E-Cigs: No Smoke, but Some Areas Are Banning Them

Manila Bulletin, June 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

E-Cigs: No Smoke, but Some Areas Are Banning Them


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - That's not smoke coming out of Cliff Phillips' mouth.But that hasn't stopped others from cringing, making remarks, waving their hands in their faces and coughing at the sight of the vapor from his electronic cigarette."They're just conditioned if they see you inhale and exhale something, it's got to be smoke and it's going to stink. ... They're not even smelling anything," said Phillips, a 61-year-old retiree and former cigarette smoker from Cuba, Ill.Electronic cigarettes don't burn and don't give off smoke. But they're at the center of a social and legal debate over whether it's OK to "light up" in places where regular smokes are banned. Despite big differences between cigarettes and their electronic cousins, several states, workplaces and localities across the country have explicitly included e-cigs in smoking bans.Some have clarified that the battery-powered devices don't fall under those bans. Others are retooling smoke-free laws to include them.E-cigarettes are battery-powered plastic and metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge, creating vapor that users inhale. Users call the practice "vaping" rather than smoking. Some e-cigarettes are made to look like a real cigarette with a tiny light on the tip that glows like the real thing.It's not clear what risks secondhand e-cig vapor holds. It's mostly just water, even though it looks like smoke. The Food and Drug Administration has said its tests found the liquid in some electronic cigarettes contained toxins besides nicotine as well as carcinogens that occur naturally in tobacco. But nobody has studied what onlookers might be inhaling.Some public health experts say that even for users, the level of those carcinogens was comparable to that found in nicotine replacement therapy like inhalers, because the nicotine in all of the products is extracted from tobacco.E-cigarettes devotees tout them as a way to break addiction to real cigarettes. They insist the devices address both the nicotine addiction and the behavioral aspects of smoking - the holding of the cigarette, the puffing, exhaling something that looks like smoke and the hand motion - without the more than 4,000 chemicals found in cigarettes.Industry estimates put U.S. sales of the devices and accessories at $200 million to $250 million annually.But e-cig users are being lumped in with traditional smokers when they want to "vape" and are being asked to not use them in places where smoking is prohibited.New Jersey is the only state that specifically bans use of e-cigarettes where regular smoking isn't allowed. Some local governments have banned the devices under their smoke-free laws.However, in Virginia, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote an opinion saying that because e-cigs don't burn tobacco, the "vapor emitted by an e-cigarette would not fall within the definition" of the law.

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