Just going by media headlines, it's very easy to get scared of electronic cigarettes. After all, who would want to carry around a miniature bomb? Who would want to carry around a device that can blow up at any time?
This is definitely the kind of impression you get when you read the latest news regarding electronic cigarette batteries. It's as if all these people, in their search for a nice lungful of vapor, are putting their health in harm's way unnecessarily because of the impending danger of an explosion.
Well, you only need to look past these sensational headlines to quickly realize that this risk is actually overblown.
The statistical reality behind faulty batteries and explosive electronic cigarettes is quite astronomical. You're better off golfing in the middle of a rainstorm than fearing that your electronic cigarette will somehow, some way, blow up.
Of course, a lot of this has to do with how you use it. If you are very sloppy, or you try to jam the device, or you try to mess around with the battery, or you try to modify it in a way that isn't approved by the manufacturer, you increase your chances of an explosion.
Still, even with those interventions, the risk of people suffering any kind of harm is actually quite low.
I raise this issue because it seems that the media can't stop talking enough about the perceived risks of electronic cigarettes. That most of the time, it has something to do with the hardware.
I find this intellectually disingenuous. I really do. Because on the one end, it's obvious that the actual risk in electronic cigarette use is not in the hardware device itself.
The risk doesn't arise from people heating up e-liquids. It doesn't arise from people losing batteries or turning on their devices. Instead, it arises from the e-liquids that are being vaporized and turned into an aerosol.
In particular, the chemical formulation of the e-liquid is what gives regulators in Europe some cause for concern.
I really can't say I blame because when you look at the typical formulation of e-liquids, it is mostly made of synthetic materials. A lot of these are very volatile items.
Also, glycol is involved. And glycol isn't a new compound. It has a track record. And it's very easy for people with an agenda to twist that track record.
There is definitely cause for concern there, but is it overblown? Does it take the proper perspective of the fact that products tend to evolve as consumers become more aware and more demanding? Probably not.
It seems that the current media portrayal of the kinds of risks associated with electronic cigarettes or e-cigs or vape pens assume that the product is not going to evolve. They think that the e-juices that are currently available in the market will be the same e-juices that will be sold ten years from now.
They don't make any space for market competition leading to product R and D and better products. They assume that just because this product uses certain liquid formulations today, that those formulations essentially would stand the test of time and changing consumer tastes.
This is too much of an assumption to make. Because regardless of what kind of product you're looking at, whether microwaves, food, clothing or automobiles, consumer trends drive product design more often than the other way around. In fact, a good argument could be made that product design exists solely because consumers demand a certain type of product.
You have to understand that in any kind of market system, there is a self-correcting mechanism at play. It's not always visible. A lot of people describe this as the "invisible hand" theory.
But regardless of how you define it and regardless of how you characterize the internal self-correcting mechanism, it's indisputable that it exists. It's doubtless that it operates.
The bottom line is actually pretty simple. If a manufacturer or a distributor cannot satisfy the needs of its target market, it's going to go out of business. What kind of other incentive do you need?
Not only is the competition dog-eat-dog in intensity, but the stakes are very high. The costs of making the wrong call or making the wrong product design decision are crucial to the continued viability of your business. It's a do or dies affair.
It's my position and my understanding that this is all the incentive you need. I'm not saying that there's absolutely no space for government guidance and, in certain cases, regulation and intervention, but by and large, the market already has enough factors at play to ensure that the right products get developed for the right market more often than not.
This is not a new idea. This has actually played out several times in consumer history. When you look at automobiles, certain types of computer peripherals, or computer technology protocols, all of these were driven by consumer demand.
Sure, the industry had a big role to play in swaying consumer demand, but eventually, consumer demand and consumer tastes had to be listened to. Otherwise, companies would not make as much money as they would like. That's the bottom line.
It's all about profitability. And to deny that this operation is in place would be foolish.
It also doesn't do consumers any big favors to assume that just because electronic cigarette liquids are formulated a certain way today that those health risks are never going to go away.
Never Underestimate the Power of Substitution
Have you ever baked a cookie? If you're going to bake a cookie, you know that the standard recipe for a cookie involves sugar, flour, chocolate chips, baking soda, and possibly cinnamon. Pretty basic stuff, right?
If you've been baking, you know that you can always substitute the ingredients. You can substitute sugar for another sweetening agent. You can substitute the flour for another grain-based ingredient. You can substitute pretty much all the ingredients in a typical cookie recipe.
This is how bakers work. This is why different companies producing cookies have products that taste very different from each other. They taste different, they have different textures, and it all boils down to the recipes that they use.
There's really no one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter or "classic recipe" that everybody would prefer. When people buy a wide range of cookie products on the market, some like a specific taste, others like a specific texture.
This is why the cookie market in the United States is split up the way it is. You might not think that a particular brand is all that tasty, but hey, it has enough people buying it so the company behind it is still in business. You have to respect that.
I bring this up because the same dynamic plays out when it comes to electronic cigarette liquids. This is really the bone of contention as far as the health risks of this device.
Any honest examination of the issues regarding electronic cigarettes must accept the fact that e-liquids are not immune to the economic pressures forcing ingredient substitution.
If it turns out that the typical components of the e-liquids or e-juices are immune to substitution, then we all know that that's not true. All products currently on the market are prone to substitution.
If Apple computers, for example, could find a cheaper alternative for the glass that it uses to build its touchpads on, it will find that material. Why? Every dollar it saves is a dollar in net profit.
Businesses are profit-driven organizations. They are always looking to maximize profit and they're also looking to maximize their competitive advantage. If they don't, it's only a matter of time until they go belly up. It's that simple. It's that straightforward.
Accordingly, it makes a lot of sense to believe that, as fast growing as the electronic cigarette market may be, this is a sign that there is a tremendous amount of competition in the market. This means that competitors who come up with electronic cigarette juices that are safer, more natural, smell better, as well as taste better than existing products will get a larger market share.
Of course, this can only happen if they engage in substitution. There's really no iron law saying that the typical e-juice formulation currently available in the market must be set in stone.
A lot of this stuff is made in China. Chinese manufacturers are as susceptible to market demand forces as American ones. Don't think for a second that, somehow, they have this overarching need to produce e-juices that they've grown accustomed to.
That traditionalist argument simply doesn't hold water because the industry is not all that old. It's actually very young. There's still a lot of room to move. In fact, given its target audience, it seems that this market tends to reward innovation and forward thinking.
The Next Stop: More Natural E-Juices
Given the fact that veganism and plant-based holistic living are gaining ground in the United States, e-cig consumer tastes will follow the same pattern. As more and more people look for organic ingredients, I wouldn't be surprised if e-cig juices follow the same trajectory.
Not only would more of its components be plant-based, but they would also be purely natural. In fact, I would not be surprised if even nicotine becomes strictly an option.
Now, you may be thinking why would anybody in their right mind use an electronic cigarette without nicotine? Assuming that they're not using e-cig to enjoy marijuana, what is the upside?
Well, there are many other all-natural ingredients out there that produce a buzz. Nicotine does not own a monopoly on exhilaration. These other competing organic compounds can be healthier for you, so this is the cutting edge of e-liquids and e-juices.
Any honest discussion about the safety of electronic cigarette devices must take this factor into account. Otherwise, you know that the article you're reading is basically just playing the same old game of demonizing electronic cigarettes.