Safety of electronic cigarettes remains up for debate around Augusta



With electronic cigarettes becoming increasingly popular, cities around the United States are taking notice – and changing laws.

On April 29, New York, Chicago and San Francisco implemented regulations prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free environments. BreathEasy Augusta says the dangers of electronic cigarettes are a local concern, too.

“We do not know that e-cigarettes are safe and need to restrict them until further research is conducted,” said Jennifer Anderson, the chairwoman of BreathEasy Augusta. “Since e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, there is no scientific data to support the safety of e-cigarettes for the user and for others in close proximity who inhale the emitted e-cigarette vapors.”

Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco amended existing smoke-free laws to include electronic smoking devices. Roughly 17 million residents who live in these cities will be affected by the new protections, according to The Associated Press.

Since Aug. 1, Georgia Regents University has implemented a tobacco-free campus policy that includes prohibiting e-cigarettes.

“Some of the same toxins that are found in cigarettes are also found in electronic cigarettes,” said Christine O’Meara, GRU’s director of Cancer Information and Awareness. “E-cigarettes are nicotine delivery devices, as are regular cigarettes, and nicotine is an addictive drug. The cancer center does not support the use of e-cigarettes. Our top priority at GRU is to provide a safe and healthy environment for our students and teachers.”

Not everyone, however, is convinced secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes is hazardous.

“I can’t go as far as saying electronic cigarettes are healthy, but they’re a healthier alternative,” Lauryn Sprouse, the store manager of Vapor Shotz on Broad Street, said. “Not only are they tobaccoless but customers can choose the amount of nicotine they want – and some elect not to have any nicotine at all.”

As for the potential dangers of secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes, Sprouse said she does not believe bystanders are at risk.

“It’s water vapor, so I don’t think it produces any secondhand harm,” she said. “Of course you want to be courteous and not smoke inside certain places but if you smoke outside I don’t think people should worry about secondhand smoke.”

Even though electronic cigarettes don’t burn tobacco or produce ashes, Breath­Easy Augusta claims there are other potentially dangerous consequences.

“E-cigarettes are battery operated,” Anderson said. “However, the nicotine is heated along with propylene glycol – a chemical that’s used industrially as antifreeze, solvent stabilizer and as a preservative in liquid livestock feeds. E-cigarettes deliver an array of other chemicals, including diethylene glycol – a highly toxic substance – and various nitrosamines, which are powerful carcinogens found in tobacco. The vapor that is expelled also includes levels of nicotine and nitrosamines, among other chemicals.”

Other concerns for O’Meara are ads that depict the safety of e-cig­arettes and long-term consequences for teens and children.

“E-cig promotions claiming that the vapor only includes pure nicotine and that e-cig vapor is harmless water vapor are incorrect,” she said. “The aerosol emitted from electronic cigarettes is not purely water vapor but contains nicotine, ultrafine particles and low levels of toxins that are known to cause cancer.

“Public health advocates are concerned that e-cigarettes, a nicotine delivery device, are a gateway device to smoking among youth.”

The Univer­sity System of Georgia has adopted a tobacco-free campus policy systemwide, effective Oct. 1.

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According to the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of San Francisco, secondhand e-cigarette aerosol contains the following chemicals and metals:

• Acetaldehyde

• Benzene

• Cadmium

• Formaldehyde

• Isoprene

• Lead

• Nickel

• Nicotine

• N-Nitrosonornicotine

• Toluene


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