Will International CES 2014 Have an eCig Problem?

By Doug Mohney December 30, 2013

I've received a couple of emails surrounding "electronic cigarette" (eCig) devices and International CES 2014.  One was for a hookah and eCig party, the second was for a Richmond, VA Fortune 500 company that wanted to highlight its device in a private meeting, while the third offered me a discount on its product in exchange for an article along with promotion on its website, Twitter, and Facebook page.   That's about three too many for my tastes.

Once upon a time, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was all about the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets.  I suppose you could classify an eCig as a consumer electronics device because it uses a battery to vaporize a mixture of chemicals and nicotine for inhalation and incorporates a little LED to indicate operation and battery life.  In my Luddite view, an eCig is a drug delivery device and has little place to be mixed in with  OLED 4K TVs, 3D printing, and wearable tech.

I'm not sure the Consumer Electronics Association, operators of CES, have fully contemplated the mess they have walked into by permitting eCig on the show floor.  For the last several years, major tracks promoted at CES have included the "Digital Health Summit" and "Fitness Tech."  Digital Health Summit is marking its fifth year while Fitness Tech is in at least its second year of promotion.

CES/CEA has invested considerable time and energy promoting the application of technology for the betterment of people's well-being.  I suppose you could, in a very cynical way, argue that the eCig is a much better drug delivery device than the classic cigar, cigarette, or "dip," enabling individuals with nicotine addiction a much cleaner way to get a fix than stinking up rooms and filling their lungs with tars and other byproducts by using tobacco in more traditional manners.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the safety of eCigs has not been scientifically demonstrated. Nicotine delivery can vary notably by product.  One of the larger ingredients in the vaporized chemical mixture is propylene glycol, a substance is known to cause lung irritation to some.  WHO also says ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) and nicotine cartridges should be kept out of the reach of young children at all times due to the risk of choking or nicotine poisoning.

My net-net here is that while you may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer by getting a nicotine addict to switch from burning tobacco to an eCig, you aren't really dealing with the root problem of nicotine addiction.  In some (rare) cases, nicotine has medical benefits, but as such should be handed as a drug under a doctor's supervision – not as an over-the-counter device for recreational purposes.

I'm hoping CEA will say no to eCigs at future shows.  They are drug delivery devices, not consumer electronics devices like phones, tablets, PCs, TVs, or any number of other devices I can rattle off.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

Contributing Editor

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