E-Cigarettes: Controversy Surrounds Smoking Alternative
A debate is raging over whether electronic cigarettes, the latest alternative to smoking, are a healthy alternative to cigarettes - or even whether they are healthy at all.
Supporters of tobacco harm reduction like Paul Bergen argue that electronic cigarettes remove much of the danger of smoking, and are a viable alternative to cigarettes even after the possibility of a toxic ingredient slipping into the device due to shoddy manufacturing in China.
However, public health campaigners are also rallying their forces against the new device.
"I understand why people use the nicotine replacement aids," said Serena Chen, regional tobacco policy director of the American Lung Association in California, quoted in Santa Cruz Sentinel. "But I don't understand why people want to pretend that they're smoking ... if you had a serial killer who liked to stab people, would you give him a rubber knife?"
Questions have also been brought up regarding the safety of the electronic cigarette.
“Nicotine is not the thing in tobacco smoke that causes cancer, but inhaling pure nicotine may be dangerous," said Dr. Steven Schroeder, physician and smoking cessation expert at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center. "We have no clue what the health effects could be."
Not so, says Dr Laugesen of Health New Zealand, one of the few who have carried out actual research into the electronic cigarette. When we contacted him he claimed that the electronic cigarette actually carries less nicotine per puff than a normal cigarette. In any clase, the Doctor explained, inhaling pure nicotine is nothing new.
"The Nicorette inhaler gives pure nicotine and that is sold as a medicine. It has been sold safely in this way for at least 10 years. It is sold in cartridges of 2 ml each, each containing 10 mg nicotine. No deaths have been reported from Nicorette inhalers. Millions reported from smoking tobacco."
The debate rages on. Ultimately, though, it seems likely that in many countries the device will be banned - as it already has been in New Zealand, Hong Kong and Australia. And when it does, many smokers will return to a habit that we know for sure will kill one in two of them.