If you’re going to smoke, try e-cigarettes, the lesser of two evils


Scott Murphy, Crier Staff

From the perspective of a former smoker, the effort among advocacy organizations to demonize e-cigarettes is baffling, as the trend could potentially be utilized as an effective anti-smoking campaign.

It must first be made clear that e-cigarettes are still not safe.

Like traditional cigarettes, they contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that can significantly contribute to heart problems.

However, despite the lack of time that scientists have had to fully research e-cigarettes, both initial studies and basic logic demonstrate that they are at the very least safer than traditional cigarettes.

The composition of a traditional cigarette contains over 4,000 known chemicals, which includes roughly 400 known toxins and a little over 40 carcinogens.

Other than nicotine, these chemicals include tar, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic.

When the composition of e-cigarettes is examined, the difference is stark, for other than the shared inclusion of nicotine, none of traditional cigarette’s other chemicals are included.

Instead, an e-cigarette operates by using a battery to heat a cartridge containing nicotine and other flavorings, which creates a vapor that, while simulating cigarette smoke, is immensely less harmful for both the smoker and bystanders.

Considering all of this, it should be rather clear that while not a safe choice by any means, e-cigarettes are still quite a bit safer than traditional cigarettes, and therefore should be marketed as such.

Sure, the ideal goal of various advocacy organizations is to eradicate tobacco use entirely, but considering the sheer difficulty of this endeavor, e-cigarettes are a useful first step to transition teenage smokers away from a much more harmful vice.

Instead, these organizations have focused either primarily or exclusively on the harm of e-cigarettes with fairly shoddy arguments.

The constant fear of “gateway drugs” is among them, with the concern being that kids will start by smoking e-cigarettes but then switch to traditional cigarettes.

This argument fails to take into consideration the additional social benefits that e-cigarettes have over traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes’ flavored vapors have a much less offensive odor than traditional cigarette smoke, making the social acceptance of the former much stronger than the latter.

Additionally, the aesthetic effects of cigarettes, such as yellowed teeth, a husky & mucus tinged voice and overall shortness of breath are all diminished with the use of e-cigarettes.

And though the concerns of e-cigarettes “re-popularizing” smoking may seem somewhat realistic, this can easily be combatted in the same way that traditional cigarette use was curbed.

Indeed, having public places ban e-cigarettes along with traditional cigarettes is a pretty common sense solution, as well as the continuation of education about the harm of e-cigarettes (the one thing that these organizations have been doing correctly).

Beyond the thoughts of a smoker’s friends, family and other peers, however, e-cigarettes could be beneficial for smokers themselves, as it may be utilized as a tool for quitting the habit.

While other methods, such nicotine patches and gum, solely curb the desire for the substance, e-cigarettes have the added trait of literally mimicking the actual action of smoking.

For smokers who need to curb the physical habit of smoking as well as the chemical addiction, this could be an effective method of slowly weaning away from the addiction.

So while the harms of e-cigarettes have been rightfully spread by advocacy organizations, they must realize that such a stringent, single-minded campaign is a missed opportunity.

“Safe” may not equal “safer,” but it is difficult to argue that opting for the lesser of two evils is not the preferable choice in the mission to eradicate tobacco use.