It’s not rocket science: smoking is bad for you. Let’s take thousands of chemicals, wrap them up with nicotine-rich tobacco, light the end on fire, suck the smoke down our lungs, and watch what happens!
Hello, lung cancer.
But people have vices, and everyone gets to choose their own favorites. I suppose people smoke for the same reasons they drink -- it’s calming, it takes the edge off, or it's just plain old habit. The difference with cigarettes is that many smokers would like to quit but don’t feel like they can.
Enter the electronic cigarette. These smokeless sticks have quickly risen in popularity over the last few years, even as anti-smoking laws in the United States have tightened considerably. Because they emit water vapor, not smoke, it’s legal to enjoy these things in places where smoking has been banned -- which is pretty much everywhere now.
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Several brands are available, including NJOY, SmokeAnywhere, Joye eGo, and Blu. They come in a variety of fruit flavors, and deliver a hit of nicotine to the user without the yucky smoke, ash, or smell of traditional cigarettes. It seems like a dream-come-true for people who want to quit but enjoy smoking too much to do it.
Except that anti-smoking advocates worry e-cigs will undo the decades of work they’ve accomplished in changing the perception of glamour once associated with smoking. One company in particular, Blu, is under fire for producing a TV ad for their product. Actor Stephen Dorff (The Immortals) walks along a beach, puffing away and explaining, "Blu lets me enjoy smoking without it affecting the people around me, because it's vapor not tobacco smoke ... We're all adults here. It's time we take our freedom back."
There is no concrete evidence that electronic cigarettes are safer than their smokey counterparts, or as effective as nicotine gum or patches in helping people quit. They are essentially unregulated in the United States. Cynthia Hallett, executive director of Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights, said about Blu’s ad: "It feels like what they're trying to do is re-establish a norm that smoking is okay, that smoking is glamorous and acceptable."
I say everyone gets to pick a vice, and as long as it's not bothering anyone else, they should get to enjoy it. It's water vapor. It's completely odorless. It's not sold to children. What's the big deal?
What do you think? Should electronic cigarettes be subject to the same public smoking laws as regular cigarettes?
Image via BluCigs/YouTube