PRINCETON — A fairly new item that is popping up in the news and is being marketed as a smoking cessation aid is the electronic cigarette.
The battery-powered device provides doses of nicotine and other additives in an aerosol tube. They are known as the cigarette that can be smoked indoors, as the substance exhaled is marketed as water vapor and has no odor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes promote successful long-term quitting.
At a recent Community Partners Against Substance Abuse (CPASA) meeting, several members from the coalition spoke out about the pros and cons of these devices, which are currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Issues with e-cigarettes
Specialist Eileen Lacy of the National Guard pointed out the issues with marketing the numerous flavors.
“If you go into an e-cigarette shop, they have so many flavors. I went into one near my house and saw 60 different flavors,” she said. “I asked the man at the counter which was the popular flavor, and he said people who generally purchase these who are smokers only get menthol and tobacco flavored. But they carry all the flavors and never sell them to anyone. The kids are going to buy the flavors.”
Another issue she has is that they’re not FDA regulated.
“The health departments are doing product studies, and the health risks they have determined is (inconsistent),” she said. “You have no idea what is in that liquid. It doesn’t matter what’s on the label.”
Lacy said studies conducted by health departments have found heavy metals and other substances in the liquids.
Deb Dalton of CPASA sees no difference between conventional and electronic cigarettes.
“You’re still inhaling into your lungs, which can be dangerous. You shouldn’t inhale anything,” she said.
Dalton explained she doesn’t want to start a campaign against e-cigarettes but would like to see a ban put on TV commercials.
“I think it just glorifies cigarette smoking when it shouldn’t,” she said.
And now that movie stars and TV personalities are being seen using them on TV, it has the potential to draw more people to the product.
It was also mentioned at the CPASA meeting that the tubes of e-cigarettes are being used to smoke liquid cannabis and other narcotics.
“They are doing it in public because it appears to look like the e-cigs, and we don’t know what people are smoking,” Lacy said.
From another perspective
Mark Horwitz, who is an addiction counselor, believes nicotine is an addictive substance that is going to be poisonous and addictive to people — and from that perspective, he doesn’t think e-cigarettes are a good thing.
However his wife smokes both conventional and electronic cigarettes.
“I’d prefer my wife to smoke the e-cigarettes over the conventional cigarettes because it doesn’t leave a horrible smell, however, I’d prefer is she doesn’t smoke at all,” he said.
The Rev. Mark Harkness, who is a part of the CPASA coalition, said people need to be careful and not overact on things like electronic cigarettes.
“We have to temper our response because if we go too far overboard, we could go against ourselves,” he said.
Looking at it from his point of view, if people overreact on a new product that has potential harm, sometimes it has a back-firing effect and prompts kids and adults to use the new product and shrug off the hysterical response to the item.
Is it too soon to tell?
Deb Wood, who is a part of the CPASA coalition, pointed out the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes will not be available for a long time.
“The data will be muddled, too,” she said. “We won’t be able to tell whether it’s the regular cigarette smoker who quit and went to e-cigarettes and 10 years down the road developed cancer. They will question whether it’s the conventional cigarette or e-cigarettes that caused the cancer.”
CPASA Director Dawn Conerton said as more information comes out, CPASA will know where it’s involvement needs to be.
“Right now it’s so new that we don’t know what direction we need to go,” she said. “We will pay attention and make sure they don’t harm our kids and adults.”
It was mentioned that in the next couple months, CPASA members could come back with a comprehensive report on the pros and cons of the devices and narrow down whether it’s better or not to smoke electronic cigarettes over conventional cigarettes, and talk more about how electronic cigarettes give people another way to smoke narcotics in public.
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