Being a relatively new product, electronic cigarettes are not strictly regulated. Lawmakers are awakening to this need and initiating the process to regulate their use which is commonly referred to as “vaping”. E-cigarettes, generally regarded as the safer choice as compared to smoking, are being put under the scanner.
Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Dick Durbin of the Democratic Party together with another nine lawmakers prepared a report “Gateway to Addiction?” This report on a survey of seven electronic cigarette companies revealed that all companies used marketing strategies that were aimed directly at young people. These include sponsoring events like rock concerts, distribution f free samples, etc. They also promoted flavours which were attractive to the youth such as Peachy Keen, Cherry Crush and Chocolate Treat.
Mr Waxman and Durbin have called for the Food and Drug Administration to take action against the use of such marketing techniques including banning of flavours that would encourage younger users to take to vaping.
Many people have expressed support for this campaign.
The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney states that people can vape but the cigarette companies must not be given the liberty to rake in huge profits by spreading manipulative messages and at the cost of public health.
He opines that, without regulation, the next generation could well be addicted to nicotine, taking us several steps back to the period before smoking was effectively regulated.
There is still very little scientific evidence on the ill-effects of inhaling the three main ingredients of the smoking liquid, propylene glycol, nicotine and flavouring.
There is evidence to show that nicotine has a debilitating effect on the immune system. The use of flavours, on the other hand, appears harmless. As regards propylene glycol, its common use in consumer products like soaps, shampoos, salad dressing and soft drinks without major concerns being raised, seem to indicate that it is safe to ingest it or use it on the person’s skin. However the consequences of inhaling it have not been assessed thoroughly.
Another major concern is that the inhaled vapour could contain carcinogens from the metallic parts and the ingredients of the smoking liquid.
Cameron English of PolicyMic still favours the use of e-cigarettes claiming that they have help many smokers quit the habit.
Pointing out to the decreasing trend in cigarette consumption, which he claims to be a major victory for public health, he feels that much of this can be attributed to the increased popularity of electronic cigarettes and this fact should be given due recognition.
The only confirmed risks of e-cigarette use have been those caused by exploding devices including a recent case of a barmaid who was injured by the shrapnel from an exploding e-cigarette that was being charged.
USA Today editors feel that the FDA should be safe rather than sorry, choosing to presently treat e-cigarettes on par with tobacco cigarettes, till the uncertainty about the risk to the health of the user becomes more clear. This would include a ban on sale to children and on its use indoors as well as in public places. They urge the FDA to be more proactive in the matter.
Jacob Sullum, through Forbes, labels the Durbin-Waxman report as being overly simplistic, particularly as regards of its claim that e-cigarette companies target children.
He says that the charges levelled against e-cigarettes are applicable in the same measure to cannabis-containing chocolate bars, sweetened alcoholic beverages and flavoured cigars as these also may entice children to try them.
Moreover, there is evidence showing that e-cigarettes have contributed to the reduction in the number of smoking addicts.
If the FDA goes ahead with its proposed ban, the choice of e-cigarette flavours will be substantially narrowed making e-cigarettes less attractive to smokers looking to make the switch. The move will also reduce the outreach of electronic cigarette advertising leaving many unaware of the availability of a possibly life-saving alternative.
The debate on e-cigarettes is unlikely to yield any positive results or ideas in the absence of scientific information on the product and whether or not they can help people stop smoking. The debate will generate a lot of heat with little contribution towards the resolution of the issue.