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New laws send e-cigarette industry up in smoke

By Svetlana Krilyuk SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE

Though many people have taken up electronic cigarettes as a way to gradually quit smoking and others simply enjoy the vapor they produce, the government is continuing to ban and regulate the popular devices.

The electronic cigarette is simply a battery-powered atomizer in which a coil heats up liquid. This liquid is called “e-juice,” or “e-liquid,” and may or may not contain nicotine and flavoring depending on a person’s preference. When the liquid is heated it produces vapor which is inhaled and exhaled to produce a cloud of “smoke” that is mostly water vapor. This process is called “vaping.”

This spring, New York banned the use of electronic cigarettes in public indoor establishments and banned sale to anybody under 21 years of age. Recently, according to the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association, laws were passed requiring “e-liquid” producers to obtain a license and even a special lab in order to be able to legally produce commercial e-liquid. Hofstra has prohibited the use of electronic cigarettes in all residence halls and buildings.

These new regulations come at a considerable cost to the industry. Producers will have to pay fees for these new requirements which will then translate to higher costs for e-cigarette and e-juice buyers. For small businesses, this means that growth will be harder or they may not be able to afford these new regulations altogether and have to close their doors.

Not all regulations, though, have been unreasonable. A label law on e-juice, just like there is on food labels  would force manufacturers to disclose ingredients and allow consumers to know if there is anything else, such as alcohol, in an e-juice.

The government and various organizations, including big tobacco interest groups, say that all these bans and rules are for the health of the public. However, all of the ingredients that make up a typical e-juice – propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and nicotine – are all FDA-approved ingredients and the science has not shown them to have any harmful health effects.

This anomaly calls into question the true motives of the bans and regulations on devices that have proven to be an alternative method to help smokers quit the nasty habit. The BMC Public Health Journal and others have published studies about the effectiveness of the use of electronic cigarettes as an alternative way to quit.

A recent report from the Society for the Study of Addiction found that the liquid nicotine inside some electronic cigarettes has helped participants quit smoking better than other cessation aids. No proof of any serious medical risks have emerged.

Citizens have voiced concerns about the harmful effects that would occur if, say, a child were to ingest the liquid. Like anything else, if electronic cigarettes are  used inappropriately, they will obviously have harmful effects. These events should elicit is a regulations on the kind of bottle that is used, but nothing further. The actual liquid, like medicine or cleaning supplies, is meant to be handled with care.

While those who argue for these bans and regulations cite health issues, others see this as simply another instance of the government reaching into the citizens’ pockets.

Nicotine is the only ingredient electronic cigarettes and e-liquid have in common with traditional cigarettes; unlike a regular cigarette, an electronic cigarette does not contain harmful components such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, arsenic and methane. If electronic cigarettes contained such substances or have proven to be dangerous, bans and regulations would be justified, but that is not the case.

Therefore, it is likely that there are other influences such as money from big tobacco companies and the potential money to be made of regulating this industry. In fact, just over the past week, big tobacco CEOs have pushed the FDA to adopt more rules more quickly by trying to emphasize the addicting capacity on nicotine that may be found in some e-liquid, according to Time Magazine.

The notion that the intentions behind these new regulations are actually due to health concerns seems dubious because the research suggests otherwise.These misguided, new regulations have imposed hardship upon small electronic cigarette business, and have curtailed the enjoyment that many received out of being able to “vape” indoors.

Since scientific research has thus far shown e-cigarettes to be helpful in quitting smoking and not significantly harmful to a person’s health, it is only natural to question these bans and regulations.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors. 

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