With e cigarette safety the hottest of hot topics these days, the American Psychological Association (APA) wonders if e-cigarettes can be a game changer.
Tobacco effects are obviously well documented with all the research data we have from the long history of people smoking. E-cigs and their key component, liquid nicotine, have a much shorter history of course. But what have we learned so far and is the issue of e cigarette safety one that holds back the influence these devices can have on society and public health? The cover story in the March edition of Monitor on Psychology, the APA’s monthly publication, explored what knowledge they did have on e cigarette safety and tried to graph how e-cigarettes can make a big influence from a public health perspective.
The biggest factor for most of the experts quoted in the article was just how different it was to ingest liquid nicotine when compared to getting nicotine the old fashioned way, through cigarettes. The tobacco effects people experience are very different than the effects of liquid nicotine in an e-cigarette “largely because they don’t deliver toxic elements like tars and carbon monoxide through burning.” Obviously this (along with the lack of smell, lower costs involved, etc.) is a big reason why so many people see e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to traditional cigarette smoking.
Jean-François Etter, PhD, a public health professor and tobacco researcher at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, goes on to explain that “E-cigarettes provide nicotine, and they also provide flavor, the gesture, the throat hit that smokers want, and the visible vapor — all of these things together explain why the product is so successful.”
Dr. Etter hits on many of the points we’ve been making here at ECCR, especially in this blog we did on the psychological effects of smoking. For those reasons and more, we see liquid nicotine and the electronic cigarette as an incredible breakthrough in reducing tobacco effects worldwide, both from first-hand smoke and second-hand smoke. To tell you the truth, sometimes most of us here don’t even understand how there could be such a vocal movement against the e-cigarette.
Then again, as the old adage goes, follow the money… but lets stay on topic, shall we?
Not everyone in the APA cover story was so enthusiastic about the life-changing possibilities of e cigarettes. Tim McAfee, MD, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, was especially concerned about e-cigarette advertising. “If you watch someone using an e-cigarette in some ads and you didn’t know they were using an e-cigarette, you’d think they were smoking,” said McAfee. “We’re worried that this kind of imagery may help break down barriers for adolescents.” This is an argument we have been hearing a lot lately; especially since e-cigarette commercials are starting to appear on television.
We even wrote about this specific point not long ago after advertising guru Rory Sutherland penned his own article objecting to the criticism. Sutherland takes the more liberal approach to how e-cigarettes should be advertised. Like Rory, we think that this is a product more smokers need to know about and they should be marketed as such, within reason of course.
Putting all of that aside, everyone knows what is really going to make a difference for the industry going forward is e cigarette safety.
The author of the APA article hits this point early and often, noting the concerns about “lack of regulation, since there are no specific quality control standards on e-cigarettes.” We couldn’t agree more that there need to be standards for the hundreds of companies selling liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes.
It is important that as we discuss e cigarette safety, we don’t lose sight of the marked improvements the industry has made and, at the same time, that we don’t clamp down on the type of growth that will lead to a more perfected electronic cigarette.
The fact is that these devices are revolutionary. As psychologist David Abrams, PhD, of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies puts it; “It’s the first time in 100 years that we’ve had a real harm-reduction alternative.” This is an industry that should be nurtured to its potential and one that could make a remarkable impact on millions. Lets all keep that in mind as we continue to track all the new studies and reports that are coming our way fast and furious. Check out the ECCR news section for the latest.