Regulations Needed for E-Cigs

nosmokingA couple of years ago as I was strolling though a mall, a young man, at a kiosk, smoking from a pen-like tool approached me and suggested I take a puff out of one of his devices. With Hawaii’s statewide ban on public indoor smoking, implemented in 2006, I immediately thought, how illegal, what in the world is this man trying to do?!  My curiosity was immediately sparked which led me to research and follow the use and regulation of these devices closely.

I came to find out that the man from the kiosk was not indeed smoking, but he was “vaping” from an electronic cigarette which have unfortunately yet to be regulated by the US. Food and Drug Administration, but they are expected to soon be later this year. Because they aren’t regulated, little is actually known of these devices and its possible health effects. Therefore, with its increasing popularity amongst Americans, the FDA and/or states should regulate the use of electronic cigarettes to prevent sales to minors, “vaping” indoors and in public places, and the advertisement or praise that e-cigs are a smoking-cessation tool.

Introduced about a decade ago, electronic cigarettes are cigarette shaped tools that contain a nicotine-based liquid that’s vaporized then inhaled. Slowly these devices have been becoming more and more popular among Americans. Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association reported that out of the 44 million tobacco users in the U.S, approximately 10% to 14%, which equates to about 5 million Americans, have currently been on the e-cig craze. In addition, as of this year, according to Wells Fargo securities analysts, electronic cigarette sales are soon to reach an astonishing 1 billion dollars.

As I mentioned, these inhalers are currently not FDA regulated, and because of that, the contents of e-cigs, along with the dosage of nicotine and kind of chemicals being inhaled aren’t really known by the public and the consumers. A recent study conducted by the German Cancer Research Center helps clear up some of the uncertainty. This study shows that, contrary to popular belief, electronic cigarettes aren’t in fact emission-free. The contents which include volatile organic substances are emitted as aerosol or mist and if inhaled indoors these liquid particles could possibly perforate deep into the lungs. This indoor pollution poses risks for adverse health effects especially since certain public spaces such as malls, restaurants, hair salons etc, permit the use of electronic cigarettes. Each state has its own regulations regarding the use of e-cigs and although generally, public transits, such as busses and trains, prohibit “vaping”, the majority of public areas still have yet to follow the movement.

Since regulations have not been asserted yet, there is currently no federal law requiring a minimum age requirement of 18 to purchase electronic cigarettes. A dozen or so states, such as Hawaii and North Carolina, have enforced such laws, while others have yet to jump on the wagon, therefore leaving a string of problems. With the attractive look and enticing flavors (ranging from Cherry Crush to Cookies & Cream Milkshake) of an e-cig, many adults are concerned that teenagers will be encouraged and lured in to start “vaping” which could in turn lead to actually smoking regular cigarettes. It was because of this predicament that fruit, candy, and clove flavored traditional cigarettes were banned by the FDA back in 2009. As an example of the attraction of e-cigs to young teens, before Hawaii had set an age restriction, and these devices were easily accessible to teenagers, according to Annie Hollis, from Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, a reported 15% (an increase from last year’s 7%) of students at Kapa’a High School on Kauai had tried electronic cigarettes.

On another note, some users have reportedly used electronic cigarettes to take drugs such as marijuana. A YouTuber stated in a video, “Pulling out this at a baseball game or at a restaurant and taking a hit on this looks about as natural as anything.” To avoid detection, an e-cig is the preferred device since it doesn’t have as distinct an aroma as traditional marijuana. This trend definitely poses a threat to the safety of the public. How are we to know whether an individual is innocently smoking a legitimate e-cig or one filled with marijuana?!

As you can see, there are many issues regarding these devices and while many individuals protest the use and safety of electronic cigarettes, others praise this “safer alternative” to traditional cigarettes. Some individuals, such as Eli Alelov, the CEO of LOGIC technology, still argue that e-cigs don’t produce second-hand smoke (although new studies have shown that they aren’t emission-free) therefore they should be allowed indoors or in public areas, especially where nicotine patches or nicotine gum is permitted. I, for one, though, would not want to be surrounded by clouds of vapor while in an enclosed space. Simply take it outdoors. Lastly, these inhalers don’t contain tar or tobacco, which proves that it is healthier and safer than regular cigarettes.

In light of that, many smokers have turned to electronic cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking. In a new study by the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, 13% of the participants turned to e-cigs to try to “kick their habit.” In addition, Dustin Mala, a photographer at Hawaii News Now and smoker for the past ten years, shared his success story of smoking a pack to two packs daily to zero packs while on the e-cig. He then also altogether stopped “vaping”. There have been countless success stories similar to Dustin Mala’s and because of that many don’t see the potential harm of electronic cigarettes. In addition, by cutting back on the number on cigarettes smoked daily, smokers are also saving money which is another reason to favor e-cigs. Typically this device will be priced at around $40 each, with the added expense of the liquid refills. Cigarette packs, on the other hand, go for about $8 a pack. By smoking one to two packs a day, the numbers definitely add up.

From the looks of it, electronic cigarettes are here to stay. Smoking has been a habit for centuries now and with cigarettes being dubbed “cancer sticks”, the introduction of electronic cigarettes has been seen as a healthier and safer alternative although not much is known of these clever devices. The uncertainty of the health risks involving e-cigs is a concern to many Americans and without FDA regulation these tools along with the manufacturers are currently on a long leash. Until regulations have been established, to unsure the safety of minors, users, and the public, certain precautions such as setting a minimum age requirement of 18, etc, should be taken.

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One Comment to “Regulations Needed for E-Cigs”

  1. While I do think that e-cigarettes offer a healthier alternative to smoking and a good option for those attempting to quit, I believe laws should be established in regards to them. I particularly think that minors should not be allowed to smoke them. While they may arguably not be actual cigarettes or contain any tobacco or nicotine, I don’t see why those under 18 should be able to smoke e-cigarettes, especially if it has the potential to result in later smoking habits. I’ll be curious to see if e-cigarettes remain a popular alternative to smoking and what will occur after they are regulated by the FDA.

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