An overview of the debate on dangers of electronic cigarettes in the news

There has been a raging debate in the news over the dangers of electronic cigarettes. The debate was recently fueled by the Italian Health Ministry’s warning that electronic cigarettes were “less toxic,” but not “totally innocuous.”

ABC News reported the response of an association of electronic cigarette makers who said the electronic device that delivers nicotine through a vapour instead of smoke was intended to help people who are already smokers.

The electronic cigarettes opposition team

It is reported about 650,000 people use electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as one of the ways to beat cigarettes addition. Mrs Roberta Pacifici, the director of Italy Observatory on Smoking, Alcohol and Drug Use at the National Health Institute made clear that she was not convinced e-cigarettes were entirely safe. Speaking to the Italian news agency ANSA, she cautioned:

“We have to have a prudent approach towards this product as we know little about its worth in stopping people smoking or how toxic it is.”

Speaking on a different platform about formulation of laws to govern the use and sales of e-cigarettes, Mrs Pacifici told the Italian La Repubblica daily paper:

“Should its [electronic cigarettes] efficacy as a means to curb smoking be proven, it should still be treated like all the other substitutive nicotine products like nicotine gum and band aids...as a medical device.”

Her thoughts are supported by a coalition of anti-smoking groups and government bodies across the world, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as expressed on the FDA official website at fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm172906.htm. These anti-smoking groups lead the campaign that highlights the dangers of electronic cigarettes in the news.

The e-cigarettes proposition team

On the other hand of the debate, proponents of e-cigarettes wonder why the FDA and other antismoking groups seem so concerned with e-cigarette dangers while they leave the dangers of tobacco cigarettes smoking alone. Writing in Harm Reduction Journal, Dr. Rodu, an expert on the topic, addressed the public warning by FDA that electronic cigarettes contain harmful chemicals.

He is quoted saying that the FDA results showing the presence of chemicals in e-cigarettes “are highly unlikely to have any possible significance to users” because the potentially harmful chemicals are at “about one million times lower concentrations than are conceivably related to human health.”

Dr. Rodu’s views are supported by Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Michael Siegel says:

“It boggles my mind why there is a bias against e-cigarettes among antismoking groups.”

According to Dr. Michael Siegel, it makes no sense to fuss about hypothetical risks simply because there are minuscule levels of several chemicals in electronic cigarettes when the alternative is more deadly. Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals hundreds of which are toxins and dozens are carcinogens. To him cigarette smoking is far more deadly than using electronic cigarettes.

The convergence point on the e-cigarettes debate

While both sides of debate differ on important aspects of the use of e-cigarettes, they both agree that e-cigarettes should be subjected to tighter regulation and more studies need to be carried out to ascertain the real extent of the dangers of using electronic cigarettes. Significantly, both parties agree that strict e-cigarettes quality-control measures should be maintained and a ban on sales to minors enforced.

However, the American Council on Science and Health and the American Association of Public Health Physicians see no reason to prevent adults from purchasing and using electronic cigarettes, considering the significant harm-reducing effect of e-cigarettes.

In Britain, the Royal College of Physicians has denounced the warning on dangers of electronic cigarettes in the news as “irrational and immoral.” It says the regulations are aimed at seeking to inhibit the introduction of safer nicotine-delivery devices.

It is important to appreciate the concerns raised by both parties before you take any side in the debate. This will help you make an informed decision on which side of the debate you fall.

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