The El Paso City Council is slated to hold a public hearing Tuesday to decide whether to treat e-cigarettes like tobacco products under the local smoking ban.
If the Smoke Free Ordinance were modified to include e-cigarettes, the Texas city would join approximately 172 state and local governments that have taken precautionary measures, citing health concerns and differences in health experts’ opinions.
Los Angeles and New York have already banned e-cigarettes in public places. Similar hearings are being conducted simultaneously around the country, with some cities considering the harm a ban would cause to small businesses, as well as reforming smokers, who would prefer not to vape beside regular smokers.
While e-cigarettes have not yet been regulated on a national level, the FDA level is considering classifying them either as tobacco or anti-smoking aides. The FDA recently released the names of two e-cigarette brands that contain carcinogens and a toxic chemical used in antifreeze.
Experts are also concerned about the toxicity of the vapor itself, citing concerns about inflammation, asthma and lung cancer. One study, published in the journal Addiction in May, found that people who used e-cigarettes over nicotine replacement therapy were 1.63 times more likely to quit regular tobacco smoking.
A financial relationship was reported between four of the five researchers and “companies that develop and manufacture smoking cessation medications,” but none of them reported a relationship with e-cigarette manufacturers. (RELATED: E-Cigarettes Are 60 Percent More Likely To Help Smokers Quit)
Recent comments submitted by a group of scientists from University of California San Francisco and Stanford have called for the FDA to prohibit flavors in all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
“The rest of the story is that Glantz and colleagues are essentially calling for a ban on all existing electronic cigarettes,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Health and 25-year veteran of tobacco control. “Why? Because every electronic cigarette contains flavors. In fact, the presence of flavors is the only distinguishing characteristic of different brands of e-liquids or cartridges.”
In the meantime, other countries have been moving in the opposite direction, with health experts at NHS Scotland including e-cigarettes as a viable method to help quit smoking. Although they strongly recommend using licensed nicotine replacement therapy, e-cigarettes are noted as an acceptable strategy in harm-reduction, taking the position that “current expert opinion on the limited evidence available suggests that they are likely to be considerably less hazardous than tobacco smoking.”
“There are over 250 brands [of e-cigarettes] on the market today and I guarantee there’s not been research on all 250,” protests Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy at the American Lung Association, according to Science Line. “There’s nothing to stop a manufacturer from adding additional components, increasing nicotine at any time.”
El Paso’s final city council vote will take place on June 17.
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