E-cigarettes light up burning debate

Want to quit smoking? Many opt to light up electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, which release a vaporized dose of liquid nicotine without smoke or tobacco. But the battery-operated products have ignited a hot debate in the US over whether or not they are safe and should be pulled from the shelves.

E-cigarettes have been hit hard in recent months due to negative reports regarding their safety, but a December 16th press announcement bucks that trend. In the US, Boston University researchers claim that e-cigarettes hold their rightful place in the fight against tobacco addiction - and that banning them only helps tobacco companies.

This report follows a December 3rd published review of five popular brands of e-cigarettes by a team of scientists at the University of California, Riverside, in the US. In the study, the scientists deemed e-cigarettes unsafe due to "design flaws, lack of adequate labeling, and several concerns about quality control and health issues." As a reaction, the team is waving the red flag to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the products until more research can be gathered.

But researcher Michael Siegel of Boston University begs to differ. "Few, if any, chemicals at levels detected in electronic cigarettes raise serious health concerns," he said in the release.  He doesn't claim that e-cigarettes are safe in "absolute terms" and supports the need for more research, but "the available evidence shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products."

"Taking these products off the market would force thousands of users to return to cigarette smoking," he added. "The only ones who would be protected by a ban on e-cigarettes are the tobacco companies, as these new products represent the first real threat to their profits in decades."

Seigel's report is published online in the Journal of Public Health Policy. Access it here.

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