E-cig restrictions a prudent move for public health

In recent discussions on the indoor and public bans of e-cigarettes in the city of Chicago, a controversial issue has been whether or not these regulations should classify e-cigarettes similarly to traditional cigarettes. It has become common today to label e-cigarettes as a safe way to smoke; they have the ability to help people end their addiction, and water vapor rather than smoke is released into the air.

Many people assume that these e-cigarette bans must have something to do with the government being able to tax e-cigarettes at a higher rate, though common sense shifts the controversy somewhere else. The true effects of e-cigarettes on people need to be examined before blindly criticizing these bans. However, when conducting a search on the effects of e-cigarettes and the vapor they emit into the air, the results are somewhat nonexistent.

CNN reported, “Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, whether delivered in a conventional cigarette or their electronic counterparts. The potential harm from exposure to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes is unknown.” The truth of the matter is that e-cigarettes are such a new invention that no one can be certain of what their true effects are.

“No e-cigarette has been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective product to help people quit smoking. Yet many companies are making claims that e-cigarettes help smokers quit,” CNN also pointed out. While we are all quick to jump on the e-cigarette company bandwagon because of their persuasive claims about e-cigarettes acting as a tool to end addiction, the motive of these companies is not to stop addiction. In actuality, their motive is the opposite: they want consumers to keep buying their product.

Dr. Leonard A. Jason, Director of the Center for Community Research at DePaul, realizes how unregulated the e-cigarette industry is.

“The products by and large have had a tremendous amount of variability in their quality. The regulations on this have not really come in yet, but at some point it will become a regulated industry. It’s probably going to take us a while to figure out the dangers.”

Jason also gives warning about the potential appeal of e-cigarettes due to their cost.

“You’ve got to be careful about something safer and less expensive because if something is less expensive and it’s perceived as safer, then we (might) have more people using it.”

It’s easy to see e-cigarettes as an all around bargain, but their level of safety must be critically assessed prior to purchase. Steven Forbes from Forbes magazine doesn’t agree with city bans on e-cigarettes. He claims that “until there is definitive proof of adverse consequences, we should leave e-cigarettes alone. They’re a tool in the fight against cigarettes.”

However, by focusing on the e-cigarette companies’ marketing campaigns – which assert that e-cigarettes can be used as a way to quit smoking – Forbes overlooks the deeper problem of uncertainty. Yes, there is no definitive proof of adverse consequences, but there is also no definitive proof of beneficial effects.

Essentially, the argument he makes can be used against him. Until we learn more about e-cigarettes, I don’t think that those who abstain from smoking them should be susceptible to their unknown effects.

“At first secondhand smoke wasn’t considered dangerous,” Jason reminds us. Look at how much that notion has changed.

Could the uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes be a repeat of the uncertainty originally regarding traditional cigarettes? Regardless of the answer, we shouldn’t have to be the guinea pigs that find out.