Across the country, due to a lack of federal regulation, municipalities and states are making the mistake of treating electronic cigarettes or e-cigs precisely as if they were tobacco. This is simply out of convenience — it is easier to adapt laws than to write new ones.

However, just because it’s the simplest move doesn’t make it the right one. By making e-cigs the same as tobacco, states and municipalities are recused of the responsibility of having to address the issue that stands: e-cigs are a unique and disparate group of products. The proper way to regulate e-cigs is a complicated issue, but treating them the same as tobacco is simply fallacious. Here’s why:

They Don’t Smell

A large part of the reason that tobacco legislation is in place is to spare nonsmokers the hassle of experiencing their odor. Work environments, restaurants and bars are now safe havens for nonsmokers in ways that they weren’t twenty years ago and for good reason. There is little worse than going to your favorite bar or restaurant to have a nice meal or a cold beer and having to withstand the ruination of flavor and atmosphere due to cigarette or cigar smoke. At this point, it’s generally accepted as rude and inconsiderate.

E-cigs are immune to this problem. They do not produce the same cloying and obtrusive odor that is practically a trademark of tobacco. The vapor is odorless and virtually unnoticeable.

The “Smoke” Isn’t Actually Smoke

The reason that the verb for using an e-cigarette isn’t smoking is because it isn’t smoking, technically speaking. Smoking tobacco is literally the inhalation of the smoke produced from burning the leaves of the tobacco plant.

What few realize is that electronic cigarettes don’t burn anything at all. Rather, they use electricity to excite the molecules in coils of wire that vaporize a mixture of ingredients that can include propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin as well as varying densities of nicotine and flavorings, potentially. This creates a vapor that is inhaled and exhaled in the same way as a traditional cigarette.

This fundamental difference means that electronic cigarettes are, at the most basic level, fundamentally different from traditional cigarettes, even if the outcome appears the same to the casual bystander.

There’s No Waste

Tobacco cigarette butts are the most littered item in America. This is the primary cause for smoking bans in places like parks and beaches where the wide open spaces and air currents make smoking unobtrusive under the previous two points. Frankly, it’s disappointing making the trip to a beach or scenic park to seek out a bit of nature and be blatantly reminded of human waste.

This is never the case with electronic cigarettes which have no end-user waste, aside from maybe a single e-liquid container per day for heavy users. Even if all e-cig users were tossing their liquid containers on the ground in public places, which of course they wouldn’t do, there would still be significantly less trash than that the heavy cigarette smokers produce in a day. E-cig users simply aren’t harming the aesthetics of the natural environment in the same way traditional users are, so we should not be treating them the same way as tobacco.

“Coolness” Is Irrelevant

There is a lot of hype around the idea electronic cigarettes are going to be responsible for making smoking “cool” again. Most of the reason people thought smoking was cool and interesting since time immemorial was the original belief that smoking Tobacco had health benefits. After WWII American society treated it as a health-neutral product that promoted productivity and stress reduction, ideas that are continue to reverberate today.

Since that time, smoking tobacco has been proven to be neither health-neutral nor beneficial but objectively destructive to almost every part of the body. The idea that any new, and different, product is going to be able to go against decades of scientific research and evidence against an addictive habit is simply ridiculous. In the same way that people aren’t going to think that insulating with asbestos is a good idea, it’s unlikely that people will think picking up smoking is suddenly a great life decision.

Altogether this amounts to a clear difference between tobacco cigarettes and vaporizers. This difference means that governments shouldn’t treat the two products the same but should regulate them independently. Many e-cigarette companies welcome regulations on their products, particularly e-liquids for the continued safety of their customers.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Why E-cigs Aren’t Tobacco: The Rundown," in Medicalopedia, January 7, 2016, [Permalink:].