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E-Cigarette Safety Concerns Rise Along With Popularity

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With E-Cigarettes becoming increasingly more popular in the United States, there is also growing concern over their safety and whether manufacturers are replacing one health hazard with another. 

E-cigarettes are marketed as a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes, offering a nicotine fix without the harmful cancer causing effects associated with smoking.

Amid increasing advertising and use of e-cigarettes, many critics have expressed concerns about the products. In addition to promoting e-cigs as a safe alternative to smoking, many advertisements allege that e-cigrettes help smokers cut back on traditional cigarettes and may even help them quit smoking altogether. However, some critics fear that e-cigarettes may actually draw smokers deeper into an already risky habit or expose them to other health risks.

Currently e-cigs are legal in the United States, but there are very few studies that have been conducted on the safety of the electronic battery operated product.

E-cigarettes are often referred to as “vaping.” Consumers inhale vapor that is produced after a nicotine liquid is heated. E-cigarettes offer different levels of nicotine, with some are marketed as containting no nicotine at all. They are sold in a wide array of flavors including grape, gummy bear and orange cream soda, making them popular and highly desirable to teens.

Proponents of e-cigs say the products offer smokers a way to cut back on nicotine and chemical laden conventional cigarettes. They may also offer smokers a means to quit smoking tobacco products all together.

Critics have suggested that the doses of nicotine in the e-cigarettes may be much higher than traditional cigarettes, but that it is difficult to tell since they are not currently regulated.

A 2009 FDA analysis of e-cigs found many contain toxic chemicals, including diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze. The study also found nitrosamines, chemicals which are known to cause cancer and are found in regular cigarettes.

Other independent studies of e-cigs have identified high levels of other carcinogenic compounds, including formaldehyde, metals, silicates and levels of acrolein, which were much higher than in conventional cigarettes.

E-Cig Marketing Concerns

Sales for e-cigarettes are projected to top $1.7 billion this year and to reach nearly $10 billion within 5 years. These numbers indicate e-cigs may quickly surpass the tobacco business by 2047.

Critics are especially concerned about the aggressive advertising done by e-cig manufacturers, which seem to be borrowing the tactics of tobacco marketing from the mid 1900s. The marketing tactics of big tobacco made advertisements accessible and appealing to everyone, including children. It seems e-cigarette campaigns are following suit.

Manufacturers are increasing their advertising budgets exponentially and continue to add television commercials and celebrity sponsorships to their repertoire. By enlisting glamorous celebrities and sports stars, the e-cig business is employing advertising tactics that the tobacco industry is no longer allowed to use for conventional cigarettes.

Money spent on e-cigarette advertising has increased tremendously over the last few years. Only $2.7 million was spent in 2010, a number which spiked to more than $20 million last year. Advertising for e-cigarettes already exceeds advertising dollars spent on tobacco cigarettes. Blu eCigs, owned by tobacco giant Lorrillard, spent $12.4 million on ads during the first quarter of this year alone, compared to $990,000 for the same period last year.

Companies continue to market the products as the way of the future and a high-tech option to tobacco cigarettes. Ad campaigns that focus on alliterative slogans such as “rewrite the rules” or “a perfect puff every time,” are similar to the classic ads used decades ago by the tobacco industry. Those marketing campaigns included slogans such as “light up a lucky.” The ads are aimed to persuade consumers that smoking e-cigarettes is harmless.

Manufacturers are enticing consumers with promises of a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes without the side effects. E-cigarettes are allowed in many more places that do not allow regular smoking, and companies advertise an added dose of glamour.

The FDA promised to regulate e-cigs like tobacco products and began by issuing warning letters to five e-cigarette makers in 2010. The FDA warned manufacturers that marketing claims that suggest the devices help people quit smoking are unfounded an illegal. As a result, the FDA’s jurisdiction was challenged in court by manufacturers.

To that end, the FDA has yet to take further steps to regulate the controversial product. Regulating e-Cigs as a tobacco product and not a quitting tool, may allow more companies to market the e-cigs at higher doses of nicotine. In essence, hooking more people instead of offering quitters an alternative.

Critics are worried the aggressive marketing campaigns of e-cigarette companies will undo the decades of work to deglamorize cancer causing tobacco smoking and increase nicotine addiction in the U.S.

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