The Times West Virginian

Opinion

March 9, 2014

‘The issues are complicated’ with e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes have been around for about seven years.

But you’d be shocked at how long the idea for the the tobacco-less product has been around.

“A primitive, battery-operated ‘smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’ was patented as early as 1963 and described in Popular Mechanics in 1965,” Megan McArdle wrote for Business Week last monty. “Thomas Schelling, a Nobel prize-winning economist who helped start the Institute for the Study of Smoking Behavior and Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School in the 1980s, recalls that people in the 1960s were talking about a charcoal-based vaporizer that would heat some sort of nicotine solution.

“While those early versions might have been safer than a regular cigarette, they were too expensive and cumbersome to become a substitute for a pack of Camels,” she writes.

But they’ve been less expensive and readily available for nearly a decade now. And within that short timeframe, it’s turned into a $1.5 billion industry. With a growth rate like that, some say that the e-cigarette industry could surpass the tobacco industry by 2023. That’s less that 10 years from now.

Good, right? When a person uses an e-cigarette, liquid nicotine is heated up and vaporized then inhaled. The result is vapor instead of smoke, which contains up to 400 dangerous additives.

Except some fear that flavors of vapors, like blue raspberry or piña colada are intended to draw in younger, would-be smokers and actually turn into a gateway to tobacco use.

“If e-cigarettes were regulated so that they became a way to get people off cigarettes, we would lead the cheer. But the issues are complicated,” Matt Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Business Week. “E-cigarettes are not harmless. You want to discourage people who do not currently use e-cigarettes from taking up the habit. Our concern is that it will re-glamorize smoking and lead people to switch to cigarettes, or experiment with cigarettes.”

And since in 22 states anyone under the age of 18 can walk into a store and purchase an e-cigarette kit, or order one online, kids can legally get hooked on nicotine before it’s even legal for them to buy a pack of Marlboros. So regulate?

That’s what we asked our readers, who log on each week to vote in our interactive poll question. Last week we asked “Do you think that e-cigarettes and accessories need to be regulated, including banning the sale for those under 18?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• Not sure, but I would like to see some long-term studies on the impact of their use on health — 14.29 percent.

• No. I don’t understand the backlash over something that is healthier than smoking and helps so many people break the habit — 36.26 percent.

• Yes. They’re not marketing cotton candy flavored e-cigarettes to adults — 49.45.

It’s sure to come up again, as the FDA is investigating the product.

And speaking of kids, let’s talk about a recent study that shows an overwhelming difference in the values of the Millennium generation versus the ones before it. What do you wish was more important to the youth of today?

Log on. Vote. Email me of respond online.

Misty Poe

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV

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Opinion
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