With state laws against smoking indoors, it is becoming more common to see smokers dangling metal tubes that end in a colored circle of electronic light and a vaporous puff.
These new, battery-powered “cigarettes” emit an often-odorless cloud, not smoke, and are hardly regulated. But many vaporize a solution that still contains nicotine, which gives smokers their buzz.
Electronic cigarettes have been marketed as safer ways for smokers to get their fixes without smoke, though few e-cigarette safety claims have been verified independently. With annual sales of $2 billion, the demand is real. Many former smokers vouch for e-cigs, saying they helped them quit.
But many worry these e-cigarettes could rope nonsmokers into the tobacco game. Some in the cancer-fighting community say e-cigs could groom future smokers by addicting them to less effective vapor doses of nicotine and searching for more.
They worry people might turn to cigarettes and turn back a generational attitude shift against smoking that has saved lives and millions of dollars in the costs of smoking-related illnesses.
This is especially true for the young. E-cigarette use among middle school and high school students has doubled in a year, reaching 10 percent among high schoolers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide had tried e-cigarettes, the CDC reported.
“Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
A group of 40 state attorneys general asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate electronic cigarettes and address their marketing, sales to minors and what’s inside them. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning didn’t sign on, saying he wanted to see more research. He’s right to want more information. Others do, too.
It was reassuring to read a recent World-Herald report that a large group of Nebraska retailers said they would accept a proposed state prohibition on access to e-cigarettes for anyone under age 18. Many said they already voluntarily carded kids who tried to buy e-cigarettes.
Kudos to them and to their businesses.
The Legislature likely will see a bill in the next session that would ban e-cigs for people under 18, making it the same as for tobacco products.
Clearly, limiting juvenile access to e-cigarettes makes sense, certainly until we know more about the ingredients and health effects.