Rise of e-Cigarettes Stirs Debate Over Health Concerns

Will “vaping” be the new smoking?

By: Tiffany Narducci, Staff Writer

Lawmakers worldwide are struggling to regulate a new and challenging development in the fight against smoking: the e-cigarette.

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that use a refillable liquid cartridge, and are designed to mimic real cigarettes, simulating the act of smoking with a light-up tip and a vapour-cloud exhale. Instead of inhaling smoke, users have the option of using nicotine-based fluid cartridges or flavoured ones like caramel, chocolate or mango, which they ingest in the form of vapour—hence the term “vaping” to describe the use of the product.

[pullquote]E-cigarette supporters argue that vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking because it doesn’t expose users to the same level of harmful toxins.[/pullquote]

E-cigarette supporters argue that vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking because it doesn’t expose users to the same level of harmful toxins. They also argue that it is a more effective tool to quit smoking altogether.

However, researchers note that little is known about the effects of vaping. In a press release for the Canadian Lung Association, Dr. Theo Morales warns about the lack of knowledge surrounding e-cigarettes.

“People who use e-cigarettes inhale unknown, unregulated and potentially harmful substances into their lungs,” he said. “There are many nicotine replacement therapies approved by Health Canada to help someone quit smoking; the e-cigarette is not one of them.”

Observers have also voiced concern about making e-cigarettes available to young people, including Angela Pratt of the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative, who told the GlobalPost that the long term effects of e-cigarette use.

In an interview with Victoria News, Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, argued that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking among youth, who he says tend to use e-cigarettes to ingest nicotine while avoiding exposure to other carcinogens. Similarly, many argue that while vaping may be a helpful way for older individuals to kick the habit.

According to Katherine Devlin, the president of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, governments may need to step in.

[pullquote]Advertising glamourized images of e-cigarettes to children could be harmful and lead to further use of tobacco products among youth.[/pullquote]

“The advertising and marketing practices of the electronic cigarette industry need robust regulation,” said Devlin.

In Canada, e-cigarettes sold with nicotine or making health claims fall under the Food and Drugs Act and cannot legally be advertised or sold. Currently, however, e-cigarettes that are not sold with nicotine or do not make any health claims can legally be sold and advertised in Canada.

According to Dr. Richard Hurt, who runs the nicotine dependence centre at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the current lack of regulation for the e-cigarette industry may lead to some manufacturers taking advantage of the confusion regarding advertising and marketing practices.

“In the absence of any regulation, they’re going to push the envelope as far as they can,” says Hurt. “And they’re going to push the envelope because if they push the envelope, they’re going to make more money.”


Tiffany Narducci is a master’s candidate in Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, where she also completed her undergraduate degree in Journalism. She is passionate about international politics and how they affect humanitarian relief efforts, and hopes to begin a career in international development.


Image Courtesy of Reuters.

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