An article run today in the Huffington Post — an online news aggregator — blasted electronic cigarettes as part of a piece on 12 Things The Tobacco Industry Would Like You Not To Know. In addition to a poorly written title, the article was little more than a run down of some hastily researched and slapped together stats on smoking, tobacco farming, and outdated information on electronic cigarettes.
The article treats tobacco farming, smoking, and electronic cigarettes as all synonymous under the header of the tobacco industry. Smoking presents a risk profile separate and distinct from other forms of tobacco use. In fact, 99% of the harm caused by cigarettes comes from the act of smoke inhalation and almost none comes from the tobacco. So tobacco farming can hardly be synonymous with smoking. Electronic cigarettes often use a pharmaceutical nicotine. Though this can be derived from tobacco (among other sources), it is so far removed that calling e-cigs tobacco products is like referring to caffeine-containing energy drinks as coffee.
The stuff about electronic cigarettes covers items 10, 11, and 12. Each item comes with its own issues.
Number 10 argues that companies are now pushing expensive and unregulated electronic cigarettes. A starter kit might cost upwards of $100. This is largely misleading. Starter kits can also be found for as little as $10 to $20 now. And even the most expensive electronic cigarettes set ups tends to cost the user far far less than smoking — which in many places is taxed quite heavily.
Number 11 argues that electronic cigarettes come in a variety of flavors that could appeal to children and teens. Again, this is somewhat correct. Electronic cigarettes do have the luxury of offering a variety of flavors. Although kids might find flavors enticing, studies are finding that kids interested in e-cigs are either already smoking or show a high likelihood to smoke. This is a weak argument anyway, because we allow flavored alcohols on the market despite arguments that they entice underage youth to drink.
Number 12 argues that the health effects are unknown and some organizations claim that they’re nothing more than a gateway to nicotine addiction. First, more is already known about the health effects of electronic cigarettes than conventional cigarettes because the ingredients of e-cigs are far fewer and simpler than those of cigarettes. Second, a gateway can be and more often is a good thing.
This is not the first time the Huffington Post has run outdated, short-sighted, or misleading information on electronic cigarettes. Let us not forget this poorly organized interview session.