Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8p4k0bkt9vrpyk6/Ecigs%20and%20Tobacco_HDTV_24_1080p.mp4
by Mike Ferguson
(Jefferson City, MO) – The sign says “No Smoking” or maybe the law says “No Smoking”, but you see someone puffing away in the restaurant, anyway.
They might not be breaking the rules.
What they are holding in their hands could be an “E-cig” – or electronic cigarette – and those who like this new option are sometimes quick to correct you if you say they are smoking and E-cig. They are “vaping”, not smoking.
Stan Cowen explains what you’re seeing in that restaurant.
“They’re battery operated devices that will heat and vaporize a solution to create a chemical-filled mist for the user. They may or may not contain nicotine. They may or may not contain flavorings or other things to enhance the experience for the user.”
Cowen is a former tobacco use prevention program manager for the state’s Health Department.
Jason Head works for Aqueous Vaper, a Missouri-based business that sells electronic cigarettes. He doesn’t claim they are good for you but believes they aren’t as bad as regular cigarettes.
“When you put down the cigarettes and use an E-cig, you’re getting rid of a lot of the carbon monoxide and tars and other things that really tax the body.”
Cowen warns against accepting that claim.
“Often, either anecdotally or it’s implied that because this is a vapor and they say it’s primarily water vapor, that it’s harmless. That is not the case. In particular, [researchers] have found there are at least four tobacco-specific nitrosamines that are in the vapor. These are known human carcinogens.”
That’s why he wants them regulated and taxed like tobacco-based products.
Both sides agree; E-cigs are so new, there hasn’t been time to study the long term effects they have on the body.
For that reason, Head thinks government should go slow when it comes to new regulations.
“E-cigs are different. We don’t know the long term effects but we shouldn’t be jumping in to preemptive legislation based on something that we don’t know about yet.”
That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to all regulations, though. He agrees with some basic rules.
“I don’t want to be selling to kids. Parents have to be responsible also for what’s in their kids’ hands. But, I definitely don’t want the option for somebody to sell to someone fourteen years old, an electronic cigarette.”
One argument for E-cigarette use is that it can help some smokers step down their tobaccos use. There is no research available to confirm or refute that common claim. E-cig manufacturers do not make that claim in their marketing.
Could the devices actually cause more nicotine consumption? Cowen says some studies indicate – but not prove – that E-cigs might actually increase nicotine use in some smokers.
“They don’t switch from one to the other. They become dual users and they start using e-cigs in places where they can’t smoke, otherwise.”
Head doesn’t believe that should be a part of the discussion when it comes to adding laws.
“Everybody has a choice of what they put into their body. From how they spend their money and what they want to do with it. I’m the kind of person who says ‘ridiculous freedoms’ for an individual. I want ridiculous amounts of freedom to choose what I do with my body.”
Nicotine is recognized as a highly addictive substance that, of course, not good for your body. The long term impact of E-cigs on the body will likely not be known for several years.
On the web:
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: http://health.mo.gov/living/wellness/tobacco/index.php
Aqueous Vapor: https://www.aqueousvapor.com/