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Electronic Cigarettes: Problem Solvers or Problem Starters?

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File Photo

Electronic cigarettes — better known as e-cigs or e-cigarettes — have been both helping and hindering students in the last few weeks. Complaints have circulated about students smoking electronic cigarettes indoors, though there’s no statement available concerning the policy of smoking e-cigarettes inside the buildings on campus. However, one question on the matter remains: Are electronic cigarettes beneficial, harmful or both?

Junior Andrew VanDyke, who uses electronic cigarettes, says they can help smokers seeking to shake their habit.

“I know a few people who have used them and subsequently stopped smoking regular cigarettes altogether,” VanDyke said. “E-cigs are different from regular cigarettes in that they vaporize a liquid with or without nicotine in them, and therefore do not actually burn anything. One of the main benefits of e-cigs is that they lack the cancer causing chemicals in cigarettes.”

Despite VanDyke’s confidence in the product, the complete result of electronic cigarettes remains unknown. Dr. Laura Champion, the director for health services at Calvin, believes that more research should be done before finalizing any theories of how effective electronic cigarettes can be.

“There is a great interest lately, but little research,” Champion said. “The question of short-term and long-term, active versus passive e-cigarettes is a good first question. Other questions may include effects of inhaling elements through heated plastic, the effect of the e-cigarette on the complete blood count in short-term and long-term smokers and the variance of effect on men versus women and those of different ethnicities.”

In an experiment conducted at the FAME Laboratory in February 2013, scientists had 15 smokers and 15 non-smokers test and compare regular cigarettes to electronic cigarettes. The objective of the experiment was to assess the effects of short-term smoking using electronic cigarettes. Scientists conducting the experiment concluded that the effects of electronic cigarettes were similar to that of regular ones, but reduced. More information on the experiment can be found here.Even though no statement on the policy of using these alternatives at Calvin was available, students such as senior Ashley Bingle wish that the use of electronic cigarettes in buildings on campus would be much more limited than it is now.

“[Smoking in class] is disruptive because it’s not something that is discreet,” she said. “It affects everyone around you. I’ve heard people complaining about their eyes stinging, for example. It’s very distracting to smell the smoke and think ‘where did that come from?’ You’re not expecting vapor to appear in front of you in a building.”

Senior Josh Peters agreed with Bingle and believes that electronic cigarettes can be dangerous even for non-smokers.

“[The smoke] makes it very hard to breathe,” he said.

Although VanDyke admitted that studies of electronic cigarettes should be explored more, he believes that they pose little to no health problems in comparison to regular cigarettes.

“The smoke that you exhale is primarily water vapor,” VanDyke said, “and as it is not smoke, there is no risk of second-hand smoke. The health risks of e-cigs are still largely unstudied, but there are many people, myself included, who believe that the risks are greatly reduced compared to regular cigarettes.”

 

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