E-cigarettes have exploded onto the smoking scene, converting smokers left right and center in several countries despite a decades-long streak of nicotine replacement being marginally to weakly effective in helping people move away from cigarettes.
While e-cigarettes lack the burning tobacco of their long-stigmatized inspiration, the devices still look like smoking -- a feature that seems to threaten the future of e-cigs, or "vaping," more than any other circumstance.
As the practice of vaping moves toward the mainstream, more and more smokers are making the switch -- and more and more media outlets are chipping in their two cents on the newly popular but oft understood culture of electronic cigarettes.
GMA posted a "five things you need to know" listicle this morning about electronic cigarette safety and other issues. In the post, the site quotes Erika Seward, the assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association.
One might think that the ALA, perhaps one of the most vocal opponents of smoking around, would welcome the use of e-cigs to save the lungs and hearts of smokers and future smokers. Actually, not a chance.
Seward and the ALA not only oppose electronic cigs despite their track record in helping users quit cigs -- they also claim that the popular use of flavored "juices" among adult users poses a threat to kids. She explains:
"With e-cigarettes, we see a new product within the same industry -- tobacco -- using the same old tactics to glamorize their products... They use candy and fruit flavors to hook kids, they make implied health claims to encourage smokers to switch to their product instead of quitting all together, and they sponsor research to use that as a front for their claims."
While Seward is correct that sweeter juices are popular among "vapers," the products tend to be small-scale marketed if marketed at all -- and many users make their own flavored juices to suit their tastes.
Per Yahoo, Seward and the ALA acknowledge that the FDA, in a report, "found nine contaminates versus the 11,000 contained in a tobacco cigarette and noted that the level of toxicity was shown to be far lower than those of tobacco cigarettes." However, she believes that the far lower level of potential harm is still unacceptable, even if it does get smokers to reduce or quit smoking.
USAToday went even further in a bizarrely facts-light editorial, hinging an argument against the vaping practice many deem to be life-saving on its level of personal annoyance for the writer of the piece. In the op-ed, the paper carries an article in which the Editorial Board charges:
"And they can be annoying: Because the devices aren't subject to indoor smoking bans in most states, a thick white vapor, which looks like smoke even if it isn't, could be coming soon to movie theaters, restaurants and workplaces near you. As celebrity Jenny McCarthy pitches in an ad for Lorillard's blu eCigs, 'I feel free to have one almost anywhere.' "
Yes, the argument appears there to be that the devices are visually distracting, which seems a shallow concern given their propensity to drive smokers away from smoking -- a proven serious health risk even to non-smokers, and one that is also equally visually annoying.
The op-ed adds as a near afterthought at the end:
"As for whether e-cigarettes might help some smokers quit, the jury is still out. The best scientific study to date, in New Zealand, found them to be only marginally more effective than nicotine patches."
From which we can deduce that e-cigarettes have been shown in studies to be more effective than nicotine patches in getting smokers to quit -- but who cares when they emit a vapor that looks like smoke? What's more important, allowing people safer alternatives, or making sure someone isn't annoyed having to look at a person doing something they don't like or approve of?
Dr. Michael Siegel has been working for decades to get patients off tobacco smoking -- and seems puzzled that agencies like the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the ALA are trying their hardest to throw up roadblocks to possible quitters.
"True we don't know the long-term health effect of e-cigarettes, but there's a very good likelihood that smokers are going to get lung cancer if they don't quit smoking. If they can switch to these and quit smoking traditional cigarettes, why condemn them?... It's ironic the very thing that makes them so effective... drives the anti-smoking groups crazy. But what makes them so effective is it mimics the physical behaviors smokers have, which is something the patch can't do."
Do you think electronic cigarettes should be limited simply because they resemble smoking? Or should e-cig users be free to choose vaping as an alternative to smoking despite the discomfort of non-users?