In recent years, a popular new alternative to smoking has emerged in the health market. It is called e-smoking. This is a highly critical issue for health consumers because there is still much research to be done regarding the potential health hazards despite the benefits it appears to offer. E-smoking is done through e-cigarettes, battery-operated devices that deliver vaporized nicotine to the smoker. E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular because they were advertised as stepping-stones to help the user quit smoking.
Although e-cigarettes serve the same purpose as the nicotine patch and other smoking alternatives, they are highly controversial because the FDA does not currently regulate them and there is currently not sufficient research to fully determine their health hazards.
Current research supports the claim that e-cigarettes can help somebody wean himself off of smoking addiction. What makes e-cigarettes much more appealing to the smoker than other alternatives is that the nicotine is delivered to the user in a very similar method as regular cigarettes.
They cater to the typical sensorimotor aspects that a regular cigarette stimulates (Pokhrel, 2013, p. 57). In other words, e-cigarettes simulate the act of smoking, making it much more appealing to the user, as opposed to other alternatives such as the nicotine patch. Studies show that many users who switch to e-cigarettes were able to noticeably reduce their cigarette consumption. Although e-cigarettes decrease craving and withdrawal symptoms, it is still not clear as to whether or not they are as efficient at delivering nicotine as other methods, making their reliability of cessation aids unclear.
Although e-cigarettes were initially marketed as cessation aids for people who are trying to quit smoking, they have appealed to non-smoking adolescents. E-cigarette usage among adolescents has doubled to 1.78 million middle school and high school students. This is a major public health concern. The use of e-cigarettes without the purpose of quitting regular cigarettes can often have the reverse of the intended effect. That is, e-cigarettes can become a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes (Bremner, 2013). Since both smoking products contain nicotine, an adolescent user could easily upgrade from e-cigarettes to regular cigarettes to quell his increasing desire for nicotine. E-cigarettes not only appeal to smokers trying to quit and nonsmoking adolescents, but also to young children. The variety of flavors offered by e-cigarettes such as chocolate, bubble gum, etc. often ddrawschildren to them (Richtel, 2014). Since many users of e-cigarettes keep e-liquids around the house for refilling purposes, a child can easily drink the e-liquid, not knowing what it is.
In addition to serving as a gateway to smoking by younger consumers, e-cigarettes are also found to have their unique health hazards. E-liquids, the substances used to refill e-cigarettes, are found to contain powerful neurotoxins. They are so powerful that they can even be absorbed through the skin. When ingested, they cause vomiting, seizures, and in some cases, even death. Nationwide, the number of calls to poison control centers has increased to 1,351 in 2013, a 300% increase from 2012. Some experts say that e-cigarettes pose a far greater health risk than regular cigarettes because e-liquids absorb into the body much more readily. For example, a woman in Kentucky was admitted to the hospital with cardiac problems after her e-cigarette broke, spilling the e-liquid all over her, which absorbed into her skin (Richtel, 2014). A lot of the e-liquid poisonings have resulted from a lack of consumer awareness and carelessness. Studies have yet to conclude the long-term effects of inhaling vaporized e-liquid. It is highly critical that health consumers have an understanding of the health risks associated with the e liquids and the substances in the chemicals in them before using e-cigarettes.
These risks presented to the consumer of using e-cigarettes raises the question of whether or not there are secondhand smoke effects on non-smokers. Studies show that in addition to the hazard of neurotoxins, e-cigarettes spread air pollutants as well as other carcinogenic substances.
Studies show that indoor e-cigarette usage pollutes the air with nicotine and carcinogenic substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In addition, particles of supersaturated 1,2 propanediol vapor emitted by e-cigarettes can get deposited in the lungs and cause inflammation when inhaled (Schober, 2013, p. 4). Based on existing research, it is heavily supported that e-cigarettes are not emission-free and can be hazardous to non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke.
These alarming effects of secondhand smoke emitted by e-cigarettes leave policymakers to decide the legality of smoking e-cigarettes in indoor public places.
Recently, New York City banned e-smoking in all places where regular smoking is banned. State lawmakers in Albany wish to model New York City’s e-smoking ban and create a state law banning public indoor e-smoking throughout all of New York. Lawmakers feel that e-smoking rights should end if e-smoking is hazardous to non-smokers. Supporters of the ban on public indoor e-smoking claim that since the FDA is not regulating e-cigarettes as heavily as regular cigarettes, it is the responsibility of state lawmakers to get involved. However, e-cigarette manufacturers claim that the states should wait to see what kind of regulation the federal government deems appropriate before the states get involved. Other opponents of the ban are claiming that the ban is expanding the “nanny state” more than promoting public health (Bailey, 2014). Since the FDA has been slow to regulate e-cigarettes, it is probably best that the states act on behalf of their citizens and initiate some precautions to protect public indoor air.
Aside from state policy, the regulation that the federal government has decided to implement on e-cigarettes is not to the extent that many public health officials would like it to be.
However, it is best that the FDA gradually increases its regulation because it is not yet clear what type of regulation at the federal level would be best regarding health warnings, advertising practices, etc. The FDA has deemed it appropriate to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of eighteen and force e-cigarette manufacturers to put health warnings on the product (Ricks, 2014). The American Lung Association and other opponents of e-cigarettes claim that this initial regulation is not enough. Since e-cigarettes debatably have just as many adverse health effects as regular cigarettes, some claim the federal regulation should be much more extensive.
As mentioned above, many teens and young people are being drawn to the habit of e-smoking as a result of the wide variety of flavors. Therefore, in addition to banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, opponents of e-cigarettes claim that the FDA should ban the manufacturing of e-cigarette flavoring as well. Whether or not the government should have the authority to pass that kind of regulation is a topic of high debate. However, the key danger of the flavoring ingredients is that e-cigarette manufacturers are under no obligation to disclose the ingredients of these flavoring agents (Ricks, 2014). This can be especially hazardous since these substances are often ingested as opposed to inhaled.
Another shortcoming, according to some, of the FDA’s regulation of e-cigarettes is its failure to prohibit the marketing of e-cigarettes in certain forms of media. At the moment, the present FDA regulations do not ban e-cigarette manufacturers from advertising on television. Hollywood stars promoting the product on television have heavily influenced e-cigarette’s multibillion-dollar sales (Ricks, 2014). A key problem of this kind of advertising is that young adolescents who look up to these stars will model this behavior and may start smoking e-cigarettes. People that are in favor of much heavier federal regulation of e-cigarettes claim that e-cigarettes should have the same advertising limitations as regular cigarettes to deter the exposure of young people to the promotion of unhealthy behavior.
In today’s society in which we are inundated with health information, health consumers must become formed and aware of the risks and benefits of new health products that enter the marketplace. This is especially true for products involving the delivery of an addictive substance to the body, such as smoking cessation aids. Although e-cigarettes have high risks, e-cigarettes should not be prohibited to the point in people cannot use them for their intended purpose. However, policy should be implemented to deter the adverse negative aspects of e-cigarettes as much as possible. Topics such as secondhand e-smoke are of high importance.
Although it is not clear to what extent, the federal government should regulate the manufacturing and distribution of e-cigarettes, it should be acknowledged that there is evidence that e-cigarettes are serving their intended purpose, to help smokers wean themselves off of their smoking addiction. Yet, considering the effects e-cigarettes are shown to have on non-smoking bystanders, there should be some sort of restriction on e-smoking in indoor public places. Issues such as child safety, health hazards of secondhand e-smoke, e-cigarette advertising, ad public e-smoking prohibition are best dealt with through steady and progressive policy implementation. Such policy should reflect the scientific literature available on e-cigarettes and the conditions that yielded positive results for specific scientific studies. E-cigarettes are not either good or bad, they just need to be used properly while the safety of others is being considered.