The scientific information on electronic cigarettes versus traditional cigarettes and overall health are continuing to emerge and paint the story as this new technological hobby continues to expand and grow. Many sources are decrying electronic cigarettes alarmingly as they claim a variety of misinformation as a valid cause to regulate or ban such products. This article is a report on the science that stands and what kind of picture it paints next to both traditional cigarettes and alarmist claims.
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls traditional cigarettes “the leading global cause of preventable death.” Cigarettes are the leading cause of lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of 16.8% percent, according to The National Cancer Institute. Traditional cigarettes are, at this point, objectively terrible for you. It’s one of the most murderous addictions out there. However, WHO is very aggressive about its stance against tobacco. It advocates for a more than 75 percent tax on tobacco products and more than 50 percent of front and back labels covered by graphic image warnings. Though smoking cigarettes is certainly inadvisable, it’s important to understand the inherent bias of the source of your information in order to make any fully informed decision. Although a bit overzealous, WHO is right. In a perfect world, there would be no death or economic damage from tobacco use.
Many, including individuals like Senator Jay Rockefeller and The New York Times, have voiced concerns about electronic cigarettes for a variety of reasons. That of the Times is, perhaps, the most valid in spite of its sensationalism. In an article, which is linked above, called “Selling a Poison by the Barrel,” the Times voices concerns about the potential hazards to children of dermal, oral or internal exposure to the nicotine in e-liquids. Nicotine can absorb through the skin, mouth or stomach and in large enough quantities can induce dizziness and vomiting. They further posit that sweet flavors attract children to try and eat them, which can be rather dangerous, presumably absolving parents of any responsibility for leaving a toxic substance within reach of a toddler. Nicotine is toxic in large quantities to children but so are a wide variety of other household substances.
Jay Rockefeller, on the other hand, claims that the simple existence of sweet and fruit flavors is evidence that electronic cigarette companies are taking aim at children as a market. This is simply false. Almost 50 percent of individuals surveyed by one of the most prestigious electronic cigarette online communities stated that they preferred sweet flavors that either fell into the bakery/dessert or fruit categories. Although Senator Rockefeller may not enjoy sweets, he is relatively alone in this.
Science (Right Now)
WHO is currently looking into the science of electronic cigarettes and health as there is very little data out at the moment for this very new product. However, there are a few studies that are releasing a variety of findings on them. The largest one in the recent past has released mixed data that is being heralded as proof of the validity of their viewpoint by both sides of this debate. E-Cigarette detractors are using the findings of several lung irritants in exhalations as proof that e-cigarettes are harmful while e-cigarette supporters are using it as proof that they’re far better than tobacco cigarettes. The Huffington Post also wonderfully notes that no scientifically backed studies have been done that prove electronic cigarettes to be an effective smoking cessation tool; however this really has no bearing on the health effects. Further they state that cigarette companies have moved to create or absorb brands that can produce e-cigarettes which is really just an attack on the ethos of electronic cigarettes.
What This Means for You
Ultimately, the verdict isn’t in on electronic cigarettes and won’t be for a while. As news continues to come in, however, it continues to appear to be a bit of a fusion between what the anti-vapers are saying and what the vaping community is advocating. I predict e-cigarettes will be found to be an unhealthy habit when used immoderately. However, they’ll be negligible compared to other habits taken to excess such as unhealthy eating or lack of exercise. Further, compared to equivalent use of traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes are going to be found to be less detrimental to health. I don’t think this should come as a surprise to anyone, however, as anything that’s inhaled directly into the lungs won’t be healthy unless it’s literally medicine and even then only if you’re prescribed it.