“Safe” e-cigarettes leaves much to be desired

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    The new electronic cigarettes on the market have health experts, law officials and consumers buzzing. This novel product, a battery-powered, odorless nicotine device, has been rumored to be completely safe, give smokers freedom and mobility and even help them quit. But what is the truth?

    According to an article titled “Cigarettes Without Smoke, or Regulation” by Katie Zezima of The New York Times, these e-cigarettes, which have become the latest online and mall-kiosk craze, have surprisingly not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, despite the alleged benefits. The FDA has even banned further import of these products because of their unapproved status.

    At first it seems the only problem is that our busy country simply has not gotten around to testing these e-cigarettes. After all, they produce no smoke and even allow the user to gauge the amount they inhale. Why not go ahead and use them? They sound safe enough.

    But in fact, the FDA has performed limited tests on this smoking alternative product. According to the agency’s 2009 news release, “these products contained detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.”

    In other words: not safe.

    Australia and Hong Kong have already made the sale and use of electronic cigarettes illegal because of safety concerns, according to The New York Times article. It is odd that the U.S. is not on top of its game in regulating health products, but the ban of e-cigarettes in these two countries should provide sufficient warning to Americans. Obviously, the uncertainty surrounding these products is more than just speculation. The future for electronic cigarettes is not bright.

    So if we know it is coming, why do we wait? Yes, tobacco smoking is harmful. There is no doubt about that. And e-cigarettes do seem to be better for one’s health when compared with the regulars. They are still dangerous, and there is a chance that further testing could reveal even more dangers.

    So one must ask, which is the lesser of two evils?

    Rachel Causey is a freshman English major from Monroe, La.