Joe Nocera for The New York Times: Two Cheers for E-Cigarettes

December 6th, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
December 6, 2013

Imagine a product — a legal but lethal one — that kills 400,000 Americans a year. Public health advocates have been trying for decades to persuade Americans not to use it. The industry has been sued and sued again, but it is still operating profitably. One out of every five Americans is addicted to the product.

Now imagine that an alternative comes to the market, an innovative device that can help people wean themselves from the deadly product. It has the same look and feel as the lethal product; indeed, that’s a large part of its appeal. It, too, is addictive. But the ingredients that kill people are absent.

This, of course, is no imaginary scenario. The lethal product is cigarettes, which use nicotine to addict and combustible tobacco to kill. And the alternative is electronic cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without the tobacco, and emit a vapor that almost instantly evaporates. Yes, users can be hooked on nicotine, which is a stimulant. But people who “vape” are not going to die, at least not from inhaling their cigarette.

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