E-Cigarettes: Tobacco’s Futuristic Frontier

Cigarettes kill more than 5.4 million people each year, a 30 percent increase over the past two decades. Although cigarette use has generally fallen in the U.S., increased use in Asia and Eastern Europe has ensured that the tobacco industry is bigger than ever. Innovation has also hit the cigarette business in the form of e-cigarettes, electronic devices that heat up liquid nicotine to a vapor that is then inhaled.

Like everything related to tobacco, e-cigarettes have been controversial since they hit the market. That’s because many producers advertise e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking. After all, cigarette smoke contains carcinogens like benzene and tar. The liquid used in e-cigarettes doesn’t release these byproducts, only the nicotine that the habitual smoker craves. As a result, some e-cigarette brands recommend using the devices as a tool to quit smoking. Evidence to back up this fact has been scarce, however, as has information about the long-term effects of inhaling nicotine vapor.

The bottom line is that smoking is unsafe in any form. Sadly, though, there are millions of smokers around the world who will likely never stop, no matter how many pictures of black lungs they see or Surgeon General’s warnings they read. And while vaporizing nicotine is still unsafe, studies show that it’s better for the body than smoking a pack a day. So government organizations like the FDA are caught in a conundrum: do they allow tobacco companies to market e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking or subject them to the same stringent standards as regular cigarettes? Anti-tobacco advocates fear that opting for the former could give children the impression that e-cigarettes are entirely safe. Meanwhile, Philip Morris International is developing a new e-cigarette that vaporizes actual tobacco instead of liquid, therefore reproducing the flavor of an actual cigarette without the byproducts. The company claims that this safer cigarette could save lives, but in the end it’s better just to give up smoking entirely. Click here for tips from the American Cancer Society on how to quit for good.

 

Questions:

  1. What’s the likely Food & Drug Administration (FDA) action concerning e-cigarettes?
  1. Will e-cigarettes be allowed to advertise their benefits to smokers on television?

 

Source: Daniel Fisher, “Philip Morris International Bets Big on the Future of Smoking,” Forbes, May 28, 2014. Photo by Lindsay Fox.

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