Are E-Cigarettes Evil?

Huffington Post

In case you somehow missed it, President Obama has quit smoking. That’s right, the Commander in Chief no longer smokes. And while there’s no clear word on Obama’s chosen method — cold turkey, nicotine gum, etc. — we wonder if he gave any thought to a cessation tool that’s been getting a lot of attention recently. The electronic cigarette.

So what, pray tell, is an e-cigarette? It’s a smokeless, battery-operated mechanism — either plastic or metal — that heats a liquid nicotine solution, letting users inhale doses of nicotine in vapor form. E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco or create smoke, which is why manufacturers claim they “provide you with a similar experience without the tar and second-hand smoke that is related to traditional smoking.”

Well, maybe.

Two new studies in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine took a hard look at e-cigs, Time Healthland reports. One looked at their popularity, sales-wise — researchers have declare e-cigs the most popular smoking alternatives on the market.

The second study, Time reports, measured electronic cigarettes’ effectiveness as a cessation technique. Researchers at Boston University sent surveys to 5,000 people who had bought e-cigarettes. Of the 216 qualified respondents (mostly male, lifetime-smokers who had tried to quit in the past), nearly 70 percent replied that they’d cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoked after six months, and 30 percent said they’d quit.

But not everyone’s sold on e-cigarettes yet.

In September, the FDA sent five warning letters to e-cigarette distributors for “unsubstantiated claims and poor manufacturing practices.” But a few months later, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA does not actually have the power to regulate e-cigarettes as a drug, Bloomberg reports. Which means for now, the agency can only restrict the marketing of e-cigs, not their sale.

The Department of Transportation recently got in on the battle, too, saying electronic cigarettes are banned on commercial planes and indicating it intends to issue an official ban this spring.

The bottom line? There isn’t one. E-cigarettes are being marketed as a way to quit smoking, but research supporting that claim is, at this point, somewhat scant.

“It’s a new frontier,” John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-smoking group recently told USA Today. “We don’t know what the dangers are.”

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