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Are e-cigs (aka ‘vaping’) the wolf in sheep’s clothing?

You may have recently seen the rugged and handsome face of actor Stephen Dorff in the black and white commercial touting the life-changing e-cigarette or the beautiful Jenny McCarthy claiming it is a good alternative to smoking.

When I first saw/heard about these e-cigs and “vaping” I wondered what they were since I am not, and have never been, a cigarette smoker. Are they safer or are they really the wolf in sheep’s clothing?

After doing some research I was of the opinion that this e-cig is worlds better than cigarettes because there is no second-hand smoke and nothing for me to choke on when I walk by. Well, I also learned that not everyone has the same opinion. To my surprise, e-cigs are regulated or banned in several cities and most recently, L.A. is deciding whether to ban them from all public places like tobacco cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

An e-cig is not a cigarette at all. It is a small, battery-operated device that allows the user to inhale flavored vapor that may or may not contain nicotine. The action of inhaling the vapor simulates tobacco smoking but not all the devices look like a cigarette. The e-cig is also referred to as an electronic vaping device, a personal vaporizer, a digital vapor device or electronic nicotine delivery system. Put simply, the device heats up a liquid solution thus creating a vapor (that comes in many flavors) that is inhaled. The device does not emit “smoke” like a cigarette or cigar does, thus, no second-hand smoke for the non-smokers to endure.

We seem to have rules, regulations and laws for everything and I wondered if it is really necessary to ban these from public places just like cigarettes? At first I thought no because the vapor does not seem to harm anyone in the vicinity.

However, what I did not realize is that experts are divided on whether the vapors themselves contain dangerous chemicals that would harm the user and those around them. Not to mention that any delivery system containing nicotine can cause addiction. That is the argument being used in Minnesota and Los Angeles in the fight to ban e-cigs. Those against their use point out that there is not enough long-term research to adequately determine the safety of these and thus we should be proactive for once. I like the idea of being proactive yet its a fine line between that and being Big Brotherish.

On another interesting note, the tobacco industry appears to be upset that e-cigs are enjoying the freedoms that it once did and is quick to point out the dangers of these devices. One of the most credible arguments is that the e-cig companies are marketing towards kids and teens with the names of the flavors which could result in a new generation of customers addicted to nicotine. With flavor names of cola, milk chocolate, bubble gum, lemon blueberry cotton candy, it is easy to understand this argument. The tobacco industry players argue that, after all, if the big tobacco companies are not allowed to market to kids neither should e-cigs.

What I have come to learn is that this alternative to tobacco cigarettes might not be as safe as I originally thought and maybe it should be relegated to the same status of cigarettes. Even though it can help someone ditch the paper cigarette and the second-hand smoke, it could just continue the addiction.

I haven’t heard of this fight in Arizona as of yet, but rest assured, it will come our way so we should keep an eye on the arguments for and against. Most importantly, parents should talk to their children about these devices in the same breath as cigarettes and alcohol, just in case.

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