24 May Lawmakers Target E-Cigarettes
The e-cigarette is a relatively new product that is creating controversy around the country. Originally marketed as an aid to help smokers quit, these devices are now being used by all kinds of people, often as an alternative to cigarettes. Users “vape” rather than smoke an e-cigarette, but critics are concerned about the safety of the devices and believe young people are being targeted. Many cities, and even states, have banned public use of e-cigarettes, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally announced it would begin to regulate them.
When they first appeared on the market, it seemed e-cigarettes had the potential to help smokers quit tobacco. The e-cigarette technology was invented by a pharmacist in China who wanted an alternative to smoking that wouldn’t cause cancer. An e-cigarette contains a vial of nicotine dissolved in water and a small battery that turns the mixture into a vapor. The user inhales the vapor, getting a nicotine fix without all the additives found in cigarettes. The exhalation is simply water vapor.
So far, research into the safety of e-cigarettes has been unable to turn up any harm to bystanders, but critics think it is too soon to say that with certainty. They also point out that because the exhaled vapors have no odor, it is not possible to know what a person is smoking. There is some concern that people could use them to inhale illegal substances, such as THC found in marijuana.
Another major concern for critics of e-cigarettes is the marketing of the devices to teens. Many e-cigarettes come in flavors like gummy bear or cookies and cream that seem to target kids. Some worry that e-cigarettes were created to get young people hooked on tobacco. Only 20 states ban the sale of e-cigarettes to kids and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that there is an increase in the use of the devices among adolescents.
Banning the e-Cigarette
Local governments around the U.S. have heard the concerns of e-cigarette critics and have taken steps to ban them from being used indoors. Chicago’s citywide ban recently went into effect – it prevents e-cigarettes from being used in restaurants and bars and other public indoor spaces. The ban included a measure that requires stores to keep the devices behind a counter, making them more difficult for teens to access. Los Angeles and New York City have similar bans in place. Officials cite the desire to protect young people and the right for everyone to have clean indoor air as the reasons for banning e-cigarettes inside public places.
There are a few statewide bans on the use of e-cigarettes indoors, and more states with bills waiting to pass legislatures. New Jersey and North Dakota ban them indoors; Delaware has a bill making the rounds that would also prohibit the devices.
Only time and more research will tell us whether e-cigarettes pose a threat to bystanders. What will be important is determining if there are harmful chemicals in the exhaled vapors. Also important is taking steps to ensure that young people do not become nicotine addicts as a result of e-cigarette “vaping.”
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