Gone are the days when smoking cigarettes was universally viewed as a sign of strength, sexiness or sophistication. The tobacco industry’s effective—and deceitful—advertising campaign rolled out over the last century finally came under fire as more and more studies revealed the dangers and addictiveness of smoking . Instead of being taught to emulate Clint Eastwood and Marlon Brando, children were suddenly inundated with anti-tobacco propaganda in their schools and during their favorite television shows. Gradually, we became a culture that viewed cigarette smoking as an undesirable habit and banned those who chose to light up from our restaurants and office buildings. Consumers who desired to quit smoking sparked the marketing of a firestorm of new products to help people kick the habit once and for all.
The newest trend in smoking alternatives is a battery operated electronic cigarette – often referred to as a personal vaporizer or an “e-cig”. An electronic cigarette works by burning nicotine, which is then vaporized and inhaled. It is important to remember, however, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not fully studied or approved these devices, so their health risks remain unclear. Even worse, stories have recently been making headlines about electronic cigarettes exploding and causing severe burns to people’s faces and fires in their homes. In the last three years, over two dozen complaints have been submitted to the FDA regarding injuries from exploding devices. The people injured describe the sound of the blast as being similar to gunfire or an M-80 firework.
Although the FDA has held a variety of public health workshops discussing and examining the dangers of electronic cigarettes, no official regulations have been imposed – leaving consumers with more questions than answers about the potential safety risks. These products, however, are on the FDA’s radar and the regulation of these tobacco alternatives is on the horizon. Just this month, electronic cigarettes and similar devices were banned from checked luggage and airplanes. Until more regulations are imposed, consumers should be cognizant of the dangers of electronic cigarettes and decide for themselves of whether “vaping” is worth the risk.