E-cigs should focus on health benefits

As electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, have become more popular, the debate about them has grown more contentious. Though there is disagreement as to whether e-cigs are a healthy long-term option, chronic smokers attest to their ability to get them to stop smoking conventional cigarettes.

Though it currently looks like e-cigs are a great alternative for smokers, advertisements that only speak to the benefits of a smoke- and smell-free hit overshadow the reality that there is a catch: E-cig producers need to emphasize their nicotine-free options to steer consumers out of addiction.

It has taken years for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to finally move forward and regulate e-cigs, which has rekindled discussion over their effects on an increasing number of users. The FDA will now force e-cig producers to put warning labels on their products and halt sales to minors.

According to the FDA, e-cig companies will be required to “make direct and implied claims of reduced risk if the FDA confirms that scientific evidence supports the claim and that marketing the product will benefit public health as a whole.” The FDA’s regulation will now stop e-cig companies from claiming potential health benefits without verification to back it up.

One of the problems many people have with this growing industry is the almost nonexistent attempt to actually relieve people of their addiction. Even if e-cigs are a better long-term option, smokers are swapping out smoke for vapor, but the nicotine remains present. E-cigs do not produce smoke through a process of combustion like tobacco cigarettes, but have an internal heating coil that turns the liquid nicotine and into a steam-like vapor. The main known ingredients include: liquid nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and various flavorings. None of these ingredients have been proven so far to cause cancer.

When people think of the big tobacco companies, they think of fat cats out for money at the expense of people’s health. We shouldn’t assume the e-cig industry is entirely different. Big tobacco companies like Lorillard, Reynolds American and Altria have joined the rapidly growing e-cig industry. Donna Manders, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, described them fittingly when she said, “The tobacco industry follows the money, and if they’re involved, they’re going to profit off people’s addiction.”

The main page of Blu’s website, a prominent e-cig producer, now owned by Lorillard, states that the driving forces behind their work are: “Freedom, passion and the courage to do something that hasn’t been done before.” There is no need to look further than the word “freedom,” which implies freedom from tobacco cigarettes, but not from addiction altogether.

For the independent e-cig companies that are truly after smokers’ best interests, they should make more of an effort to market e-cigs that are nicotine-free. What many people miss about smoking are the oral fixation and the motion of putting something to their lips. This way they could have both and lose the addiction.

Companies like Holi Smokes are doing just that, selling nicotine-free, 100 organic “e-liquid.” Their focus is on vegetable glycerin, an organic botanical extract that is approved by the FDA and used in the manufacture of medicines, beauty products, soaps, shampoos and toothpastes.

If more e-cig producers followed their example, the questioning of their motives would decline. Most e-cig producers have a wide range of nicotine levels to choose from, like Vapor4Life, which gives the choice of between 0–36 milligrams of nicotine, equivalent to levels found in up to two packs of conventional cigarettes. But the fact that they do not actively market their products as a way to ultimately be free of addiction is a telling sign.

Manufacturers fought for e-cigs not to be labeled as a tobacco cessation tool. But if e-cig companies want people to believe they’re fighting for their freedom, deliverance from nicotine addiction has to be a prominent theme, whether or not people choose it. Of course, many people won’t and will stay on nicotine for the rest of their lives. But if supporters of this growing movement want critics to lay off this wonderful new solution, they must give them good reason to. Emphasizing life free of addiction is a leap in the right direction.

Graham Landies is an undeclared freshman.

This article was posted in the section Opinion.