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Cigarettes vs. e-Cigarettes: Which Is Less Environmentally Harmful?  

An e-cigarette. The health effects of the devices are unknown, but might they provide some environmental benefits over traditional smokes?
Jump to full article: National Geographic, 2012-04-11
Author: By Allen Tellis and Brian Clark Howard


Although it is also a controversial product, electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, could help reduce this toxic burden. The devices use a small amount of power to vaporize nicotine, which is then inhaled. Some are marketed as entirely nicotine free, and many have flavorings added. Many are advertised as helping smokers wean themselves off their habit.

Most electronic cigarettes are reusable, meaning only a tiny amount of vapor needs to be refilled for each use. This means they are potentially more eco-friendly than going through mountains of single-use products, which take resources to produce. e-Cigarettes are typically powered by reusable batteries, and are often charged via USB ports.

Because electronic cigarettes don't produce smoke, they are much less risky to non-users and to air quality in general. The health impacts on users are not well known, since the products have only been on the market for a few years. The FDA has recommended against their use, pointing out that there isn't enough data to know how much nicotine a user might actually inhale, and whether there might be adverse effects. . . .

It's clear e-cigarettes are safer for non-users, so does that qualify them as a worthy lesser of two evils?

Is it too convenient for non-smokers to say that people "should just not smoke or use e-cigarettes"? If it were easy, they'd already be doing that.

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