Tuesday, September 08, 2009

American Lung Association Asserts that E-Cigarettes are Designed to Promote Cigarette Smoking; Can Anti-Smoking Groups' Reasoning Get Any More Absurd?

As quoted in an article in the Orange County Register, the American Lung Association now asserts that electronic cigarettes are designed as a ploy to encourage people to smoke regular cigarettes.

According to the article: "Dr. Ira Jeffry Strumpf, a pulmonologist who teaches at UCLA and is a spokesman for the American Lung Association, said e-cigarettes have not been independently proven as a safe alternative to tobacco. 'The vapor that you inhale is not without risk,' Strumpf says. 'It's not pure nicotine. It has with it some contaminants. When the FDA looked at 19 of these cartridges, they found half the samples contain impurities that are known to be toxic to humans. At least one cartridge contained diethylene glycol, one of the toxic compounds of antifreeze.' Strumpf said he's concerned that e-cigarettes are marketed to people who want to quit smoking but also to those who have never smoked before. 'The fact they present them in the shape of a cigarette, they're trying to capitalize on the social aspect of smoking and trying to promote the social appeal of smoking.'"

The Rest of the Story

The arguments that electronic cigarette companies want nonsmoking young people to start smoking and want to increase the social appeal of smoking are absurd. If that were to happen, there is no doubt that these products will be taken off the market with haste. The last thing in the world that e-cigarette companies want is for young people to start using their products. They are not trying to increase the social appeal of smoking. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Electronic cigarette companies make their money by encouraging smokers to quit. Anything that decreases the appeal of smoking is going to increase the demand for e-cigarettes.

What anti-smoking groups - including the American Lung Association - do not understand is that the market for e-cigarettes is current smokers, not nonsmokers. The people using these devices are smokers and former smokers who are either trying to quit smoking, trying to cut down on the amount they smoke, or simply looking for an alternative to regular cigarettes that may be safer and less expensive.

It is in the e-cigarette industry's best interest to de-glamorize smoking as much as possible in order to encourage as many smokers as possible to quit.

What the anti-smoking groups are apparently confused about is the purpose of the cigarette-like design. The reason that the e-cigarette is designed to look like a cigarette is not to try to increase the social appeal of smoking, but to enhance the device's ability to allow successful smoking cessation. The e-cigarette inventor understands what few anti-smoking groups do: that cigarette smoking is far more than simply a pharmacologic addiction to nicotine.

People smoke not only because they are pharmacologically addicted to nicotine, but because they enjoy every aspect of the smoking behavior. Holding the cigarette, bringing it to the mouth, inhaling, and seeing the exhaled smoke are all critical behavioral aspects of the smoking addiction.

The fact that e-cigarettes are designed to operate like cigarettes is not a design flaw. In fact, it is the precise reason why these devices appear to be so effective in smoking cessation. Unlike traditional nicotine replacement or other pharmaceutical products, they address both the pharmacologic and the behavioral aspects of addiction to cigarettes. The brilliance of this invention, then, is precisely because these devices simulate cigarette smoking. Take away the simulation of smoking and you take away the efficacy of the innovation.

In other words, the American Lung Association has it exactly wrong. E-cigarettes are presented in the shape of cigarettes not because they are trying to increase the social appeal of smoking, but because they are trying to enhance smoking cessation.

The ALA and other groups seem most troubled not by the public health implications of the e-cigarette, but by the fact that the people using these devices are going through the motions of what appears to be "smoking." Apparently, it really isn't the health dangers of smoking that is the primary concern for these groups. It appears that the primary concern is simply the "act" of smoking or anything that resembles it, regardless of its relative safety.

The rest of the story is that through their misleading, inaccurate, and absurd publicity about e-cigarettes, these anti-smoking groups are actually harming the health of the public, not protecting the public's health.

Nothing in the world will enhance the appeal of smoking than to remove electronic cigarettes from the market. Such an intervention will create hundreds of thousands (if not over a million) new cigarette smokers over night. That the American Lung Association is apparently working towards such a result is disturbing.

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