The chances are, especially if you are a smoker that you will have heard of the electronic cigarette (or e cigarette) by now. However, as the popularity of the product undoubtedly increases, there still remains much confusion as to what this electronic device is and does.
The questions considered in the title, officially at least, remain largely unanswered, but we can have a look at some of the things that are known about e cigarettes and the industry that surrounds them.
The electronic cigarette has been in existence since around 2003, although it wasn’t until about 2008 that these things really started garnering some significant mainstream attention. During the next couple of years the e cig really took off, with more and more online distributors of the product appearing.
Despite its rapid rise in popularity, the electric cigarette has had far from an easy or comfortable ride, with many obstacles still to face in the future. A whole host of legal conflicts have been fought, some won, and some lost as the battle for a determining product status has ensued. What is the electronic cigarette? How can it be classified? How can it be marketed? Is it safe? Again, many of the answers to these questions remain in limbo.
Initially, many distributors were marketing the e cig as a method to quit smoking and a healthier and safer method of smoking than tobacco cigarettes. There is no ‘ignition’ with an electronic cigarette and therefore no burning and no smoke. Additionally most e cigarettes don’t contain any actual tobacco, so it is easy to see how these “safer smoking” claims originated. A smokeless, tobacco free cigarette!
Health authorities and local and national governments stepped in and disputed the claims and protested that as yet, the product had not been through enough testing to substantiate any of them, and they had a point. After all, the e cigarette still contained (in most cases) nicotine (in liquid form), which is of course highly addictive and in its raw form, actually poisonous. This was never going to be a smooth ride for distributors.
So, where does this leave the whole debate now? Do smokers have a genuine alternative to tobacco smoking on the market and is there a future for e cigarettes?
Well, in December of 2010, the Hollywood movie, “The Tourist” saw Johnny Depp sitting, opposite Angelina Jolie, on a “no smoking” train “vaping” away on an electronic cigarette. Earlier in the year, actress Katherine Heigl and David Letterman shared a well publicised e cig moment on the Late Show. Despite the many legal hurdles that still need to be negotiated, it seems the people that this could mean the most to, smokers, are making their own decisions.
I have spoken to many people and read many other stories of smokers who have turned to the electronic cigarette as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes and who believe that it has made huge differences and improvements in their lives. Some haven’t touched another traditional cigarette since they made the switch. Many e cig users also claim that this alternative smoking method is actually significantly cheaper (in the long term) than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
My dad died from a passive smoking related lung cancer, and I wonder if e cigarettes had been around and accepted 30 or 40 years ago, might it have made a difference for him? None of that dirty old, second hand smoke to breathe in. One wonders and only time will provide these answers, provided the e cig is actually given that time.
While we wait for official word on the future of electronic cigarettes, people are making their own decisions. With Hollywood also seeming to embrace the product, is it just a matter of time before e cigarettes replace the old ‘analog’ cigarettes and change the future of the tobacco industry and of smoking forever?