Conscious Consumerist: E-Cigarettes

James Cantu

November 29th, 2017

The electronic cigarette consists of a battery on the bottom and a bottom-coiled tank on top. (Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

“Hey, have you seen the new Marlboro commercial with Leonardo DiCaprio and a bear sharing a cigarette?” said no one ever– for a variety of reasons.

For one, it has been illegal since 1971 for tobacco companies to air cigarette ads on television and radio, and since 1999, all cigarette billboard advertisements have been replaced with anti-smoking advertisements.

Another reason why that advertisement would be infeasible is that Leonardo, although a lifelong smoker, made the switch over to e-cigarettes and vape pens. So, maybe change the brand name, switch out an analog cigarette (that is, the classic cigarette that we all know and probably hate the smell of) to an e-cigarette, and you still won’t be able to air the ad.

According to the FDA, e-cigarettes fall under the definition of tobacco products and, therefore, banned from TV advertisements.

It’s pretty common knowledge by now that cigarettes and other tobacco products are bad for you. They cause cancer, lower your immune system, puts you at risk for a plethora of cardiovascular diseases, and creates a cycle of addiction that, according to the CDC, only 6 percent of the 70 percent of smokers who wanted to quit smoking, actually were able to quit.

The questions I want answers to are: are e-cigarettes the modern cigarette? Do they help current smokers quit? Are they “safe,” and should this trend be embraced or snubbed out?

According to a survey of high schoolers conducted by the CDC in 2015, 11 percent are analog cigarette smokers, which is the lowest percentage in 23 years. But there’s a catch,  24 percent of the participants recorded e-cigarette usage in the past 30 days.

So, while Big Tobacco may have lost out on trapping high schoolers in quite possibly a lifetime of addiction, the e-cigarette and vape business seems like it’s on the rise.

Assuming that those high schoolers who admitted to e-cigarette usage were not trying to quit smoking, how effective is e-cigarettes in smoking cessation?

Well, according to a study conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center, evidence was found that supports the usage of e-cigarettes as a cessation aid.

“Both cigarette quit attempts and quit success were directly related to the number of days of e-cigarette use,” according to the study’s lead author, Dr. David Levy, PhD, “The odds of quit success increased by 10 percent with each additional day of e-cigarette use.”

This research comes with a caveat, the success was lower among those who tried e-cigarettes before, but higher for those who had at least 5 days of e-cigarette usage in the last month.

One important thing to remember is this is just one study, and not an absolute in regards to e-cigarettes and if they aid in cigarette cessation.

Another question that gets tossed around when e-cigarettes are brought up is, “are they safe?” Well, safe for whom?

The environment? Although better than releasing thousands of dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere, the introduction of a new market would challenge Big Tobacco would require the use of a lot of plastics needed to create disposable and non-disposable cartridges and pens, which would take a toll on earth’s already limited resources, not to mention the issues that come with proper disposal and recycling.

For people’s health? E-cigarettes provide the nicotine buzz without the tar and other dangerous chemicals that come with cigarette smoking. But they’re not completely free from drawbacks. They are still addictive, as their main advertised ingredient is nicotine, and the aerosols produced contain less toxins than conventional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, so its contents depend on the producer.

In short, e-cigarettes aren’t as unhealthy as analog cigarettes, but they’re still addictive. Since e-cigarettes are still relatively new, there is no consensus as of yet if e-cigarettes are a gateway to conventional cigarettes or if nicotine alone interferes with brain development.

To me, the debate between e-cigs and regular cigarettes all depends how you’d like your addiction. Would you prefer it with a side of cancer, cardiovascular disease, pollution and increased mortality rates, or served with  a battery powered box, and depending on the brand and future regulations, contains undefined chemicals flavored to tastes outside of menthol and cloves?

So, maybe if you’re looking to kick the habit and don’t want to go cold turkey, or maybe nicotine patches or gum doesn’t really curb the oral fixation habit smoking tends to create, e-cigarettes are the better option compared to lighting up another one.

I am not adverse to e-cigarettes being used as a cession tool, as long as they’re proven to be helpful. As for e-cigarettes for recreational use? Well, if you’re an adult and accept the possibilities of addiction and possible health issues down the line as more research unfolds, it’s your choice.

Analog cigarette usage is declining in youths, and that is a good thing. But addiction is addiction, whether or not it coats your lungs in tar or not, I believe no forms of addiction should be advocated for, but rather treated.

James Cantu

Opinions Editor

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