Responding to Monday’s post about e-cigarettes, a reader comments:

As a mother of two boys (16 and 18), I too was concerned about tobacco companies marketing their e-cigs to younger generation of smokers. But I don’t necessarily agree that they’re doing that by creating flavors such as bubble gum and cotton-candy. I mean there are many alcoholic beverages (and hookah tobacco) with similar flavors – are they targeting teens too?

Generally speaking, teens are attracted to smoking and e-cigs seem to be trending, so it’s natural for some teens to give it a try. I’d prefer to have my boys use e-cigs rather than cigarettes.

E-cigs mainly contain nicotine, which doesn’t seem to be all that bad (read this article), versus cigarettes that carry thousands of harmful chemicals and carcinogens.

I’d like to know what other parents have to say about all this? Is this something we need to worry about?


Before answering the question, it is important to mention that the article the reader cites is from a website ( devoted entirely to the marketing and sale of these nicotine-delivery devices.

Still, the question is a good one.  Of the nicotine-delivery devices that are available, only those with tobacco, like cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff), are known to cause cancer.  Nicotine gum, patches, and ecigarettes do not appear to have any of the carcinogens that are known to cause cancer.  And while some studies show that nicotine alone does have some adverse cardiovascular effects, others show that cardiovascular — and cerebrovascular — in fact, all end-organ — damage is mostly due to the toxins in the most commonly used nicotine delivery device:  tobacco.

But nicotine itself is not benign.  As a drug, it is extremely addictive, though mostly with tobacco as the delivery device.  My guess is that it will become a popular option for those smokers who want to quit, or who want to continue their nicotine addiction without their tobacco habit.  I see that as a positive development for smokers as well as non-smokers exposed to toxic second-hand fumes.  Delivering nicotine alone instead of via tobacco seems to me to be better for everyone.

Will e-cigs be a gateway to tobacco use?  If the cost of e-cigarettes is the same or less than conventional cigarettes, then the answer is probably not.  Is smokeless tobacco a gateway for cigarette use?  Or nicotine gum or the patch?  I’m not aware that they are.  Nevertheless, fewer people using tobacco is a win for all.

What do other PediaBlog readers think?