Despite the public’s increased awareness of the dangers of cigarettes and the recent smoking bans in stores, offices and restaurants, many people are unable or unwilling to quit smoking. E-cigarettes, which contain a small amount of liquid nicotine that is vaporized into a mist that can be inhaled, have proved to be more effective at helping smokers stay off cigarettes than more established nicotine products such as patches and gum. But this effective alternative to cigarettes faces criticism from anti-smoking groups and the Food and Drug Administration, which labels e-cigarettes a “drug delivery device.”
Critics of e-cigarettes argue that the product reduces the incentive for smokers to kick their nicotine habit by providing vaporized nicotine in a familiar form that can be brought to the mouth and inhaled. They also believe that e-cigarettes may act as a “gateway” to smoking for children and teens, and that the product may contain harmful chemical products and vapors.
E-cigarettes, however, contain far fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, which are known to contain hundreds of potentially toxic and carcinogenic ingredients. They also eliminate the issue of second-hand smoke, because there is no combustion involved.
Furthermore, according to the British medical society, nicotine itself is not particularly harmful. Part of the reason that smokers find it difficult to quit is because there are demonstrated benefits to absorbing nicotine into the body, including lower weight, reduced stress and better concentration.
While there are still concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes, it seems that the FDA and anti-smoking groups are targeting this product specifically because it looks like a traditional cigarette, and they fear that smokers will switch permanently over to the e-cigarette instead of quitting altogether. But what is so wrong with that? If e-cigarettes are indeed less harmful to smokers and people around them, it seems to me that switching over would not be a bad idea at all.
Clearly, we will never get to the point where 100% of smokers quit forever. It’s time to give up on this abstinence-only approach and look at realistic alternatives that will help smokers protect themselves and their loved ones from the harmful effects of traditional cigarettes.
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