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E-Cigarettes in Washington State – Friend or Foe?

“It’s too easy and too cheap for teens to buy and use vaping products. We have to change that. We must have a system in places like our well-honed tobacco control and prevention efforts that help prevent initial use to begin with and educate kids and parents about the risks of these drug delivery devices…While some claim these are less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, e-cigarettes still have the potential to cause great harm to teens and young children.” ~ Washington State Governor Jay Inslee Nicotine is considered one of the most addictive substances in the world, and 17% of American adults who smoke wouldn’t argue with that consideration. Smoking is also perhaps the deadliest addiction in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are currently 16 MILLION Americans living with a smoking-caused disease, and more than 480,000 US citizens die annually because of smoking – 1300 deaths every day.

What Are Some of the Positive Arguments for E-Cigarettes in Washington State?

“Current evidence suggests that there is a potential for smokers to reduce their health risks if electronic cigarettes are used in place of tobacco cigarettes and are considered a step toward ending all tobacco and nicotine use.” ~ Thomas Eissenberg, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Addiction, the benefits of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for traditional cigarettes or as a potential aid to quit smoking outweigh any potential harms. The study’s senior author, Dr. Hayden McRobbie, of the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, says, “If there are any risks, these will be many times lower than the risks of smoking tobacco.”

What Are Some of the Opposing Arguments for E-Cigarettes in Washington State?

If there was good evidence that people were using e-cigarettes just to quit smoking, there would be wide support. The problem is, most of the e-cigarette use in the US is dual use with cigarettes.” ~ Dr. Neal Benowitz, MD, a nicotine researcher at the University of California in San Francisco The manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers advertise their products as a way to help people quit smoking, but that doesn’t actually seem to be the case for the majority of people. In fact, according to the American Lung Association, in 2015, 58.8% of e-cigarette smokers also currently smoke tobacco cigarettes. In addition, there is an alarming increase in the use of e-cigarettes by middle-and-high-school students:

  • 20011-2013, the number of youths who used electronic cigarettes but had never smoked a regular cigarette TRIPLED – rising from 79,00 to 263,000. By 2015, there were an estimated 3 MILLION middle-and-high school students using electronic cigarettes and vaping products.
  • Even more worrisome is the fact that among those youths, nearly 44% “intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year”.
  • Among youths who had never smoked an electronic cigarette, the percentage that intends to smoke conventional cigarettes is only 21.5%.

This distressing trend is also happening in  Washington State, according to data released by Governor Jay Inslee. Among school-age students in Washington State who admit to recent use of an electronic cigarette or vape pen are:

  • 8.5% of 8th graders
  • 18% of 10th graders
  • 23% of 12th graders

Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association, says, “This is important scientific data that shows e-cigarette use among youth will begin kids on a lifelong addiction to nicotine and tobacco products.”

So, What Is the Final Verdict about E-Cigarettes in Washington State?

If you are only comparing the potential risks of electronic cigarettes with the well-documented hazards of smoking cigarettes, there is no contest. Kenneth Warner, a tobacco policy researcher from the University of Michigan, says: “The worst critics of e-cigarettes would probably argue they’re a half to two-thirds less dangerous. But from a practical view, they’re probably on the order of 80% to 85% less dangerous, at least” But if you consider that they are also another way to promote the consumption of addictive nicotine, and if you are also concerned that they may provide a gateway to smoking for Washington youths and teenagers, then the argument doesn’t remain so clear-cut. In fact, viewed in that light, electronic cigarettes and vaping products may actually present a future danger to the health of Washington State residents. Obviously, the safest form of smoking is NO SMOKING at all. And if that is the goal, then the best way to quit once and for all is with the assistance of addiction specialists. If you are one of the nearly 7 in 10 Americans who want to quit smoking, then help is available to you.