For individuals that have been in the electronic cigarette community for more than 6 months, it’s easy to forget that the market is still flush with false claims and scams. A number of trade organizations and self-regulatory groups have launched in the last year and the FDA claims it will be cracking down on inappropriate e-cig claims. Realistically, it may be another year or two before serious progress is made toward fighting the shady side of e-cigs.
The most harmful claims are that electronic cigarettes are completely harmless (see image). Research is showing that e-cigs are far less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Scientists claim that by removing smoke from the use of tobacco, 98% of the health problems associated with cigarettes are also removed. It’s even been said that, for the average smoker, converting to electronic cigarettes and never quitting may be less harmful than another 2 months of smoking.
So electronic cigarettes may well be as close to harmless as anything, but in the interest of transparency, it can’t be said that they are completely harmless.
The damage these claims do is two fold. Less harmful is the impact on individuals that believe the claim. Granted, that misinforms them and may trick them into ordering electronic cigarettes believing them to be totally harmless. But that’s hardly as bad as the claims and perceptions that may have gotten them hooked in the first place–and it’s still moving them to a less harmful product than conventional cigarettes.
Far more harmful is the impact on individuals that are more skeptical. A claim that electronic cigarettes are “harmless” to many skeptics looks immediately like a scam and harms the image of all electronic cigarettes. If this turns away individuals that could otherwise successfully make the transition to e-cigs, then the industry loses an advocate and the individual continues his or her smoking-related decline in health.
The longer the industry looks shady, the longer it will take to create the wide-spread product transitions that we believe electronic cigarettes can make happen. It’s also going to be harder to fight legislation against electronic cigarettes if the most visible ones look questionable. These claims don’t exist on websites hosted entirely outside the United States either. The image above comes from a site registered in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Regulation won’t keep claims like these from happening for some time. The biggest tool the electronic cigarette market has against scams and false claims is its community. The better informed its members are and the better informed they make their family and friends, the better.