Evidence E-Cigs Safer Than Smoking Being Ignored Costing Lives
It’s about 10 years ago that E-cigarettes came onto the scene in the United States, touted as a safe alternative to smoking. The idea is simple: The devices look like cigarettes, but the “cigarette” is actually a battery and the “filter” is actually a vessel that holds liquid. Connected by an atomizer and heating element, when you take a drag, the battery is activated, it in turn activates the atomizer, which heats the liquid, and produces vapor that looks like smoke. The experience is like smoking, but without the smoke, tar, smell or ashes.
E-cigarettes were invented in China, and early on, most e-liquid or e-juice as it’s also called, was made there as well. The first question, then, was about this juice. What is in it and is it safe? People were skeptical, but while many were cautiously optimistic, certain factions seemed determined to find something as wrong with e-cigarettes as there is with real cigarettes. An early study on one type of e-juice manufactured in China found a trace amount of one toxic chemical – and from that one bit of information, an anti-e-cigarette agenda was formed.
To date, no serious studies have found any particular danger in the use of e-cigarettes, though they haven’t been around long enough for long-term use to be studied yet. Health organizations outside of the United States have declared e-cigarettes absolutely safer than smoking. But this hasn’t stopped U.S. lawmakers from condemning e-cigarettes and categorizing them as tobacco products; never mind that they don’t contain tobacco. There’s no doubt that when someone is vaping – the term used for using an e-cigarette – it looks for all the world like they are smoking a cigarette. Sometimes e-cigarettes have LED lights at the tip that may be blue or some other color that makes it pretty clear that they are not regular cigarettes. But generally, the whole point in e-cigarettes when they were invented was to imitate smoking without the smoke and tar. This could be why anti-smokers who have now also become anti-e-cig are so worried. They fear that children or teens will see vaping as a safe alternative to smoking and take it up, perhaps still thinking that smoking is “cool” and therefore, vaping is too. But while the majority of e-cigarette retailers forbid the sale to anyone under 18, the anti-e-cig contingent has convinced many lawmakers that e-cigarettes are a threat and should be treated as the same or possibly even worse than smoking.
The United States health community knows better, but has remained somewhat silent on the issue. The U.S. is noticeably different from other countries in this respect. In the United Kingdom, health officials are asking the government to encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. In Australia, where lawmakers have been even harder on e-cigarettes than in the U.S., the country’s health experts are speaking up in favor of e-cigarettes as a safer option than smoking.
These health experts are also willing to say something that e-cigarette retailers dare not: That e-cigarettes can and do help people to quit smoking. Officially in the U.S., the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device like nicotine gums or patches. Retailers that sell e-cigarettes dare not legally make claims about the devices being able to help someone quit smoking; instead they refer to them as a “smoking alternative.” Most e-liquid contains nicotine, but this in itself does not make it automatically subject to government regulation: Tomatoes contain nicotine too. Experts know that nicotine itself is not harmful; the problem is that it’s addictive. Nicotine gums and patches are designed to gradually reduce a smoker’s nicotine intake, with the ultimate goal of breaking them of the habit. Likewise, e-cigarette liquid is available in various amounts of nicotine concentration, so one can gradually wean off of nicotine with e-cigarettes. Health experts have seen evidence that people are quitting smoking by switching to e-cigarettes. In some other countries they are speaking up. Can American health experts do the same?
Some may simply be afraid of speaking up in favor of e-cigarettes because doing so may make it seem like they are indirectly promoting smoking, especially to children. E-cigarettes were never intended for children, but because they have successfully been married to smoking in the public’s eye, the idea that e-cigarettes are being promoted to kids was inevitable. This is especially true because e-liquid comes in flavors; fruit flavors and candy flavors in particular give anti-smokers a perfect reason to cry foul and point fingers at e-cigs just as they do with flavored cigarettes and cigars. But those who know the benefits of e-cigarettes to adults who want to quit smoking say that the focus on children misses the point entirely. The results are that adults are continuing to smoke and die from tobacco use because e-cigarettes are being discouraged.
As the struggle to get the truth about e-cigarettes out in the midst of unfounded warnings of danger continues, some progress is being made. Extreme reactions like Australia’s near complete ban on e-cigarettes are pushing health officials to take action. Even in America, some politicians are standing up and fighting extreme taxes on e-liquid. Perhaps the harder the anti-e-cigarette agenda pushes, the harder the pro-health community will push back with the truth.