Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes carry warning labels cautioning users about the risks of nicotine. While this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do from a health perspective, The New York Times notes that these warnings are often more severe than the warnings on their combustible counterparts. Big Tobacco companies may have ulterior motives for placing more severe warning labels on e-cigarettes.
“Nicotine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and cause dizziness, nausea, and stomach pain. Inhalation of this product may aggravate existing respiratory conditions. Ingestion of the non-vaporized concentrated ingredients in the cartridges can be poisonous.” part of the warning of MarkTen e-cigarettes reads. According to the Washington Post, the warnings on traditional combustible cigarettes typically carry a shorter warning mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Times speculates one educated guess as to why tobacco companies are strategically placing more serious warnings on e-cigarettes: “Experts with years studying tobacco company behavior say they strongly suspect several motives, but, chiefly, that the e-cigarette warnings are a very low-risk way for the companies to insulate themselves from future lawsuits and, even more broadly, to appear responsible, open and frank. By doing so, the experts said, big tobacco curries favor with consumers and regulators, earning a kind of legitimacy that they crave and have sought for decades. Plus, they get to appear more responsible than the smaller e-cigarette companies that seek to unseat them.”
Both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes deliver the addictive drug nicotine. While combustible cigarettes burn tobacco leaves as users inhale smoke, e-cigarettes produce vapor by heating up a nicotine-containing liquid. E-cigarettes are marketed as having fewer toxins, but whether or not they are safe is still uncertain. Additionally, it has not been proven that they are an effective smoking cessation tool, as many proponents claim.