John Mucha relaxed on a sofa-for-two with his two faithful dogs keeping him company, at the e-cigarette shop “Thanks for Vaping” located close to the North Star Mall on San Pedro Avenue, on a sultry afternoon one Saturday. The room was occupied by customers who were discussing the advantages and disadvantages of e-cigarettes and accessories available in the market. Mucha put a slim metal pipe to his lips, drew strongly on the device and then exhaled, letting out a cloud of white, which looked like smoke.
But the white cloud, unlike smoke, was odourless and quickly vanished in the air. The reason was that Mucha was not smoking but vaping.
Mucha is among the numerous and ever increasing number of smokers making the switch from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, which are generally believed to be the healthier alternative.
Within a short span of 6 years, revenues from the sale of e-cigarettes in the United States are expected to touch the $1 billion mark. However, there is still a lot of ambiguity surrounding the issue of the safety of the product, with health experts claiming that there are still too many unresolved issues.
The questions that need well-studied answers include: Is inhalation of nicotine in the form of vapours safe? Will vapers be exposed to an increased risk of cancer, lung diseases and chronic pulmonary diseases? Will second-hand vapours put people in close proximity at risk? Do these electronic devices really help smokers to quit?
People using electronic cigarettes praise the device for its many advantages. Inhaling the odourless vapours ensures that the user and the surroundings do not smell of smoke. Moreover, the electronic version can be used in places where conventional cigarettes are not permitted. They also are of the firm opinion that by choosing electronic cigarettes over their tobacco counterparts, they avoid inhaling and exhaling smoke and other toxic chemicals, substantially reducing the adverse impact on their health as well as on the health of others.
Critics are not convinced, pointing that the existing evidence is inadequate to confirm the safety of the e-cigarettes, with one analysis conducted by the FDA finding dangerous chemicals in the samples tested.