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All the big tobacco companies are selling e-cigarettes, proponents of which are quick to point out that we don’t regulate coffee.
Tobacco Cigarette and an Electronic Cigarette both containing nicotine
For well over 100 years, tobacco companies have had a product people loved, with a toxic catch. Cigarettes don’t just cause cancer (of the lung, throat, mouth, pancreas, bladder, nose, and more); they can also lead to heart attacks, strokes, and autoimmune diseases. Some 443,000 Americans die from smoking each year. But 44 million Americans still smoke because, as the tobacco companies know, cigarettes deliver an addictive, pleasurable drug: nicotine.
Now the three biggest tobacco companies have a new, tobacco-free way to deliver nicotine. Enthusiasts say “vaping” an e-cigarette—which relies on battery power to vaporize a liquid nicotine solution that the user inhales—delivers all the biochemical rewards and none of the lethal risks, and that it’s time to regulate nicotine like coffee, another stimulant. But can they convince their opponents? “We’re seeing a radical change in how people sell nicotine to the human brain,” says David Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the American Legacy Foundation.
The antitobacco community is wary. Big tobacco introduced “light” cigarettes in the 1960s with the promise of a healthy alternative, and they turned out to be just as deadly as the originals. Antismoking advocates aren’t primarily worried that e-cigarettes will do as much harm as regular ones—this would be nearly impossible. They fret that the devices will keep people smoking. The “poly-tobacco dilettante” could be a new breed of smoker, Abrams says. These users might “vape” indoors and other places where conventional cigarettes are banned (fueling their nicotine addiction) and still smoke traditional cigarettes wherever they did before e-cigarettes entered the U.S. market in 2007.