E-cigarette skeptics unnecessarily alarmed by water vapor

cigarette
Daniel Garcia/HIGHLANDER

As if resurrected from the 1970s, smoking advertisements have been springing up nationwide in the form of televised commercials. But these ads aren’t for the traditional tobacco cigarette; instead the e-cigarette is rising to fame.

One chemical that particularly alarms the public seems to be nicotine, which isn’t as notably harmful as other components of a tobacco cigarette; its most dangerous quality is its addictiveness, but it has minimal effects on health. Taking all this into consideration, it simply seems that people are over-reacting when they demonize the e-cig, especially when it is trying to replace its much deadlier cousin.Unlike the tobacco cigarette, which contains hundreds of chemical ingredients, the e-cigarette contains hardly any chemicals at all. The e-cig instead consists mostly of distilled water, nicotine and artificial flavoring. Opponents of the e-cigarette, however, claim that they have found traces of formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines in the vapor emissions. Even if these chemicals are there, they exist in minimal quantities. So why is everyone freaking out about e-cigs when the chemicals allegedly found in them are so few you can count them on both hands? The dangers of the e-cigarette pale in comparison to dangers of a real cigarette, which contains over 600 ingredients (like arsenic, lead and tar) and emits 4,000 chemicals when burned.

Though the e-cig is much healthier than regular cigarettes, there are arguments that because e-cigarettes are being advertised, they are making the act of smoking cigarettes look cool again. Well, first off, e-cig commercials are not in any way promotional of real cigarettes. In fact, in the most well-known e-cig commercials, celebrities tout the Blu e-cig as a healthier and better choice than tobacco cigarettes. Stephen Dorff declares the e-cig as a “smarter alternative” to real cigarettes after his 20 years of smoking tobacco, and celebrity Jenny McCarthy opens her e-cig promotion with “I love being single, but here’s what I don’t like — a kiss that tastes like an ashtray.” Both of these celebrities list personal disadvantages to smoking real cigarettes.

Yes, these celebrities do look edgy as they breathe clouds of water vapor, but the purpose of these ads is to make the e-cig look cool; they are marketing themselves as better than real cigarettes. These e-cig commercials are also appearing alongside the well-recognized Ugly Truth commercials, which show everyday citizens reacting to anti-tobacco statements (for instance, the cowboy singing the catchy “You don’t always die from tobacco” tune through a hole in his throat). These ads popping up on the same television channel are not making tobacco cigarettes look good.

Another concern springs up about whether e-cigs will be a gateway to real cigarettes. However, a 2012 Center for Disease Control and Prevention study on tobacco product use among high school students showed that 14 percent were reported to have tried cigarettes while 2.8 percent were reported to have tried e-cigs. So, if anything, people should be more concerned that high school students are inhaling tobacco and toxins into their lungs, not that they might be trying out water vapor instead.

CNN reports that the number of e-cig experimenters has doubled since then, but this doesn’t seem like it should be a cause for alarm if high school students are choosing e-cigs over tobacco cigarettes, since according to the CDC, “current cigarette smoking among middle school and high school youth declined between 2000 and 2011.” Would you rather your child was breathing tobacco smoke or water vapor?

Obviously, not smoking is the healthiest choice, but we are far from banning all tobacco products. E-cigs were originally developed as a tool to help current smokers switch to a healthier alternative. And they are doing better than any gum or patch out there, as they’ve been shown in studies to help a slightly larger percent of smokers quit, including one where 7 percent of smokers quit after six months. True, they have not brought a huge number of people away from tobacco cigarettes, but they are still doing better than their predecessors and can continue to produce good results. Introducing e-cigarettes to current smokers is not a bad thing; it’s a step toward a healthier and less-polluted society.

Several over-reactors seem to be demanding that the FDA ban e-cigs; this is startling because it makes no sense to make a healthier alternative to smoking less available than real, harmful cigarettes. Even UC campuses, who recently banned all tobacco products, are denying the e-cigarette access to academic grounds. It is understandable to be wary, since there are still studies that have yet to be done and are some unanswered questions circling the product, but the overwhelming evidence is that e-cigs are a much smarter alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

So, if you smoke, it’s not a bad idea to switch to smoking e-cigs instead. It’s essentially just nicotine and distilled water, and emulates the taste of a real cigarette, but without the guarantee of lung damage. If you have to smoke something, I am definitely in favor of saying, “Out with the tobacco cigarette, and in with the e-cig!”

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