Philip Morris International has just announced that they are going to stop producing cigarettes. This is a big move no matter which way you look at it. Given that it’s 2018, this move doesn’t surprise me. I am hoping that this doesn’t come across as judgemental because that’s not my intention here. But I’m kind of surprised that younger people still even smoke any more. I say this because of all the health concerns associated with it, but until now there’s been a big push by tobacco companies to get you hooked. On the Philip Morris website, they say, “we’ve built the world’s most successful cigarette company, with the world’s most popular and iconic brands.”
But they’ve made the decision to move away from cigarettes and instead focus on smoke-free products, which, as they say, are a much better choice than cigarette smoking. When they say smoke-free products, they mean products that still provide nicotine to the consumer, but that don’t have tobacco in them. The question I ask is whether or not these are actually “healthier” than traditional cigarettes. The obvious answer is yes because they aren’t putting things like tobacco, tar and whatever other chemicals into the eCigarettes, but what are they putting into those? Which is why I question how much “healthier” these are for you.
What are they exactly? Well, they are battery operated devices shaped like cigarettes that provide the consumer with nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive as it stimulates and relaxes. Nicotine is naturally found in tobacco, which is why smoking cigarettes are so addictive in the first place. eCigarattes allow the nicotine to be inhaled, by heating a liquid cartridge that contains nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals into a vapor. Which is why I wonder how much healthier these are.
According to the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund: since 2009, FDA has pointed out that e-cigarettes contain “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could be exposed.” For example, in e-cigarette cartridges marketed as “tobacco-free,” the FDA detected a toxic compound found in antifreeze, tobacco-specific compounds that have been shown to cause cancer in humans, and other toxic tobacco-specific impurities. Another study looked at 42 of these liquid cartridges and determined that they contained formaldehyde, a chemical known to cause cancer in humans. Formaldehyde was found in several of the cartridges at levels much higher than the maximum EPA recommends for humans.
There are no long-term studies to know what kinds of effects the vapor might have on your health. Cancer, for example, takes years to develop so it’s hard to have any idea if the eCigarettes are actually going to cause any long-term damage.
Which is why I’m kind of torn on this topic. On one hand, I think that if people can make this switch, maybe they will be healthier. I am not saying that I believe that to be true, but there’s a part of me that wants to believe in this idea. On the other hand, though, if this isn’t healthier, we’re just substituting one bad habit for another. And in this case, a potentially deadly one. This brings me back to an earlier point I made about “Big Tobacco”, as they say. Is Philip Morris just giving you a new habit? They’re certainly calling it “healthier”, but can they back that up? Like I said, if this is found to be healthier, then I am supportive of it from a transitional perspective, but I’m not sold on smoking, in general.