By Ariana Dispalatro,
The first electronic cigarette was produced in 1963 by the Herbert Gilbert. Gilbert’s patent described a device which was “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” and involved “replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air.” However, the device disappeared from public records by 1967 without ever being commercialized.
Widely regarded with bringing the current e-cigarette to market is Han Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, in 2003. Lik’s employer produced these devices and they were a huge success in the Chinese market.
It wasn’t until 2007 that e-cigarettes came to the United States. Even then, they were still fairly uncommon for a few years. Now, they are gaining much more popularity and have faced many issues.
E-cigarettes are claimed to be safe since they often do not contain carcinogens that are known to cause cancer and do not produce smoke which is harmful to others. However, these devices are still just over a decade old and the tests and studies that have been done have been only over short periods of time.
Someone does not die a year after smoking a cigarette, it is unreasonable to assume that the safety of e-cigarettes can be accurately measured yet.
The use of tobacco is not new, it can be traced back to the 1500s. In the United States, cigarettes did not gain popularity until after the Civil War. It was nearly 100 years later that the Surgeon General first issued warnings about the health issues associated with smoking.
If it took almost 100 years to begin to issue warnings about cigarettes, how is it possible to conclude that e-cigarettes are “safe” with less than ten years of studies?
Surely, they do prove safer that cigarettes in the short run, but it will take much longer to determine if they are truly safe. Since they are not FDA regulated because they do not contain tobacco, there are worries about how truthful manufacturers are regarding the chemicals in the e-cigarettes. Additionally, they come in different flavors which may make people think it is okay to smoke more since it isn’t a real cigarette.
Ultimately, e-cigarettes may prove to be a safe alternative after thorough tests and studies, but people must remember that e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and can be an extremely addictive and expensive habit.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Jan. 28 print edition.
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