STONE: E-Cigs are not a healthy option

In shopping mall kiosks, convenience stores and “vape” shacks around the country, electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes) have skyrocketed in popularity. Marketed as a “safer and cleaner alternative” to regular tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine without the actual burning of tobacco. With no noxious fumes and odors from tobacco smoke, many find e-cigarettes a more appealing and socially acceptable option. But, are e-cigarettes truly a “safer and cleaner” choice … the answer may surprise you.

Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals and 60 known carcinogens such as tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol and acetylene. Aside from the damage it causes the actual smoker, the second-hand smoke can be just as harmful to those around it. True, e-cigarettes produce no actual second-hand smoke but they do produce second-hand vapor. The inhalable vapors are created by a battery-powered atomizer that, when a user puffs … known as “vaping” … the e-cigarette (in the same fashion as a regular cigarette), heats a liquid solution typically composed of water, nicotine, glycerol, propylene glycol and flavoring. A vapor created by 5 ingredients seems small in comparison to tobacco smoke, but there have not been enough studies to provide conclusive evidence supporting second-hand vapor is completely safe. Until this can be substantiated, opponents to e-cigarettes suggest steering clear of second-hand vapors, particularly children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions.

E-Cigarettes contain no tobacco and at this time are not bound to the same regulations and laws from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although that is slowly beginning to change. However, like regular cigarettes, many contain nicotine which is a powerful toxin that, ironically, also acts as a nervous system stimulant providing a barrage of pleasant senses such as heightened awareness and euphoria. It’s the nicotine that keeps people craving more, creating a habitual pattern that is extremely hard to quit. Some experts rank nicotine ahead of alcohol, cocaine and heroin for its addictive and dependent qualities. The downside of nicotine doesn’t stop at being a highly addictive drug, but it can also cause a rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and ultimately raise bad cholesterol levels.

Another concerning issue is the “cool” factor associated with e-cigarettes and the appeal it has to minors. An offering of flavors such as cherry, vanilla, ice cream, pina colada, bubble gum and peach are inviting options for children and young adults inquisitive on trying something new catered to their palate. This has many fearing e-cigarettes serve as a gateway introduction to the vicious cycle of nicotine addiction to an impressionable population. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 3.7 percent of American adults used e-cigarettes on a regular basis in 2014. That’s over 9 million consumers who regularly use e-cigarettes. Although many vendors restrict sale of e-cigarettes to minors, access to obtain them isn’t difficult. Purchase through websites is a growing concern since many do not require authentication of age, leaving teens and younger children to buy e-cigarettes with relative ease.

With fancy marketing tactics, e-cigarettes seem like a logical alternative to smoking tobacco. In some ways, this argument may have some points … especially when it comes to trying to quit. But until there are sufficient studies to tout the claims, the jury is still out. One thing is certain, whether someone smokes or vapes, nicotine delivery is the name of the game … and nicotine addiction is big business. Between the big tobacco and e-cigarette companies, it’s a $100 billion plus industry with the aim for as many people to depend on their product as possible.

Simply put, e-cigarettes allow another opportunity for the cycle of nicotine addiction to continue. The ground health professionals have made over the past four decades to greatly reduce tobacco use stands to be compromised with the rising use of e-cigarettes. As the case with illicit or even legal drugs, there are various ways to fuel an addiction … including their usage in e-cigarettes. As the desire for nicotine grows, the quest for it will not stop at just vaping e-cigarettes. It should be no surprise, as more and more become addicted, to see a resurrection of tobacco use in years to come. It is this reason e-cigarettes are not a “safer, cleaner” alternative, but rather one of two evils plaguing our society.