Electronic cigarette use appears to be rising at a rapid rate. Despite an almost noncommittal stance from the FDA in regards to health concerns, a study conducted by Center for Disease Control (CDC) researchers and published by Tobacco Control and Pubmed.gov suggests that the number of electronic cigarette users nearly quadrupled over a 12-month period.
It should be noted this increase in popularity is taking place even amidst a debate over the advantages of these products. For the uninitiated, electronic cigarettes are designed to mimic the habitual effects of a tobacco cigarette. And while they do not use tobacco, combustion, smoke, or ash, the FDA has yet to completely rule on how they will be regulated.
According to the CDC, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, "accounting for approximately 443,000 deaths in the United States each year." The fact that more than 2.5 million Americans have made the switch to electronic cigarettes seems to suggest that the public is looking for an alternative to tobacco products.
The simple truth is that tobacco cigarettes contain thousands of toxins and chemicals. According to the CDC, tobacco cigarettes contain over 7,000 known chemicals. Hundreds of these are toxic, and around 70 are directly linked to cancer. This is to say nothing of the toxins and chemicals found within secondhand smoke. A fact sheet published by the CDC, notes that second-hand smoke from a burning from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip is responsible for between 150,000-300,000 of new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia annually, and approximately 7,500-15,000 hospitalizations annually in the United States.
As an alternative, e-cigarettes do not use tobacco, and they do not combust. So instead of producing smoke, they produce vapor.
Personal benefits may not be the only appeal of e-cigarettes for those hoping to make the switch. The environmentally conscious smoker may be taking note of the impact their smoking habit is having on the environment. As reported in a June 2008 article by Popular Science, every year, some 600 million trees are destroyed all in the name of producing tobacco cigarettes. In addition, a countless number of cigarette butts and waded up packs get tossed, many of which end up lining street curbs and filling community parks.
In the end, what the electronic cigarette offers is an alternative to tobacco - an alternative that the public seems willing to explore.