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Smoking in the 21st Century

Lifestyle & Opinion

By Manny Robinson

With annual net revenue of 66 billion dollars, the tobacco industry is one of the most profitable markets in the world. Within the last decade, the world of smoking and tobacco introduced vaporizing devices, better known as Electronic Cigarettes, and with their boom in popularity, they are projected to pass cigarette sales within the next decade. This new smoking commodity can be found in nearly any U.S. gas station and some doctors state that electronic cigarettes offer the public a potential health benefit. Although this 21st century product is gaining the attention of smokers and health analysts alike, much of electronic cigarettes and their potential risks are still unknown to the public.

The act of tobacco smoking has been popular in the Americas and many other places across the world, such as Europe and Asia, since 5000 B.C. When tobacco is smoked, it releases nicotine compounds. Nicotine, an addictive stimulant, is what causes smokers to crave cigarettes. Studies indicate long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, especially the type found in cigarettes and cigars, are linked to harmful lung and heart diseases, which can cause cancer.

Until recently, no safer alternative has been tested successful to not only stop the complete use of nicotine altogether, but some U.S. scientists report electronic cigarettes to be nearly harmless. These devices come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging anywhere from $10-$150, with the option to add different flavor cartilages, such as strawberry and grape. The way electronic cigarettes operate is by heating up a food-grade, oil based compound with an electric current from a rechargeable or disposable battery. The oil based compounds come in a variety of nicotine levels, as well as the option of non-nicotine, to help heavy tobacco smokers ease off their habit of heavy nicotine use.

Various studies and medical journals, such as Dr. Farsalino’s blog and the ECLAT study, concluded that e-cigarettes not only contribute to the reduction/abstinence of nicotine, but also significantly help in the reduction of high blood pressure in those who smoke regularly. Additionally, Dr. Maciej Goniewicz, an assistant professor of oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, states in her Tobacco and Research Study published online in April of 2012 that e-cigarettes contain far less nicotine and toxins when compared to regular cigarettes. Furthermore, “Tests show the levels of dangerous chemicals they give off are a fraction of what one would get from a real cigarette”. Based on the short-term studies that have been conducted within the last decade, scientists believe “vaping” these nicotine oils opposed to inhaling the harsh tar and smoke produced from tobacco products is significantly safer and better for an individual’s lungs and overall health.

Although short-term studies have shown electronic cigarettes to be less harmful, and possibly the safest method to consume nicotine, they simply have not been on the market long enough for research groups and institutions to conduct longitudinal experiments. Another skepticism critics have about e-cigarettes is that they are promoted to the youth. The use of electronic cigarettes in children grades 6-12 has increased from 6%-20% over the last 3 years. Statistics like this and increased advertisements of e-cigarettes promoting how safe they are, along with customized flavoring options which are appealing to children, creates questions for many analysts. Medical experts ask if they are benefitting the smoking community or are they reversing the movement the government created when they invested countless dollars and years into studies and campaigns that tried to stop the use of harmful tobacco products altogether.

With the expansion of electronic cigarettes taking over the tobacco market’s share of regular cigarettes, many views and perspectives have been casted about this 21st century technology brought into the world of smoking. As for now, American institutes and scientists can only confirm that electronic cigarettes contain far less harmful chemicals than standard cigarettes, but that is not to say that they are completely safe. The only valid way to test all the effects of electronic cigarettes and the chemicals released from vaporizing is through more sophisticated research and long-term studies. That is something smokers look to the future for and rely on world-renowned scientists to explore.

Header photo by Vaping360 (flickr creative commons)

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