Tobacco giants now warning of the health dangers of e-cigarettes

Tobacco giants now warning of the health dangers of e-cigarettes

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

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