Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 April 2019
From their origins in the laboratory of a Chinese pharmacist in 2003 to their place in the portfolios of the world’s largest tobacco companies, electronic cigarettes have emerged as one of the most popular and controversial products of the twenty-first century. Some current smokers see e-cigarettes as offering an opportunity to reduce their dependence on conventional combustible tobacco products and instead make use of a potentially less dangerous substitute. Others, particularly young nonsmokers, embrace e-cigarettes because they offer a taste of the unknown, a chance to assert independence by using a new product that they see as edgy and experimental. Public health professionals are divided about the health consequences of e-cigarettes, with some arguing that they will perpetuate or even exacerbate the public health harms caused by conventional cigarettes and others claiming that they will reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.