Two high-profile public health experts disagree about the impact of e-cigarettes, and whether they will promote smoking cessation, or encourage people to take up regular cigarettes.
Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University says e-cigarettes could make regular cigarettes obsolete, much like the computer ended use of the typewriter, The New York Times reports. His former teacher and mentor, Stanton A. Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, says e-cigarettes will attract children to smoking, and adult smokers will be less inclined to quit now that they can smoke at their desks.
The debate over e-cigarettes is dividing the public health community, which has long been united over its opposition to smoking and Big Tobacco. Many experts say it is too soon to make definitive conclusions about e-cigarettes’ impact on smoking.
“The popularity is outpacing the knowledge,” Dr. Michael B. Steinberg of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University told the newspaper. “We’ll have a better idea in another year or two of how safe these products are, but the question is, will the horse be out of the barn by then?”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue regulations soon, which would give the agency control over e-cigarettes. While the federal government currently does not have oversight over the devices, some cities, including New York and Boston, and states including New Jersey and Utah, have enacted bans on using e-cigarettes in public places.
Many scientists say certain federal regulations will be needed in order for e-cigarettes to reduce the death toll from smoking. These include making regular cigarettes more expensive than e-cigarettes, and reducing the amount of nicotine in regular cigarettes so smokers are more inclined to use e-cigarettes.