand it any longer. Within a week of buying my first e-cig, I no longer had any desire to smoke. This was something that did not happen when I tried any of the FDA-approved pharmaceutical products.

    Once a few weeks went by, I noticed my senses of taste and smell improving. I no longer wanted to use a product that tasted like tobacco. The ability to choose the flavor and the amount of nicotine in the liquid I use has allowed me to further distance myself from smoking tobacco. Pleasant flavors (what are mistakenly called kid-friendly) are found in candy, in FDA-approved nicotine gum, and in alcoholic beverages that are clearly meant for adults. I’m way too old to be asked for an ID when I purchase a six pack of cherry wheat beer or a bottle of vanilla vodka, but I’m not too old to enjoy caramel, dark chocolate cherry and bubble gum e-liquid. The device I now use is not readily available for purchase in a store near me, neither is the flavor of e-liquid I prefer. If the FDA decides that the only thing available to me is a convenience store “cig-a-like” device flavored with tobacco flavoring, I KNOW that the past three years will end up being just another failed quit attempt. I do not want that to happen to me. I want inveterate smokers to discover what it’s like to wake up without coughing, to take a leisurely walk or climb a set of stairs without gasping for breath, to catch a whiff of the lilac bush that you couldn’t smell last year, to be able to use nicotine in a device that is 99% safer than smoking, without the potential to cause harm to bystanders. I’m an adult, and I’ve made a decision to use a product intended to allow adults to use nicotine in a safer manner. This isn’t about hooking a new generation of smokers. It’s about helping the generations of smokers that have given up on quitting. It’s about making sure children with a smoking mother or father or aunt or uncle or grandparent are able to grow up with their loved ones living a longer, happier, healthier life.

  2. Quote: “Presently unregulated by the FDA, e-cigarettes are vigorously marketed by firms toward kids with flavored versions including cotton candy and bubble gum.”

    Like Brewlady stated before me, I am a consumer of e-cigarette products, and I have used them to successfully eliminate traditional cigarettes from my life. I’m not a fan of the tobacco or menthol flavors, so if it weren’t for the sweet, bakery, and fruit flavors available in the e-liquid, I don’t think I would have been able to get this far.

    The rest of this article seems fairly balanced, but the statement about flavors and target marketing to children is just junk to add controversy to context.

  3. I am also an adult who enjoys fruit flavors. Quit with the “conspiracy to addict kids” stuff. Kids don’t care about e-cigs. Adult smokers do. After having smoked for 27 years, I’ve been 100% smoke-free for over six months thanks to a Peach flavored e-cigarette.

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