E-Cigarettes: Vision or Nightmare?

E-Cigarettes don’t burn, but they certainly ignite passions and serve as some sort of psychological test. Some people see an evil new addictive gateway to smoking. Others see an opportunity to completely eliminate cancer-causing cigarettes (and maybe make a buck in the process). FDA is trying to figure out how to regulate them.

E-cigarettes use batteries, computer chips, wicks, and a nicotine solution to deliver nicotine vapor without all the carcinogens and carbon monoxide of cigarette smoke.

Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Vuleta of NJoy, one of the e-cigarette market leaders, talked enthusiastically with the New York Times recently about “renormalizing” smokers who are now marginalized by their smoking habit. CEO Craig Weiss speaks of it in inspired tones:

We’re at this incredible inflection point in history. We have a chance to make the single most beneficial impact on society in this century.

Public health experts are not so enthusiastic. They see a danger of re-normalizing not just smokers, but smoking behavior, making e-cigarettes a gateway to smoking cigarettes. A recent study showing a spike in high school students trying e-cigarettes spurred CDC to issue an emergency note from the field, as they would for the outbreak of an epidemic. They said:

CDC and the Food and Drug Administration will continue to explore ways to increase surveillance and research on e-cigarettes. Given the rapid increase in use and youths’ susceptibility to social and environmental influences to use tobacco, developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youths is critical.

The turbulent political history of tobacco and smoking certainly complicates objective decision making in this sphere. And the complex interaction of marketing and human behavior doesn’t help.

Click here to read more in the New York Times and here to read the CDC report on e-cigarette use by high school students.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Montreal Dawn. Photograph © Guy Mayer / flickr

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