Are E-Cigarettes Just as Harmful as Tobacco?

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The scientific journal Addiction has reviewed the available research on the use, contents and safety of e-cigarettes and determined that they likely are much less harmful to users or bystanders than conventional cigarettes. The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use may be unknown, and further research is needed, but current evidence does not justify regulating e-cigarettes as strictly as or more strictly than conventional cigarettes.

Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London led an international team of leading tobacco researchers in conducting the review. Hajek said that the evidence was clear:

e-cigarettes should be allowed to compete against conventional cigarettes in the marketplace. Health care professionals may advise smokers who are unwilling to cease nicotine use to switch to e-cigarettes. Smokers who have not managed to stop with current treatments may also benefit from switching to e-cigarettes.

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The rising popularity of e-cigarettes has not only spurred the rise of upstarts in the business, such as NJOY, which last year had as much as 40% of the market, but big tobacco companies like Lorillard Inc. (LO) are staking out a share of the market as well. The benefits of Lorillard's blu eCig brand have been hawked on television by celebrity Jenny McCarthy.

But when Lorillard posted its quarterly earnings this week, it said profits were hurt by declining e-cigarette sales. The company cited increased competition as a major cause for the fall-off. Larger tobacco companies Altria Group Inc. (MO) and Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) are rolling out their own e-cigarettes brands -- Vuse and MarkTen – nationwide this summer.

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