Cigarettes are perhaps the most deadly consumer products sold legally in
the United States. The dangers and health effects associated with smoking
are very well-known, and tobacco companies have become symbolic of the
struggle between public health and private pursuit of profits.
In light of this, many health experts have been surprised to see major
cigarette companies printing dire warnings on their versions of new e-cigarette
products. The move has many questioning whether these corporate giants
are trying to shield themselves from
product liability lawsuits or whether they’re simply trying to snuff out the competition
and promote their traditional cigarettes.
By law, the tobacco industry is required to put health warnings on its
packages of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Companies like Altria
and R.J. Reynolds have found their way into the e-cigarette market as
well. On these products, the companies have placed lengthy and strongly
worded warnings about the dangers and addictive nature of nicotine. They
also warn that e-cigarettes are “not a smoking cessation product.”
Are these companies simply doing a public service by printing stronger
warnings than are legally necessary? Most health experts say “no
way.” Instead, they suspect that these companies are trying to ward
off future product liability lawsuits, trying to enhance their own corporate
reputations, trying to make regular cigarettes seem like the healthier
choice or some combination of all of these.
The e-cigarette industry’s growth has exploded in recent years. Many
longtime smokers are switching to e-cigarettes as a less-dangerous alternative
to traditional cigarettes. It should be noted, however, that the health
effects of e-cigarettes are still largely unknown. What is known, however,
is that nicotine is toxic and can be fatal in high enough doses. As such,
any product containing nicotine should probably be presumed dangerous
until proven otherwise.
Source: The New York Times, “
Dire Warnings by Big Tobacco on E-Smoking,” Matt Richtel, Sept. 28, 2014