Dear Sir or Madame:
In your Assembly Health Committee, you are about to consider a law banning e-cigarettes
In doing so, you will endanger the lives and health of millions of New Yorkers.
Opponents of e-cigarettes, in addition to raising the standard refrain that children might possibly use the devices, argue that the faux cigarettes are loaded with harmful "chemicals" and that they have not been subjected to safety and efficacy tests.
And it is true that e-cigarettes have not been through formal efficacy and safety tests that the Food and Drug Administration requires for smoking cessation drugs, and have only been around a few years.
But any intelligent, informed decision about the legal status of e-cigarettes must take into account these facts:
• Traditional cigarettes are lethal not because they deliver nicotine, but because smokers inhale enormous amounts of smoke, which contains what's known as "products of combustion." It is the inhaled smoke that causes so many cigarette-related ailments -- cancers, cardiovascular and lung diseases, and more.
• Critics of the e-cigarette claim it is a "nicotine-delivery system." Well, they got that much right. But again, it's the smoke that kills, not the nicotine. Yes, nicotine is highly addictive, and, in fact, that is what keeps the smoker hooked. But getting the nicotine without the smoke is an enormous health advantage for smokers. The e-cigarette’s nicotine inserts come in various strengths and users can adjust them as they wish.
• The government has approved other nicotine-delivery systems to help smokers quit, in the form of gums and patches -- but they have been abysmal failures, primarily because the dose of nicotine they deliver is so low. The smoking cessation rates using these devices is less than 15 percent after one year, putting millions of addicted smokers at risk of a premature, lingering death. We desperately need other alternatives.
• Hundreds of thousands of former cigarette smokers nationwide -- or more -- are now using e-cigarettes -- a product that offers some, if not all, of the "social amenities" of the real thing -- holding the cigarette, taking a drag, seeing a plume of "smoke."
And for those who would want to condemn e-cigarettes with the claim that children will use them, here are three responses:
1) E-cigarettes are exclusively marketed to addicted smokers who are desperately seeking a way out of their deadly habit;
2) The price alone ($60-$120 for the start-up kit) would be enough to deter them; and
3) Studies show that it is rare for teens to initiate nicotine use via nontobacco products instead of cigarettes.
Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in our country. Any alternative acceptable to addicted smokers should be taken seriously. Instead of condemning e-cigarettes based on unscientific and even hysterical allegations, we should be encouraging the government to sponsor studies evaluating its safety and efficacy, while leaving it on the market in the interim.
These device allows smokers to inhale and get the dose of nicotine they crave. Each inhalation triggers the release of a tiny amount of water vapor and propylene glycol (a non-toxic substance) that looks remarkably like smoke, but dissipates quickly and leaves no odor. Hence, to vote for the law is implicitly to say, "Stay away from these newfangled, untested cigarette substitutes — better to stick with the real ones, the ones we are more familiar with, the ones that cause over 450,000 deaths annually in the U.S."