Opposing Viewpoint: The risks of e-cigarettes aren't worth it

Electronic cigarettes might help you quit smoking. That’s the one thing everybody seems to agree on. After that, things get murkier.

“We know less about the long-term health risks of e-cigarette use than we knew about cigarettes in 1950,” stated Stanton Glantz in an interview with The Huffington Post. Glantz, of the Tobacco Control Research Center based in the University of California, San Francisco, explained that there really isn’t any way of knowing how electronic cigarettes will affect someone’s health until the damage has been done. “Someone using an e-cigarette today is really turning themself into a lab rat.”

Presented as a “safer” way to smoke, e-cigarettes have zero FDA regulation, making their claim to safety a bit ironic. While the FDA originally attempted to ban the import of the e-cigs, federal courts ruled that the electronic cigarettes did not fall directly under the FDA’s regulatory purview, and no new federal regulations have been imposed since then. That means there are currently no restrictions on ingredients manufacturers can or cannot use.

According to a 2009 study by the FDA, e-cigarettes “contained detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals” and produce inconsistent nicotine amounts in puffs, often completely ignoring what’s written on the label.

Add to this the lack of regulation on ingredients and preparation, and electronic cigarette smokers really have no idea what they’re putting in their bodies. “We’ll just have to see” might not be the greatest tactic when it comes your long-term health.

The American Lung Association has called on the Obama Administration and the FDA to reopen the investigation of e-cigarettes, stating that “there is no way for the public health, medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes or what the short- and long-term health implications might be.”

National studies are controversial and often contradictory about the overall effectiveness of using electronic cigarettes to quit smoking. More studies need to be done on the long-term effects of vaping, and more regulation needs to be put in place to keep smokers as safe as possible.

Most agree that electronic cigarettes prove just as addictive as regular cigarettes, which proves especially unfortunate for Weber County teens. In a study by the Utah Department of Health with kids from eighth, 10th and 12th grades, Weber and Morgan counties blatantly stood at the forefront. Thirty percent of Weber-Morgan County students have reportedly experimented with the highly addictive e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, more than doubling the percentage of the next-closest county. More unsettling is that 19.9 percent of Weber County kids have used electronic cigarettes consistently over the last 30 days, a number that has gone up 500 percent in the last two years alone.

All things considered, at their best, electronic cigarettes might help you quit smoking, but at what cost? The number of unknowable factors that accompany e-cigs, from the ingredients used to the long-term effects of vaping, paint a much hazier picture than what you may have seen advertised.

Smokers who currently use standard cigarettes, at the very least, know what they’re getting into when they light up. E-cigarettes might help you quit . . . but you’re playing a veritable game of Russian roulette with your future with every puff. Some might feel it’s worth the risk. My advice? Stick with what you already know.