It is a well-known fact that cigarettes kill tens of thousands of Canadians each year, from both personal consumption and second-hand smoke, so it’s no surprise that there’s a technology available to save people from the harm of smoking: electronic cigarettes.
Ordinary cigarettes pack around 4,000 chemicals after combustion. Some of these unsavoury ingredients include such carcinogens as arsenic, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
Fortunately the government — both provincially and federally — have taken steps to protect the population from second-hand smoke by making smoking in public places and workplaces illegal since 2003 beginning in Prince Edward Island.
Smoking in public places was made illegal in Saskatchewan in 2005 and in workplaces in 2009, followed by a ban on smoking in a vehicle with a child under the age of 16 in 2010. There are fines of upwards of $10,000 for violation of the Tobacco Control Act.
In addition to the restrictions on where one can smoke, there are multiple options to aid citizens with quitting including nicotine patches, gum and prescription treatments. However there is one method for quitting that our government should be paying more attention to.
Electronic cigarettes have helped millions of smokers decrease their addiction to nicotine and in many cases give up the habit altogether. They do so by allowing the user to control the amount of nicotine they are ingesting through nicotine cartridges of varying strength or with a nicotine-free option.
The e-cigarette produces a water vapour laced with vegetable glycerine, flavouring and — if the user should choose — nicotine by the hydrophilic chemical propylene glycol, which the FDA classifies as “generally recognized as safe.”
However, e-cigs with nicotine content are currently illegal for open sale in Canada. Reasons for the ban include lack of research done on e-cigs, lack of knowledge about the general long term effects of their use and a suspicion that young people who start using electronic cigarettes will later switch to smoking conventional cigarettes.
This is ridiculous on our government’s part, as conventional cigarettes are widely available and taxed greatly for the profit of the government, which makes around $600 per smoker each year. That’s more than $7 billion in 2013 according to a study conducted by Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada.
While naysayers of the e-cigarette may cite uncharted territory as a good reason to be wary of the new technology, it is beyond debate that vegetable oil and water vapour are much less detrimental to one’s health than the tar, ash and the multitude of carcinogens produced by the regular cigarette.
In addition to providing a smoker with a faster fix of nicotine than gum or patches, e-cigs provide a comfort to the conventional smoker unavailable from other smoking cessation aids — the physical act of smoking, which can be as hard to give up as the addiction itself.
As for the notion that young adults who start using e-cigs will later switch to smoking regular cigarettes, I highly doubt that will be a problem as e-cigs are available in a wide range of candy and fruit flavours and cigarette smoke tastes much less appetizing, comparatively.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that the government should start stocking shelves with nicotine toting e-cigs available for purchase without regulation. I simply suggest that this new technology could benefit many Canadians if it is regulated correctly.
The average price of a decent quality e-cigarette with charger and cartridges included is currently around $60-$70. This seems steep until you compare the investment a traditional smoker makes in their habit each year, which can be anywhere from $1,500-$3,000 or more according to Health Canada.
If laws were implemented to lessen the amount of nicotine available in regular cigarettes, then the e-cigarette would become an increasingly attractive option. If the current age restrictions on sales of cigarettes were implemented for e-cigs with nicotine content, I think this option would show itself to be a real benefit to the struggle for Canadian smokers to drop the habit.
I personally know several people who use e-cigarettes, including some who have quit smoking conventional cigarettes because of them. Many users of the electronic cigarette order them online with nicotine content as well.
If our government is currently profiting so much from the addictions of its people to smoking, then I suggest they recognize the e-cigarette as a viable safer option, decrease the nicotine in regular cigarettes and make e-cigarettes available with nicotine under the restrictions currently in place for regular cigarettes.
The fact is that e-cigarettes can be a safer, healthier option if our government makes it one, and it is the most feasible possibility to dramatically lessen the amount of people afflicted with an addiction to cigarettes.