“E-cigarettes are usually made of metal parts combined with plastic or glass and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They heat the liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that quickly dissipates when exhaled. The vapor looks like tobacco smoke and can feel like tobacco smoke when taken into the lungs at varying strengths, from no nicotine up to 24 milligrams or more.” This description of e-cigarettes illustrates the difference between e-cigs and traditional tobacco products. It also shows that nicotine can be present in the electronic cigarette product, something that e-cig manufacturers and their supporters downplay.
As I reported in an earlier article, e-cigarettes are rapidly gaining popularity among individuals of all ages. And in reaction to this growing trend, some large cities are creating regulations to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces. This month the city of Los Angeles joined Boston, Chicago and New York City in regulating the use of e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette industry is, consequently, getting ticked off.
Blu E-Cigarettes President, Jason Healy, recent went on Bloomberg TV to throw his weight behind the e-cig industry stance. Healy suggests that the ban on e-cigs will diminish its effectiveness in helping people to stop smoking traditional cigarettes. He went on to say that e-cigs are helping to save lives by giving people a way to stop smoking cigarettes. He claims that e-cigarettes are more effective than banning tobacco products and that by enacting legislation against e-cigarettes cities are doing more harm than good. Healy suggested that the bans are partially a result of lobbying efforts from big pharmaceutical companies, who stand to lose profits.
The FDA is working on proposals for the regulation of electronic cigarettes. Its website states: “E-cigarettes have not been fully studied so consumers currently don’t know:
- the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended,
- how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or
- if there are any benefits associated with using these products.
Additionally, it is not known if e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.” (www.fda.gov)
Given the scarcity of data at this time, the FDA’s caution seems appropriate, as does the various safety controls being enacted by major cities across the US. It seems reasonable at this stage of the debate to consider the possible dangers of inhaling the chemically-loaded vapors and the potential of introducing children to a concept that might lead them to traditional cigarettes. For obvious reasons, it would be quite irresponsible to simply agree with the e-cigarette industry in the absence of long-term testing and studies. This is a debate that will be closely followed. It is sadly reminiscent of the early days of tobacco regulation where the companies that profited fiercely battled those entrusted with our public health and safety.