Smoking is the cause of serious public health problems and focused efforts are the need of the hour to reduce the burden of this vice on the society. Close to one out of every five adult Americans are habituated to smoking tobacco.
Over 440,000 people die annually in the U.S. from causes directly related to smoking cigarettes. Only a habitual smoker who has tried to quit knows how difficult it is to give up smoking and therefore it is worth evaluating all possible alternatives and aids to quit smoking. At the same time, it is also necessary to ask the right questions to determine the efficacy and safety of new products.
The reaction of smokers to various novel smoking cessation aids and tobacco cigarette alternatives, including electronic cigarettes is varied. While some put it to its intended use others use it in devious ways. For example, some smokers prefer to use e-cigarettes only in places where smoking is banned and use the traditional tobacco cigarettes elsewhere, but this only increases their overall intake of nicotine.
The research on electronic cigarettes is limited but generally supports the general perception that electronic cigarettes are safer alternatives to the tobacco version of the product. At the same time, it cannot be construed to mean that they are entirely safe. However there is a dearth of information on the actual patterns of use of the device. There are users who, instead of trying to quit, just get their nicotine fix from e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes. Others actually end up inhaling larger quantities of nicotine, using the device at places where smoking is prohibited.
Electronic cigarettes contain the addictive nicotine as well as other chemicals. Regulation is required to ensure that the device is safe and manufactured under stringent quality standards. Consumers should be adequately informed about the contents of the product especially the level of nicotine. Regulations to control misleading advertising and labelling will be welcomed.
Other issues include the use of banned flavourings and the general belief that e-cigarettes are safer and less addictive than traditional cigarettes. The use of chocolate and fruit flavours makes the product very attractive to young people below the legal age. Till there is sufficient research and studies to confirm whether or not the product is safe for use and the actual patterns of use are established, constant and close monitoring of the effects of this device on public health will be required.