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COLUMN: The vape debate and the uncertain safety concerns of e-cigarettes



Picture this — you’re walking to class, minding your own business, when you catch a whiff of some acrid smell.

You immediately start coughing and turn around to face the jerk who is smoking in the middle of campus, a technically smoke-free zone.

This happens way too often for my taste, as I am not a smoker and cannot stand any tobacco products.

Lately, I have noticed an increase in use of vape pens on campus, which offer significantly better smells to anyone standing near 
a smoker.

While electronic cigarettes offer promises of being healthier than normal cigarettes, the question of how to regulate them has become controversial in the last 
few years.

A new study seems to have found a link between e-cigarette use by high school freshmen and future tobacco use. Researchers followed more than 2,500 Los Angeles high school students who did not smoke tobacco during their freshman year.

Among the 222 who had already used e-cigarettes, 25.2 percent had smoked a cigarette, cigar or hookah by the end of their sophomore year, in comparison to 9.3 percent of the students who had not used 
e-cigarettes before.

Now, this study only 
succeeds in describing a 
correlation, rather than 
causation, between vaping and later tobacco use. The authors of the study caution those interpreting their 
research, however, due to the fact that they did not 
differentiate between those who had tried cigarettes and later quit with those who 
became regular smokers.

I find the results of this study are a microcosm of the issues with e-cig research — there have not been nearly enough studies to draw firm conclusions, and many studies conflict with each other or are flawed.

A systematic review of e-cigarette studies by the American Heart Association found that, in general, a number of different e-cigarette brands contained fewer toxins than regular cigarettes. They did, however, vary greatly from one another.

Due to the potential public health risks, as well as nuisance that can be caused by any type of smoke in a crowded building, many cities and counties have banned e-cigarette use wherever smoking is prohibited.

Furthermore, the FDA announced plans in April 2014 to potentially regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, even though they are derived from tobacco and do not 
contain any actual tobacco.

These regulations might also treat each different type of vapor as a new drug, which would force manufacturers to spend large amounts of money to conduct clinical trials.

This seems fairly heavy-handed to me and would 
potentially kill a large portion of the industry.

The regulations probably won’t be quite so harsh in their final form, as the FDA’s new rules will undergo a costs/benefits review by the Office of Management and Budget before they are 
enacted.

While I will not condone smoking, I am a bit more ambivalent toward e-cigarettes. But they are obviously not healthy, they seem to be less harmful than normal tobacco products.

As more information becomes available, I hope we as college students, the largest demographic to smoke e-cigarettes, remain aware of the potential harms and highs 
of vaping.

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