Smoking electronic cigarettes, or “vaping,” as it is commonly known, is gaining in popularity as more smokers are switching from regular tobacco cigarettes to these new alternatives, thinking they are safer. Teens and young adults are also being lured into trying them as a new, cool alternative to traditional smoking. However, there haven’t been any conclusive studies on electronic cigarettes and their potential long-term health risks.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs, are tobacco free, battery-powered devices that turn liquid nicotine into a vapor that you inhale. E-cigarettes consist of a mouthpiece with a cartridge containing the nicotine solution, a heating element to turn the solution into a vapor, and a battery to power the heating element. The nicotine for electronic cigarettes comes in a variety of flavors obviously meant to target minors, such as gummy bears, bubble gum, and pink lemonade.
Often e-cigarettes are made to look like real cigarettes. Users breathe in and exhale vapor like they would smoke from a traditional cigarette. The vapor consists of nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals that turn the vapor white so that it looks like smoke when exhaled. Exposure to formaldehyde, the latest concern about electronic cigarettes, was discovered in a preliminary study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and discussed in a recent LA Times article.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 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 whether there are any benefits associated with using these products. Additionally, it is not known whether 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.
Currently, California prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in the California Health and Safety Code Section 119405. In 2016, the FDA finalized a rule extending regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (E-Cigarettes), and e-pipes, including the regulation of sales to minors. Consumers can now report the violation of a sale to minor on the FDA website.
A recent news story relates the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is recommending passengers to put their e-cigarette devices into their carry-ons, rather than checked bags, because of a concern that the lithium batteries can explode.
Even though there not many laws on the books yet that regulate e-cigarettes, this will surely change in the future, as more citizens start to deal with the reality of living with e-cigarette use in the workplace, in restaurants, on sidewalks, and in other public spaces where tobacco smoking is currently regulated. Sacramento has passed a local ordinance, S.C.C. 9.12.080, which includes electronic smoking devices, otherwise known as electronic cigarettes, in its definition of tobacco. Therefore, electronic cigarettes are banned everywhere that other tobacco products are banned. This is a trend that will likely continue as e-cigarette use continues to rise. In early 2015, California Department of Public Health issued a public health advisory, urging the state’s residents to avoid or stop using e-cigs.