(AP File Photo)
Should e-cigarettes be allowed indoors?
Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Josh Hafner
If you’re old enough to remember the days when Pizza Hut had smoking and non-smoking sections, then your first public encounter with e-cigarettes may have raised your eyebrows.
It looks like smoke, sure, but users taking a puff may reassure you that it’s just vapor.
Or is it? Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller took e-cigarettes to task last week, calling on the FDA to prohibit sales of such products to minors and to limit their ingredients and ads. E-cigs, or electronic cigarettes, are essentially battery-powered sticks that deliver nicotine but produce vapor, not smoke. Smoking e-cigarettes is referred to as “vaping.”
E-cigarette producers and advocates say the products help smokers give up tobacco by sating nicotine cravings, much like a patch. Opponents like Miller say inaction by lawmakers thus far to catch up with the relatively new technology means that children can buy e-cigarettes and become addicted to nicotine.
Miller and dozens of attorneys general in the U.S. want to see the devices regulated just like tobacco products to keep them out of the hands of kids. Nearly 7 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 tried an e-cigarette in 2012, more than twice the rate in 2011, according to a September report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Use by kids isn’t the only thing on the rise. Roughly 4 million Americans use e-cigarettes, according to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association. About 10 times that number use regular tobacco cigarettes.
Jeff Bruning, a co-owner of several Des Moines bars including the Royal Mile, Fong’s and el Bait Shop, said he thinks e-cigarettes evoke more surprise than agitation from customers on a night out. He hasn’t heard any complaints about them, at least.
“I know they have a whiff to them, but only when you’re right up against somebody,” he said. “I think people look at them more like, ‘What the hell is that person doing?’”
The Royal Mile sells cigarettes behind the bar, he said. Bruning hasn’t thought about selling the cartridges of liquid nicotine used by e-cigarettes, but he doesn’t have a problem with e-smokers in his establishments as long as the usage remains legal.
An unscientific-but-still-interesting poll of more than 500 Juice and Register readers found that 65 percent disapprove of the use of e-cigs in area bars and restaurants. The most vocal feedback, however, came from those approving e-cigarette use.
“This is a silly discussion. It’s water vapor,” wrote Chris Manning of Des Moines. “It harms no one except the person smoking it.”
Scientific research on the effects of inhaling vapor of e-cigarettes, a relatively new but rapidly spreading technology, is inconclusive. A study published in a 2013 volume of Indoor Air, a journal on indoor environments and health, concluded that vapor emissions from e-cigarettes leave traces of nicotine and other substances in the air. The health effects of such “passive vaping” wasn’t analyzed.
I asked folks on Twitter if they used e-cigarettes or had friends who did and got mostly positive responses about the products:
— Todd Klindt (@ToddKlindt) November 8, 2013
— Connie (@congraz75) November 8, 2013
@joshhafner A man used it in my bank lobby; that was weird. I have friends who use them inside bars a lot; nobody has ever said anything.
— Kari Lynn Gladson (@Karried_Away9) November 8, 2013
@joshhafner I only ever used mine at home, in the car, and on campus. Always in smoking areas, though. Never got a complaint. Just questions
— Willow (@PhoenixWillow) November 8, 2013
Tell us what you think about e-cigs in Des Moines area bars and restaurants. We’ll include the results in Juice.