E-cigarettes and the vape debate

 
A a close-up photograph of a woman smoking an e-cigarette. E-cigarettes have avoided federal regulation - so far

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Electronic cigarettes, which some say are a safer alternative to smoking or a first step to quitting, are under fire.

Because e-cigarettes are so new, they're relatively unregulated. Now some lawmakers are starting to take action against the practice of smoking them, otherwise known as "vaping".

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Henry Waxman recently joined nine other lawmakers in writing a report titled Gateway to Addiction? which found that all seven e-cigarette companies surveyed used marketing techniques that targeted young people, such as free samples and sponsored events such as rock concerts. It found that flavours such as Cherry Crush, Peachy Keen and Chocolate Treat also drew in younger users.

Start Quote

We should acknowledge that the growing popularity of e-cigarettes is a massive win for public health”

End Quote Cameron English PolicyMic

In the wake of the report, Mr Durbin and Mr Waxman urged the Food and Drug Administration to clamp down on the marketing strategies used to promote e-cigarettes and to prohibit the enticing flavours.

Their campaign has found plenty of support.

"Vape if you want," writes Robert McCartney for the Washington Post. "That's your business. But don't give tobacco companies free rein to profit by manipulating the public's mind and jeopardising its health."

He says that if e-cigarettes are not regulated, the tobacco industry could create a new generation of nicotine addicts and undo 50 years of progress in combating smoking.

The true health consequences of e-cigarettes are yet unknown. The three main ingredients of e-cigarettes are nicotine, flavouring and propylene glycol.

While some data shows nicotine can dangerously weaken the immune system, the flavouring seems to be harmless. That makes propylene glycol the wildcard. Since it usually it shows up in products such as soft drinks, salad dressing, shampoos and soaps, there is good data about the safety of eating it or applying it to one's skin. But the effects of inhaling it are not yet understood.

There are also concerns that there could be cancer-causing substances in the vapour and metals on the coils inside the e-cigarette.

PolicyMic's Cameron English doesn't buy it, pointing out that e-cigarettes help smokers rid themselves of a habit that's proven to be hazardous.

"As cigarette consumption both around the world and in the United States continues to drop, we should acknowledge that the growing popularity of e-cigarettes is a massive win for public health," he writes.

So far, the only verified risk seems to be injury by explosion.

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The Food and Drug Administration, which has been slow to assert its authority to regulate e-cigarettes, ought to get on with it”

End Quote Editorial USA Today

Mother Jones's Dana Liebelson and Asawin Suebsaeng recently penned a history of e-cigarette explosions and fires, including the story of a barmaid in a North Yorkshire pub who was hit earlier this month by a piece of an exploding e-cigarette that had been left charging.

With all of this uncertainty about whether vaping constitutes a health risk, the editors of USA Today say that the FDA should err on the side of safety and treat e-cigarettes the same way they treat normal cigarettes - banning sales to children and any use indoors.

"The Food and Drug Administration, which has been slow to assert its authority to regulate e-cigarettes, ought to get on with it," they write.

In Forbes, Jacob Sullum disagrees, accusing the Durbin-Waxman report of being simplistic, especially when it claims that e-cigarettes are being marketed to children.

"In truth, the rap against fruity e-cigarette fluid is the same as the rap against flavoured cigars, sweet alcoholic beverages, and cannabis-infused chocolate bars: Adult products cannot be tolerated if they might taste good to kids,"

And beyond that, there is data that shows e-cigarettes are effective in lowering the number of people addicted to smoking.

"If the FDA follows Durbin's advice, it will ban most e-cigarette flavours, making the switch less appealing to smokers who prefer the prohibited varieties, and restrict e-cigarette advertising, making smokers less aware of a competing product that could literally save their lives," he writes.

With little proven scientific information - whether about the safety of e-cigarettes or even whether they have helped people quit smoking - this debate is like shouting in a dark room. There's lots of noise, but little light.

(By Kierran Petersen)

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 31.

    It's the usual suspects using the usual tactics. Dick (Mr. Chicago Corruption) Durbin and Henry (Rat Face, no really! look at his face!) Waxman. Misinformation and fear mongering. The whole point of demonizing e-cigs is to replace declining cigarette tax revenues. The studies are in, the product is safe. At least as safe as anything else you can do, like say, walking or waiting for bus.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 30.

    I have no problem with smokers using e cigs to try to quit smoking. It is probably safe to assume they are safer than the real thing but too early to know if they are safe. BUT, I DONT WANT TO SEE THEM ADVERTISED ON TV using adverts that are aimed at the young or to be allowed in pubs etc. Those are just backward steps..

  • rate this
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    Comment number 29.

    We will soon realize the consequences of allowing our government to constantly protect us from ourselves. E-cigarettes may be dangerous. So is driving. Allowing the government to limit the flavors of e-cigs because they may appeal to minors is idiotic. You know what else tastes fruity and is bad for you? Candy. I suppose we should regulate that too...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 28.

    I started smoking real cigarretts when I was 18. That continued for 12 long years. At the peak, I was smoking 10 - 15 of them a day. It seemed intoxication was the solution to all problems.

    In 2012, I got to know these wonderful things known as e-cigarettes and started vaping. I quit them too a year ago. Now, I dont even know how a real cigarette tastes like.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 27.

    Within 3 months of smoking ecigs, I was no longer smoking the paper sort. Within 6 months I was smoke-free; no vapor and no paper. That was 2 years ago and I haven't picked up one since.
    And btw, why is it that if you're an adult, you can't have good tasting things? Watch out daiquiris child police are on to you. Anecdotal science has no place in policy formation and I question the motives of this

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 26.

    As they say, if your an adult then fine, but let's stop selling and advertising to the youth, this is just another Profit over People scheme. Big industry does not care what it sells, nor to whom. It's essentially your life for their profit.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 25.

    It is misleading to state that there is 'little proven scientific information' on the use of e-cigarettes.
    There is a wealth of studies/science/supportive opinions out there. For example, both ASH England/Wales and the Royal College of Physicians have made generally supportive statements concerning the potential for the use of e-cigarettes in harm reduction. Lives can be saved with e-cigs.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 24.

    An E-cig helped me stop smoking in Dec12 after 40 yrs of smoking cigarettes. I'm in my mid 50's and I can't remember when I felt so healthy. Is the Propelene G harmful? Maybe, but not as harmful as a cig. Until a better quit smoking aid is created leave e-cigs alone

    My family can't stop commenting on my skin, my alertness, my overall joie de vivre. I put it down to e-cigs and how it helped me

  • Comment number 23.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 22.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    I was a fairly heavy smoker for over 40 years, and a few months ago I decided to give e-cigarettes a try. After countless attempts to give up on tobacco products, I've finally done so thanks to this technology. E-cigarettes can be a health benefit, not a hazard, and should be encouraged, not demonized. Though I agree that they should not be used to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 16.

    What would you rather have a kid who smokes a tobacco cigarette or a e-cigarette. And if you get rid of the flavours they have nothing pulling them to the safer option.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    Regulation IS needed so consumers have safe, quality e-cig devices & e-liquid. I recommend buying from U.K. or U.S. makers (I buy from www.southbeachsmoke.com). The best decision I ever made was to switch from smoking to using e-cigarettes. No more chronic cough, secondhand smoke, and now I can order e-liquid with less and less nicotine (0-24mg) until I ween off.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 14.

    E-cigarettes should be regulated in the sense of not being allowed to be sold because they don't work. If a person wants a very similar replacement to cigarettes, it just shows they don't want to quit, and therefore, they will not quit. I bought them years ago for a friend and she promised to use them exclusively. She tried them, they gave her nausea, she went back to smoking. She still does.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 13.

    I have been vaping for 3 months now and I feel better, smell better and think I am closer to giving up nicotine altogether. I have yet to meet a 'smoker' that doesn't appreciate the difference and most I speak with will be trying e-cigarettes soon. This is a global, unstoppable wave that will change how people use nicotine forever and for the better. They couldn't stop weed, they won't stop this.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 12.

    Reg should be the same as cigarettes, no more, no less. The e-cig is intended to be used as a cigarette, even containing nicotine. Therein it is not a simulation. You don't get some of the other awful stuff but then where does this leave a menthol cigarette or any deviation from a straight-up tobacco cig? Market is clearly aimed at younger set which is a questionable practice.

 

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