Head to Head: Should E-Cigarettes be treated the same as traditional cigarettes?

John Ferrannini: YES


The use of electronic cigarettes has been growing exponentially in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.

This increase has raised questions over whether e-cigarettes should be treated similar to or differently from tobacco cigarettes.

While my opponent is correct in saying that there is no conclusive evidence as to whether or not e-cigarettes harm bystanders, it must be taken into account that this is because e-cigarette technology is new to widespread use.

After all, there was a time before it was proven that tobacco cigarettes causes lung cancer and that second-hand smoke was harmful to others.

E-cigarette vapor does contain chemicals known to be harmful to health. According to Forbes, E-cigarette fluid tested in the United Kingdom was found to contain diacetyl, which can cause a condition called popcorn lung. Popcorn lung scars the lung and can sometimes warrant a lung transfusion.

According to Dr. Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, several carcinogens, or cancer-causing chemicals, have been found in e-cigarette vapor.

Because of these health risks, the World Health Organization is recommending that e-cigarettes be banned in public places and not be allowed to be sold to minors.

E-cigarettes may be a useful tool to help tobacco cigarette smokers quit, and current evidence suggests they are not as harmful as a tobacco cigarette.

Saying that individuals should be exposed against their will to vapors that definitely contain harmful chemicals, though, is just discourteous and may one day turn out to be dangerous.

Dana Reeve, the wife of Superman actor Christopher Reeve, died of lung cancer at the age of 44 despite never being a smoker. She did, however, often perform in smoke filled bars and restaurants. The science of the harm of second-hand smoke was not as developed as it is now.

Today, smoking tobacco cigarettes in public establishments is illegal in California. Let us not ignore the lessons of the past when it comes to their electronic cousin.


Cameron Weaver: NO


The debilitating effects cigarettes have on an individual are no secret. 440,000 smoking-related deaths occur in the United States annually, and $92 billion is lost from productivity related to complications from smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Electronic cigarettes, first experimented with in the 1960s, gained worldwide prominence in 2003 after Chinese inventor Hon Lik, 52, created the first working e-cigarette prototypes, according to an analysis done by the Los Angeles Times’ Barbara Demick in 2009.

The technology has come a long way since then, with several alternatives to traditional tobacco smoking.

Public understanding of the devices, however, is stymied by a lack of factual data being readily presented. Despite common misconception, there is no scientific evidence that supports second-hand “vaping” can cause damage to others.

Nicotine juice–the combustible element heated by an e-cigarette battery–typically either vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol. The Screening Information Data Set (SIDS) found that both propylene glycerol or vegetable glycerin are of “low toxicity when ingested, inhaled, or in contact with the skin.”

In a 2008 report, Dr. Murray Laugeson of Health New Zealand concluded “Inhaled nicotine in cigarette smoke is over 98% absorbed, and so the exhaled mist of the e-cigarette is composed of propylene glycol, and probably contains almost no nicotine.”

When lit, there are approximately 600 ingredients in a traditional cigarette which combine to create over 7,000 chemicals–tobacco, tar, arsenic, among others, that are the direct cause of lung complications and cancer, according to the American Lung Association. No such chemicals are present in nicotine juice, therefore e-cig users avoid the health pitfalls of regular cigarettes.

While studies are being conducted on the health implications of electronic cigarettes, the jury is out on their effectiveness as an alternative. Regulating e-cigarettes the same as fossil-fuel burning sticks is taking a step backwards on our knowledge of cigarettes. Not only are e-cigarette users improving their lives, but also the lives of others.

Now that’s a beat we can all smoke to.

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About the Author

John Ferrannini
John Ferrannini is a fourth-semester student on the Current, where he serves as Editor-in-chief. He previously served as managing editor and News editor. John is majoring in journalism and plans to transfer to Sacramento State.

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