Cigarettes VS e-cigarettes: an update on the consumption and pitfalls to avoid
Published 20 Feb 2019 • Updated 31 May 2019 • By Louise Bollecker
We can never repeat it enough: smoking kills. Yet quitting smoking is easier said than done. To support people who want to stop smoking, electronic cigarettes, invented about fifteen years ago, have become essential. But is this really the ideal solution? Let us take stock of the situation.
Cigarettes in decline thanks to the authorities' fight
Cigarettes, a plague responsible for many deaths
Cigarettes are still the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It kills about 480,000 Americans each year and 16 million suffer from tobacco-related diseases. In the United Kingdom, 100,000 people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses. In France, 73,000 premature deaths are related to smoking.
Faced with such figures, the authorities of many countries have put in place measures to combat tobacco use. In France, cigarette sales fell by 9.32% in 2018, as a result of the price increase at the beginning of the year and, more broadly, of public anti-tobacco policy. The fact of offering a neutral package (black, mainly occupied by a photo denouncing the consequences of smoking) has discouraged some young people who are concerned about the aesthetic aspect of their cigarette package.
Young people, a new generation of smokers to avoid
Indeed, anti-smoking policies are mainly aimed at preventing young people from taking up smoking. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently recalled that almost all adult smokers started when they were minors. Almost 90% of them started before the age of 18 and 95% before 21. Only 1% of cigarette smokers started at the age of 26 or older.
The FDA also intends to impose a sales ban on cigarettes and mint flavoured cigarettes, stressing that menthol is used to mask the repulsive aspects of smoke that discourage a child from smoking. A Hawaiian MP even submitted a bill to the local parliament to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco to... 100 years in 2024!
In the USA, measures have so far paid off to curb smoking: in November, health authorities announced that the number of smokers had reached 14% of the population, the lowest level ever recorded in the country. The number of smokers is down to 67% compared to 1965
The electronic cigarette, a good or bad idea to stop smoking?
An English study of 900 people suggests that electronic cigarettes are twice as effective as nicotine patches or chewing gum in stopping smoking. 18% of smokers who switched to electronic cigarettes managed to quit for a year, compared to 9.9% of those who switched to patches and other nicotine derivatives.
Electronic cigarettes have all the reasons, the study concludes, to be more integrated into the smoking cessation process.
Replacing one addiction with another
However, a downside was pointed out by British researchers: 80% of smokers who became vaporizers and stopped smoking the "classic" cigarette continued to vaporize, without having freed themselves from their nicotine addiction. This figure is much higher than for people who used patches and equivalents: only 9% of them were still using these products a year later.
While electronic cigarettes are less dangerous than conventional cigarettes, they are not without risk. Quitting smoking to vaporize is therefore not an end in itself. This long-term consumption raises the question of the toxins contained in the e-cigarette. In addition, while many cigarette carcinogens, such as tar, are not found in electronic cigarettes, electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, a product that is not related to cancer but causes addiction.
The risk of nicotine addiction
In the United States, vaporization is included in tobacco consumption, with nicotine from electronic cigarettes coming from tobacco, but other countries do not categorize it as a tobacco product. It is feared that its use exposes many people, especially young people, to nicotine addiction and that this product will no longer simply be dedicated to quitting smoking more easily.
Indeed, the number of young Americans using electronic cigarettes increased by one and a half million in 2018. Since 2014, there are more young vaping than smokers. An estimated 3.6 million high school students regularly smoke an electronic cigarette. Seduced by fruity tastes and playful consumption, these young Americans are thus exposed to a nicotine addiction.
How can we limit the use of electronic cigarettes by young people?
Measures are currently being taken by the US federal agency that regulates tobacco products to limit the consumption of electronic cigarettes. For example, the sale of certain flavours such as strawberry or chewing gum has been restricted. Another proposal is to ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes on the Internet. Available only in stores, these would make them easily inaccessible to minors.
Several American tobacco groups have also announced that they will stop part of the sale of electronic cigarettes and their flavoured refills. The Juul group announced that it would stop advertising these products on social networks, explaining that it wanted to focus on the target of adult smokers who wanted to quit smoking. Will these measures to be applied in all countries?
What do you think about these developments?
The e-cigarette, a good or bad idea?
Share your opinions on the electronic cigarette and the best ways to quit smoking!