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Editorial: Cigarettes by any name still pose concerns


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CONCERNS voiced by Bartholomew County’s Reach Healthy Communities over the growing popularity of so-called e-cigarettes, particularly among young people, need to be be discussed in a larger forum involving the entire community.

The introduction of these alternative smoking devices — a practice also referred to as “vaping” because the electronic products release mists of vapor — has been depicted by manufacturers as a clean option to smoking.

Proponents of smoking cessation programs and a number of health officials have a different opinion. While e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they are still nicotine-delivering devices.

Stephanie Womack, tobacco program coordinator for Reach Healthy Communities, notes also that there are legitimate fears the devices could be responsible for young people to become addicted or to move on to tobacco products.

The potential certainly exists and should be of greater concern based on recent studies by the Indiana Youth Institute and local smoking cessation proponents.

Monthly smoking rates among Bartholomew County senior class members have declined from 50 percent in 1997 to 20.5 percent in 2013, according to the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, but that piece of good news has to be tempered by the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among young people, especially since they can be seen as a way to safely “be cool.”

Sales of the devices are legally restricted to those 18 and older, but as has been the case in the past, resourceful teens are able to obtain them through a variety of sources, including online orders.

Complicating the problem is the marketing strategy of the companies selling the devices, a plan that targets young people through such methods as offering a variety of flavors (including vanilla, banana, chocolate and cherry). Such an approach is reminiscent of the introduction of menthol cigarettes around the mid-20th century.

Aside from the manufacturers,

e-cigarettes do have proponents. A number of smokers who had turned to the devices and were interviewed for a Nov. 26 story in The Republic suggested that e-cigarettes were a way for them to scale back smoking habits.

Since the devices are still relatively new (they were introduced in the U.S. in 2007), more studies need to be conducted to determine both the short-term and long-range effects.

Until someone comes forward with conclusive information (such as that posted on the warning labels of real cigarette packs), the wisest course of action for anyone would be to not start the practice.

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