OPINION: Is an e-cigarette really the same?

Photo by: Matt Corkill E-cigarettes have been proven to be a much healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Photo by: Matt Corkill
E-cigarettes have been proven to be a much healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.

No, it is the opinion of this journalist that e-cigarettes are not the same as traditional cigarettes and should not be treated as such in the upcoming vote on a potential campus-wide smoking ban this week at Saddleback and IVC by the South Orange County Community College Board of Trustee’s.

I feel that it is important to try help determine if an e-cig is really the same thing as the traditional cigarette. As a society we have become much more health conscious than in the 1950s where smoking was the “in thing” and anyone who was anyone seemed to have a cigarette in his or her hand.

I personally own an e-cig and prefer to smoke traditional cigarettes. As a smoker I understand the stigma attached to my habit and my addiction. I understand why the SOCCCD board of trustees want to protect the health of the students who have chosen to not smoke. Smoking is dangerous and is the leading cause of lung cancer and heart disease in America. People that don’t smoke, even some that do, look at smokers with disgust when out in the public. The smell is simply awful, the second hand smoke is hazardous to those around me, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and for the reasons that drive the profits of the tobacco industry I just can’t seem to get enough. Smoking causes litter to form on campus due to some inconsiderate smokers. The worst part is that smokers are paying to kill themselves, slowly.

According to the CDC, “Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic. About 70 can cause cancer.” Clearly I understand why non-smokers wouldn’t want to have to walk through someone’s cancerous smoke. This is why smoking has been banned in bars, restaurants, and most other public places that could cause harm to others. Then came a new option, e-cigarettes. “E-cigs” were introduced onto the market in 2007 as a nicotine alternative that produces only vapor instead of second hand smoke and have grown tremendously in popularity since. When the original e-cigs were first introduced they didn’t really catch on with smokers, but began to form a following.

In September of 2013, Forbes.com reported that “revenue from e-cigarettes is expected to double this year to over $1 billion and up to $1.7 billion by some estimates, the makers of these plastic addiction sticks are gradually burning away at the $80 billion sales of tobacco, with e-cigarette sales predicted to pass traditional cigarette sales by 2047, according to Bloomberg Industries.” These numbers have certainly gained the attention of Big Tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International who are planning on launching their own e-cig devices this year. Though, with growing popularity has come scrutiny.

Up until the past year “vapers” have been able to enjoy their nicotine alternatives in a majority of places that have banned smoking indoors and out such as a plane or on a beach. In this past year however there has been growing concern over the risks of “vaping” for the public. On March 4, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted 14-0 to outlaw “vaping” in most public and work places.

According to LA Times reporter David he debate saw lawmakers share their own experiences with tobacco and the hazards that come with it.”

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who pushed for the new restrictions, spoke of his unhappiness at breathing secondhand smoke during his days as a waiter in the early 1990s.” (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-los-angeles-ecigarettes-ban-20140304,0,4359853.story#ixzz2vXRMHgj5) This is what irritates me because all the evidence that IS available about e-cigs shows that it is much safer than traditional mainstream and secondhand smoke for not only the user, but also for those around them as well. An independent study funded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland and the National Institutes of Health stated that “levels of selected toxic compounds found in the smoke from a conventional cigarette were 9-450-fold higher than levels in the vapour of an e-cigarette and that our findings are consistent with the idea that substituting tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes may substantially reduce exposure to selected tobacco-specific toxicants. E-cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy among smokers unwilling to quit, warrants further study.” They also concluded that “the results of this study support the proposition that the vapour from e-cigarettes is less injurious than the smoke from cigarettes. Thus one would expect that if a person switched from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes the exposure to toxic chemicals and related adverse health effects would be reduced.”(http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2013/03/new-study-of-electronic-cigarette-vapor.html)

Though I agree that proper research should be conducted to find all of the risks and/or benefits of vaping, I cannot stand by punishing those who have chosen to take an alternative, cleaner and healthier path to their addictions without the evidence to support the new policies. E-cigarettes should only be smoked outdoors on campus as a courtesy to others.