The debate about the deleterious effects of cigarette smoking seems to be largely settled. The public at large is now deluged with anti-smoking messages and cigarette packs are required to prominently display very ominous warning labels. Finally, in the last 15 years tobacco companies have been hit time and time again with large civil judgments in courts across the country. All that said, the myth of the healthy (or healthier) cigarette endures.
According to a recent New York Times article a product commonly referred to as an "electronic cigarette" has recently come under FDA scrutiny. Electronic cigarettes are an alternative nicotine delivery system. Whereas traditional tobacco cigarettes are lit, smoked, and inhaled, electronic cigarettes are battery operated and are not lit. Perhaps the notion is that that the user gets both nicotine and the familiarity of a traditional cigarette without the health risks of actually smoking. However, according to the FDA there are real concerns about the heath effects of electronic cigarettes.
The Times’ article points to FDA analysis that raises questions about the contents of the products. The intimation is that they contain certain known carcinogens. As the products are purportedly manufactured in China, a health official quoted in the article cites an additional worry about quality control.
Perhaps the article’s most worrying point is that electronic cigarettes may be both accessible and appealing to kids as the products appear to come in fruit flavors and are sold online and in shopping malls.