Electronic cigarettes were a product a long time in the making, with many architects. The concept dates in a serious way to the 1920s; the first patents were issued to American inventor Henry A. Gilbert in the mid-1960s; in the late 1990s, former NASA engineer and microprocessor pioneer Phil Ray experimented with a new, non-smoking technology. Although Ray’s efforts didn’t go anywhere commercially, they did deliver the word “vape” to the lexicon.
The big breakthrough arrived 15 years ago. It was achieved by a Chinese chemist named Hon Lik, whose motivations were a combination of intellectual curiosity and entrepreneurial rewards -- and human welfare. Cigarette smoking had hastened his father’s death. Hon Lik had a heavy tobacco habit himself, and was experiment with ways to quit.
Public health is the dominant underlying context for the arrival of e-cigarettes. In the United States alone, they are credited with helping millions of people quit or reduce smoking cigarettes. According to a recent report from Public Health England, e-cigarettes are currently the most popular stop-smoking aid in England. American smoking rates continue to decline as well, according to the National Health Interview Survey, with the biggest drop among young adults.
A significant role in this success story is played by e-cigarettes, a product measurably safer than combustible cigarettes. Yet, the long and sometimes partisan tobacco wars took its toll on the U.S. media, which retains a residual skepticism of new products in the overall inhaling marketplace. The same is true among the American public. Two-thirds of adults think vaping is equally or more dangerous than smoking, for instance, a belief unsupported by the best available evidence.
This erroneous perception suggests a knowledge gap, one which these curated pages seek to address. Reasonable minds can differ on the public policy questions raised by vaping. What restrictions on market e-cigarettes are reasonable? Which are counterproductive? How can the government and the private sector maximize the health benefits of weaning smokers off tobacco without marketing vaping to young people who were non-smokers to begin with? The aim of these curated pages to expose those who think critically to viewpoints they might otherwise not see –to give readers information necessary for informed judgments.
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