Washington D.C. is one of the latest cities to debate whether eCigarettes should be regulated like tobacco ones. Up for debate is whether the use of eCigarettes should be prohibited in public indoor areas, verandas, and bus stops. Proponents of regulating the devices say they release potentially dangerous vapor that contains nicotine and propylene glycol, while opponents strongly resist any notion of parity between eCigarettes and their tobacco counterparts.
The argument revolves around whether the vapor from electronic cigarettes contains anything as toxic as tobacco smoke. ECigarettes aren’t a fire hazard because they don’t burn, and the vapor they emit doesn’t produce annoying odors or contain tar that settles on walls and furniture. Aside from delivering nicotine, the only potential similarity electronic cigarettes could bear to real ones is whether their vapor is physically harmful in some way.
The Safety of eCigarette Vapor
One of the main complaints against eCigarette vapor is that it contains propylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze. But that is a total myth. The ingredient that is in anti-freeze is Di-ehtylene Glycol, a totally different chemical. In fact, many foodstuffs contain propylene glycol; the main reason the substance is added to antifreeze is because it lowers the freezing point of water. Without the addition of propylene glycol, antifreeze would easily freeze solid during cold winter weather.
Another complaint against eCigarette vapor is that it contains nicotine. However, as with propylene glycol, no one has produced studies showing that inhaling small amounts of nicotine is indeed a health hazard. Even if propylene glycol and nicotine were hazardous to your health, your chance of inhaling them from secondhand eCigarette vapor is next to zero. Unlike tobacco smoke, which can linger in the air for minutes, eCigarette vapor evaporates within seconds.
The State of Legislation
Just as it prevents sellers of herbal remedies from claiming their products cure a health problem, The FDA prohibits sellers of e cigarette starter kit products and accessories from marketing electronic cigarettes as quit smoking aids or a healthy alternative to tobacco cigarettes. In D.C., a new restriction is on the horizon as well. The city plans to follow Maryland’s lead and outlaw the sale of e cigarette starter kit products and accessories to anyone under the age of 18.
In many states, the legislative attitude toward eCigarettes is to “limit the use of eCigarettes until there is more research”, as Angela Bradbery, a founder of Smokefree D.C., recently stated. However, if the FDA treats eCigarettes as it has treated herbal supplements, eCigarette users shouldn’t expect an FDA safety report on the devices anytime soon. What can be stated with certainty right now, however, is that eCigarettes pose fewer drawbacks than tobacco cigs.
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