A new growing craze among smokers are e-cigarettes, which are electronic cigarettes that emit water vapor instead of smoke and provide a small degree of nicotine.
According to AFP, a recent ad by NJOY e-cigarettes states: “You know what the most amazing thing about this cigarette is? It isn’t one. Cigarettes, you have met your match.”
NJOY is one of the many e-cigarettes entering the market as tobacco prices skyrocket and smokers become more concerned about their health.
“Without question, e-cigarettes are safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes,” said Joel Nitzkin, of the American Association of Public Health Physicians. “They deliver nicotine, with only the tiniest traces of other toxic chemicals.”
However, there are concerns that these battery-driven electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) may pose different health hazards that are not clear yet.
“The safety of ENDS has not been scientifically demonstrated,” said the World Health Organization. “The potential risks they pose for the health of users remain undetermined.”
The World Health Organization said some testing “suggests the presence of other toxic chemicals, aside from nicotine” and “strongly advised” consumers not to use them.
E-cigarettes first became available in China in 2003 as an alternative to tobacco.
Just like real cigarettes in the 1950s and 60s, e-cigarettes are advertised with attractive women and rugged men.
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine stated in January that 80 percent of people believed e-cigarettes were less harmful than their tobacco counterparts.
NJOY chief executive Craig Weiss told AFP that industry sales have doubled in the United States every year since 2008 and are expected to reach $1 billion in 2013.
“Growth in the category has occurred as a result of the millions of smokers who are actively seeking an alternative to cigarettes,” said Weiss.
However, the European Respiratory Society would not classify e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking and said that tobacco users “should not trade one carcinogenic product for another.”
Last month, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned an ad for an e-cigarette because “claims that the product was not harmful had not been substantiated."
Some researchers have expressed concerns that non-smokers may get hooked on nicotine through e-cigarette use, or that the e-cigarette would keep smokers addicted to nicotine.
Nicotine can be harmful to children, pregnant women and adults with heart disease.
“As a doctor, I cannot recommend the electronic cigarette,” lung specialist Bertrand Dautzenberg told AFP. “But I would not interfere with a smoker who wants to take it up. With a cigarette, there is a 50 percent chance of killing oneself. With the electronic cigarette, we aren’t too sure yet, but it is probably less."