The tobacco epidemic is a major issue that our current society faces with 1.1 billion smokers worldwide and 7 million deaths caused by them every year (World Health Organization). However, its detrimental consequences are not only to the human health, as is usually believed but also to other social factors such as the environment.
In terms of effects to the human health, several toxins in cigarettes such as nicotine, tar, and hydrogen cyanide are inhaled when smoking, causing damage to the lungs and the muscles used for respiration. According to Bakshi, nicotine causes tobacco users to become addicted to smoking, tar contains carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene that stains the lung tissues, and hydrogen cyanide poisons the lungs by paralyzing the cilia in the lungs, which cleans it up by removing foreign substances. This results in irritation in the larynx and the trachea, causing coughing with phlegm as well as emphysema and lung cancer.
Environmentally, the effect of tobacco can be seen its process of growing, manufacturing and consuming. To begin with, harmful chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers are used during its production, draining the soil of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus more than other major crops (Lecours). Moreover, cigarettes butts are “the most commonly discarded piece of waste globally” (Novotny) because they contain harmful chemicals such as nicotine and arsenic. This damages the whole food chain by contaminating the aquatic environment, soil and even our drinking water (Eriksen).
To combat these problems created by tobacco, e-cigarettes were invented in 2003. Some organizations such as British Medical Association claims that e-cigarettes are positive alternatives to cigarettes because they are less harmful to the health (Bauld). As Bullez states, “overall, e-cigarettes contain fewer numbers and lower levels of toxicants” than tobacco such as the lack of tar, preventing lungs from getting stained. However, e-cigarettes are not harmless either because it exposes the lungs to various toxins in the liquid, as well as the ones that are produced through consumption. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, e-cigarettes not only contain nicotine but also metal, including nickel, and cadmium, “that causes breathing problems and diseases”. Furthermore, they can also cause lung inflammation, which could affect the respiratory system negatively by making breathing harder (Rutland). In terms of the environment, e-cigarettes emit no carbon dioxide during consumption, as it is not burned, and create less litter because they are not thrown away every time. However, discarded e-cigarettes contain nicotine that is environmentally detrimental and the metal parts of it are toxic heavy metals, meaning that it cannot be recycled or disposed of (Holding).
Based on this evaluation, I believe that e-cigarettes are better alternatives to cigarettes because there are some benefits of using e-cigarettes and some prestigious organizations such as British Medical Association and some studies prove them to be less harmful to both the health and the environment. However, I do not think that it is a solution to tobacco because there are almost as many drawbacks to it as there are for tobacco and some social factors like economic were not considered here that could prove e-cigarettes to be more detrimental. Therefore, while I cannot be certain, I feel that more improvements on health issues must be made in order to make e-cigarettes the solution to tobacco epidemic.
Bakshi, Richa. “How Does Smoking And Tobacco Use Affect The Human Body?” Healthians Blog, Healthians Blog, 9 Feb. 2018, blog.healthians.com/how-does-smoking-tobacco-use-affect-the-human-body/.
Bauld, Linda. “The Evidence Keeps Piling up: e-Cigarettes Are Definitely Safer than Smoking.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Dec. 2017, www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2017/dec/29/e-cigarettes-vaping-safer-than-smoking.
Eriksen, Marcus, et al. “Microplastic Pollution in the Surface Waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 25 Oct. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X13006097.
Holding, Carol Pierson. “E-Cigarettes Put the Environment at Risk.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-pierson-holding/ecigarettes-put-the-envir_b_7108124.html.
Lecours, N, et al. “Environmental Health Impacts of Tobacco Farming: a Review of the Literature.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22345244.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes).” NIDA, USA Government, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes.
Novotny, Thomas E, et al. “The Environmental and Health Impacts of Tobacco Agriculture, Cigarette Manufacture and Consumption.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669730/.
Spector. “E-Cigarettes: The Health Risks of Vaping.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/better/health/better-cigarettes-vaping-comes-its-own-set-health-risks-ncna819716.
“Tobacco.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco.