USA Today highlighted the debate over e-cigarettes last week, balancing the concerns of researchers who warn of addiction with the industry’s claim they do more good than harm. The look is timely, as more people are turning e-cigarettes to quit smoking or comply with smoke-free laws.
According to a recent University of Minnesota study, young adults view e-cigarettes positively, with half saying they would try them if offered by a friend. This is data that concerns anti-smoking advocates. “There’s a danger e-cigarettes could lure in kids who might not otherwise smoke,” said anti-smoking activist John Banzhaf, a professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., who has pushed for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate them as tobacco products.
According to David Abrams, executive director of the Shroeder Institute, operated by the anti-tobacco group Legacy, a study he conducted found 70% of Americans believe e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes. As a result, “Many people use them as a bridge product” to avoid smoke-free laws and either delay or avoid quitting, he said.
Finally, a third study found that e-cigarettes may emit aerosols, VOCs, and nicotine, posing a “passive vaping” risk to bystanders, a claim that the tobacco industry vigorously rejects. “There’s no smoke. It’s water vapor. You don’t smell anything,” said Thomas Kiklas, director of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.
Kiklas rebuffs the claim that sweet flavorings are meant to lure kids, adding nicotine gum also comes in cherry. “Our demographic is 40 and above,” he said. “The amount of good we’re doing is phenomenal,” he said, “because the devices help thousands of people quit cigarettes. The technology works. Smokers have embraced it.”
Some medical community professionals also cited possible benefits. “E-cigarettes may hold promise as a smoking cessation method,” concluded Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health in a study published last year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Siegel’s research found that two-thirds of the smokers he followed said they smoked less after using e-cigarettes for six months, while 31% said they quit smoking entirely.
Despite the controversy over e-cigarettes, what’s clear is that use is on the rise. Kiklas said he expects U.S. sales this year to reach 5 million units (battery, charger and cartridge). According to Jerry Newton, owner of Earth N Ware in Orange County, California, the large spike in sales is directly related to falling costs, where units sell for around $21, down from at least $200 three years ago. (NACS: www.nacsonline.com)