From Our Team
On March 20th, the City of Socorro tweaked its municipal clean indoor air ordinance, by changing the definition of smoking to include “electronic cigarette or e-cigarette or liquid nicotine.” By doing so, Socorro now prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants, bars, and other indoor work environments. This decision makes
Socorro the first municipality in the region to join Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and other cities to treat electronic cigarettes like conventional cigarettes. While many cities are considering this type of change to their existing ordinances, the emergence of ‘vaping’ retail stores across the U.S. suggests that the e-cigarette phenomenon is not going away. Interestingly, non-smokers often don’t know what e-cigarettes are.
Electronic cigarettes (also called vape pens) are typically battery-operated devices that contain cartridges with nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. Once ignited, the mechanism converts the contents of the cartridge into vapor, which is then inhaled by the user. “To vape” is the verb associated with electronic cigarettes; it’s another way of saying that an individual is inhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 5 adult cigarette smokers has tried an electronic cigarette. In many cases, cigarette smokers try e-cigarettes as a tool to quit smoking. While there is anecdotal evidence in both directions, there is no existing scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool.
What’s the concern? Up to now, the research on e-cigarettes is limited. Consequently, consumers currently do not know: the risks of e-cigarette use, the quantity of nicotine or other chemicals inhaled when vaping, or possible benefits associated with these products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness.
Nonetheless, there are some caution signs for these products:
• The FDA found that the various brands of e-cigarettes have differing quality control processes. For example, three different electronic cigarette cartridges, with the same label, contained markedly different amounts of nicotine.
• E-cigarettes cartridges include fruit and candy flavors. There is some concern that these flavors are being marketed toward youth. The CDC reports that 10% of U.S. high school students have tried e-cigarettes.
• The FDA analyzed the contents of two leading brands and found that both contained tobacco specific nitrosamines, a class of chemical compounds that have carcinogenic properties.
Big Tobacco is on the verge of becoming Big Vapor. Large tobacco companies, like the Altria Group and R. J. Reynolds, continue to move into the electronic cigarette market. Altria Group, the maker of Marlboro, is working to expand its MarkTen e-cigarette brand. R.J. Reynolds has its own subsidiary, R.J. Reynold’s Vapor, which will be launching its Vuse brand later this summer.
Vapor shops, including local retailers, and many smokers claim that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. With the emergence of e-cigarettes and the legalization of recreational marijuana in two states, the world of smoking is changing rapidly. To make wise health choices, we need to keep our eyes on research and evidence. While the relative safety of e-cigarettes may seem logical, necessary studies are not available. For now, the long-term impact on health of e-cigarette usage is not known.
For more information, contact Jon Law, Chief Operating Officer, Paso del Norte Health Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 915-544-7636.
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