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Experts warn that electronic cigarettes might hook a new generation on to nicotine

by on 10/19/13

Canadian youths smoking electronic cigarettes

According to a leading Canadian medical journal, electronic cigarettes could entice the youth into nicotine addiction. Many people who otherwise wouldn't have bothered to smoke may find themselves lured into a smoking habit, thanks to the addictive power of nicotine.  The controversial report from Canadian Medical Association Journal conveys that flavored tobacco products along with endorsements from movie stars could potentially lead to a rise in smoking habit in many, even though e-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to regular smoking.

The editorial penned by Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a respirologist based out of Toronto and an editor at the journal, discusses the tempting nature of e-cigarettes, which is mostly based on the assumption that they help in quitting smoking. However, according to his observations, a few people smoke electronic cigarettes only to get their nicotine fix when they are in a place they cannot smoke, or are not allowed to. Once the e-cig smokers are out of the smoking restricted zone, they continue to smoke normal cigarettes as well.

The e-cigarette marketers advertise the product as a good thing for the consumers, but the reality is entirely different. You might choose to go with an electronic cigarette hoping that it doesn't affect your health like a regular cigarette does; however, one must look beyond just comparing electronic cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Just like how smartphones revolutionized the mobile phone market and changed the consumer behavior and how we interact with them, so will electronic cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are designed to look like real cigarettes, but they actually contain a small canister within them that emulates the sensation of smoking a real cigarette. Usually, a heating element powered by batteries is used to vaporize flavored liquid cartridges called cartomizer, which is placed inside the canister. These cartomizers can contain a range of flavors such as menthol, cherry, strawberry, and many others. However, some of them also contain nicotine, which is not allowed to be sold in Canada.

Canadian law prohibits the sale of e-cigs with nicotine within its borders; nevertheless, they can still be bought from the USA or ordered online. However, if the Canadian border authorities detect any nicotine e-cigarette vials passing through the customs, they will seize them immediately.

Dr. Stanbrook is worried that e-cigarettes will nullify years of work that the Canadian government has taken to restrict smoking in public places. Currently, smoking is not allowed in workplaces, bars, restaurants, and other public settings. As a result, the public perception of smoking habit is very negative at the present. However, it can all change quickly if smoking e-cigarettes ever goes mainstream.

Originally, smokers addicted to nicotine were encouraged to use alternatives such as nicotine gums and patches to cull their smoking habit. However, e-cigarettes presented a great opportunity to do the same, but without having to give up smoking altogether. Electronic cigarettes may probably encourage users to quit regular smoking, but their core behavior still remains unchanged. Moreover, the cool quotient of e-cigarettes may also encourage new users, especially the youth, which may lead to nicotine addiction.

Nicotine gums or patches aren't "cool" enough, nor can using them appear "sexy". However, smoking an electronic cigarette is an altogether different matter. It is cool, it is hip, and it is also trendy. For a casual observer, it is everything they dreamed about smoking, but without its bad health effects; this is the main concern regarding e-cigarettes according to Stanbrook.

Not to leave any stone unturned, the Canadian Cancer Society has appealed to the federal and state governments to ban every flavored tobacco product. Recently, a report submitted by the national Youth Smoking Survey advocated that over half the Canadian high school students who smoke, or use any other tobacco product, reported to have also used a flavored tobacco product in the last 30 days.

Presently, the federal Tobacco Act prohibits the sale of flavored (except menthol) cigarettes, blunt wraps (flavored rolling paper) and cigarillos. However, there are always ways to circumvent the ban according to the Canadian Cancer Society. For example, the act states explicitly that cigarillos weigh 1.4 gram or less. Hence, the manufacturers sidestep the regulation by producing cigarillos above the stipulated weight limit. Moreover, there is no ban on flavoring other smokeless tobacco products such as snuff, snus and chewing tobacco.

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said that quick action from the government is vital to protect youth from harmful tobacco products. According to him, the government should draft a new legislation as quickly as possible to inhibit the spread of nicotine addiction among the youth.