Chew Bubble Gum – Don’t Smoke It
by Madeline Barnes on Friday, May 16th, 2014
We all know that nicotine is addictive and principally responsible for the unbreakable-habit of smoking. In 2009, 46.6 million people over 18 years old were active smokers (American Lung Association), impairing their lung functions by inhaling over 7,000 chemicals packed inside a single cigarette. However, in 2003, after realizing the ramifications of smoking as well as the millions of deaths that it causes, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik introduced the idea of a smoke-free method of satiating one’s nicotine fix by using a “piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting element to vaporize a pressurized jet of liquid containing nicotine diluted in a propylene glycol solution.” This concept not only pleased smokers, but also inspired entrepreneurs. Over the past few years, this invention has been modified — from the addition of a “cartomizer” all the way to the development of e-cigarettes in different flavors. Unfortunately, while inhaling a heated, flavored vapor may seem harmless, most of these devices still deliver nicotine, and there is much debate on whether or not the benefits of e-cigarettes outweigh their drawbacks.
Research has shown that, since the introduction of e-cigarettes, 96% of users have found them helpful in trying to quit smoking. Furthermore, the use of e-cigarettes has decreased the frequency of smoking in 92% of the users. Reducing cigarette consumption not only benefits the smoker by lessening his chance of lung cancer but also reduces the predominance of potentially harmful secondhand smoke.
Although e-cigarettes present several benefits over traditional tobacco based cigarettes, I believe the effects of inhaling vaporized nicotine are not sufficiently understood to be considered safe for consumption. According to Barbara Ferrer, Boston’s Chief of Public Health, “The heart of the matter for us is e-cigarette manufacturers are making claims about the advantages of e-cigarettes that haven’t really been established.” On April 29th, the Smoke-Free Air Act was initiated in New York City, placing the smoking of e-cigarettes into the same category of tobacco, banning the electronic devices from any public place where regular cigarettes are prohibited. In response to his ban, New York Health Commissioner Mary Bassett stated, “E-cigarettes are unregulated and rapidly growing in popularity, despite their potential for addiction and unknown health risks.” (Capital New York) I think it is fortunate that e-cigarettes have had a positive impact on a large percentage of smokers trying to give up tobacco products. However, the FDA has recently raised some valid concerns regarding potentially toxic ingredients and may soon impose regulation on these electronic alternatives, requiring a rigorous approval process. Ferrer has further stated that she wants “the FDA to enforce stricter rules on packaging, labeling and testing, which local health departments can’t do.” (BostonHerald.com)
Avoiding the temptation to smoke conventional cigarettes may be easy for adolescents and young adults for fear of contracting diseases such as lung-cancer by inhaling smoke; however, e-cigarettes “are products that are aimed at young people — why else would you flavor your product bubblegum flavor?” (Barbara Ferre) Manufacturers of e-cigarettes have come out with a variety of flavors such as hazelnut, kiwi, cream soda, and strawberry, thus enticing teens to try their product. While e-cigarettes do not produce actual smoke as in burning tobacco, their inhalable vapor is still the basis for a nicotine addiction.
For those who are addicted to smoking regular cigarettes and feel no compulsion to quit, e-cigarettes may be a better alternative. Unfortunately, flavor options and unregulated advertising towards teens could encourage adolescents to start smoking and to inhale potentially unsafe chemicals, initiating nicotine addiction. In conclusion, if you are in the mood for some bubble gum, chew it — don’t smoke it.
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