There’s no denying the fact that electronic cigarettes are popular in today’s market. The device has especially gained favor among tobacco smokers, for providing them with a healthier alternative that is just as pleasurable and fun. Since the introduction of electronic cigarettes merely 5 to 6 years ago, the industry has enjoyed unprecedented success. But not everyone is happy about the product. Those from the industry say that their competitors – manufacturers of nicotine replacement therapies – are out to discredit e-cigarettes and prove them unsafe. The FDA isn’t all too happy either, especially since they found trace amounts of toxins and carcinogens in e-cig liquid. With all the ambiguity surrounding e-cigarettes, there is one question that many want answers for – are they here to stay?
The answer to that perhaps lies within these contradicting opinions. Those who are against e-cigarettes, argue that since there is no standard method for regulating the manufacturing process, quality may be compromised. It is true that almost 99% of e-cigs and related components are manufactured in China today, and marketed all over the world. Electronic cigarette companies assure us that quality is closely monitored, but there is no guarantee that what is on the label is exactly what you are getting inside the liquid nicotine cartridges. Even though smokers say that e-cigs have helped them quit tobacco, nicotine is an addictive substance in itself, a fact that is not lost on industry critics. What is the point of quitting smoking, they say, only to move on to another device that creates a life-long nicotine addiction? Since long-term research material is not available yet, there is not telling how people would respond to vaping for a long period of time, say 10 years. There is also no way of knowing if people would slowly be able to kick the nicotine habit completely, with the help of e-cigarettes.
On the up side, there are people who believe in the benefits of electronic cigarettes. Dr. Michael Siegel, associate chairman of community health sciences at the Boston University of Public Health is one of them. He believes e-cigs do have an important role to play in helping people quit smoking, and that “Taking them off the market would be a disaster because essentially all these smokers would be forced to go back to cigarette smoking.” E-cigarettes look and feel just like tobacco ones, and are used in pretty much the same way too. This appeals to smokers, because they are addicted to not just nicotine, but the act of smoking itself. Siegel also informs us that e-cigarettes aren’t a threat to people who don’t have the habit of smoking. “Very few never-smokers are using these products, so all the concerns that kids and non smokers are going to use them seem unfounded,” he says.
All said and done, the electronic cigarette industry is currently booming, with an annual growth rate of 50%. In 2011, the industry was said to be worth $8 to $16 million. Several hundreds of thousands are expected to start using e-cigarettes by the end of the year. The Electronic Cigarette Consumer Association tells us that growth can be expected to increase in the next couple of years, and slow down gradually by 2014. What might just save the e-cigarette industry from government and FDA policies, however, is that they begin to self-regulate.