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Examining The Effects Of E-Cigarettes

Story By: Larry Stine

 

 

 
 
 
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  Original Published: 12/26/2013

E-Cigarettes, their popularity is growing, but are they really harmful? Poppy Harlow takes a look. Remeber these long banned cigarette commercials? "What cigarette do you smoke doctor?" "Let's take a Winston break." They're back on the airwaves, kind of. "You know what the most amazing thing about this cigarette is, it isnt't one." "I can whip out my Blu and know that I won't scare that special someone away." They're Electronic-Cigarettes, and they've become nearly as controversial as the real thing. "This is how I ended up quitting smoking. No question about it. Absolutely, yeah." Aaron David Ross smoked for 10 years. We met him at Henley's, a New York City "vapor lounge." "I haven't had a drag of a cigarette since then, that was about 2-and-a-half years ago," he says. Here's how they work. Liquid nicotine is heated up by a battery-charged coil. There's no tobacco burned. Users inhale and instead of smoke, there's a steam-like vapor. So are E-Cigarettes safe and perhaps the greatest innovation yet to kick smoking, or an addictive health hazard? "With a product like E-Cigarettes, you are guilty until proven innocent," says Dr. Tom Frieden, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director. "We need to know that these things are safe and OK to use." They've been in the U.S. less than a decade, and increasingly big tobacco companies are manufacturing them. Limited research has been done on the health impact. And there are conflicting studies on whather or not nicotine alone is harmful. "I would like the science to catch up with what we're doing here," says Indrani Nicodemus, an E-Cigarette user. "But you're still willing to do it," asked CNN's Poppy Harlow. "I am willing to do it because I think the alternative is to just smoking all day," says Nicodemus. "I think this is a better alternative." "What we gain is far greater than what we have the potential to lose," says Professor Amy Fairchild of Columbia University's School of Public Health. Fairchild co-authored this op-ed in the New York Times, making the case for E-Cigarettes. "A lot of folks say there's just not enough science," said Harlow. "Well you can also make the case that there's never gonna be enough science, that there always gonaa be room for another study," says Fairchild. "And what I would say to them is the need is so great now, you have so many tobacco deaths now that this is an important moment in which we have enough evidence to move forward in a qualified way. It's the dire urgent public health need. This is one of the most important public health problems we face." But she argues E-Cogareets must be federally regulated and not marketed to kids. "I wish you could smell it in here because of course, it doesn't smell like smoke," says Harlow. "It actually smells like candy. And that's no surprise given all the flaovors that they sell. But critics argue when you sell flavors like cotton candy or gummi bears that can attract children." Some states have age requirements on sales, but not all CDC data shows nearly 2-million middle and high school students tried E-Cigarettes last year, more than double the number in 2011. "E-Cigarettes can potentially help some people, but they have got serious potential harms that we know about," says Dr. Frieden. "If they get kids to start smoking that's really bad. If they get smokers who would have quit to keep smoking, that's really bad. If they get former smokers to go back to smoking, that's really bad. And if they re-glamorize the act of smoking that's bad as well." "The other side of that equation is that it also could be a gateway to not smoking," says Fairchuld. But E-Cigarettes are not regulated by any federal body, and they're not an FDA-approved method to quit smoking. Critics point out they can keep users hooked on nicotine. Ross says he's still addicted to nicotine and uses E-Cigarettes at his desk. "For me, I wouldn't want to be sitting next to this, Harlow told Ross. "Why?" he asked. "I mean, it smells good but it's a little disconcerting," Harlow said. "It's disconcerting because there's a public stigma against it," answered Ross. He and others worry, now that many in America are so opposed to smoking, they're stigmatizing something some say could save lives. "You get angry when peole try to fight this?" asked Harlow. "'Cause it worked for us," says Talia Eisenberg, co-owner of the Henley Vaporium. "We saved our lives with this product." "I wouldn't be so angry if people took the time to get educated," says Peter Denholtz, co-owner of the Henley Vaporium. "They are not. They are reacting." So after decades of fighting big tobacco, what does the American Cancer Society think? "Cautious optimism with a number of caveats," says Thomas Glynn, Director of Science and Trends for the American Cancer Society. "Anyone who is using an E-Ciagarette now does not know that they are smoking." But there's this. "What we don't want to do is take something out of the hands of people whcih could, in fact, stop people from using the traditional burn cigarette which is the enemy," says Glynn. The Food and Drug Adminstration is expected to annouce a proposed rule to regulate E-Cigarettes as early as this month. But until then... "It's time we take our freedom back. Come on, guys. Rise from the ashes." A Wells Fargo tobacco industry analyst estimates the market for E-Cigarettes in the United States will hit $1.8-billion this year. And, she believes consumption of E-Cigarettes could surpass that of traditional cigarettes within the next decade.

   
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