E-cigarettes

The rise in popularity of e-cigarettes has altered the landscape of nicotine use. Because e-cigarettes are still relatively new, the effects on long-term health are still unknown. Current research suggests that they might be a healthier alternative to combustible cigarettes, because they do not expose a user’s lungs to the toxins present in tobacco smoke. However, some people who would probably never smoke combustible cigarettes appear to be more likely to smoke e-cigarettes because these devices appear less harmful. Another reason why these low-risk individuals might begin smoking is related to the way the product is marketed. Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking action to more closely regulate e-cigarette marketing strategies that target youth through advertisements that mimic candy or sweets. Though e-cigarette vapor appears to be less harmful than tobacco smoke, nicotine is still addictive no matter the method of administration.

Public health researchers are determining how to best identify risks and assess potential positive applications in clinical settings with questions like: a) Should e-cigarettes be available only to smokers who want to quit combustible cigarettes? b) How should society respond to the rise in adolescent nicotine users? c) Should we more closely regulate the types of flavors available for these e-cigarette devices?