What became clear, as the discussion went on, was that the council and the citizens in attendance didn’t know much about these devices, ultimately the reason the ordinance was tabled.
This is understandable. These devices are relatively new, and there’s not a lot of information about them currently available. That being said, if local government is going to start legislating these devices, it’s important that they know what they’re legislating.
First and foremost, the term “electronic cigarette” is a bit of a misnomer. These devices do not contain tobacco, and they do not produce smoke.
When a “vaper” exhales a drag from an e-cig, it’s a vapor cloud, actually an aerosol, i.e. a vaporous cloud containing small particles of solids and other liquids. There seems to be some concern by non-vapers about just what is in that cloud.
The Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York conducted an experiment to try to figure this out. In the resulting paper, Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes, published last year, it found that the vapors do not emit carbon monoxide nor the volatile organic compounds found in tobacco smoke. The study also found that the vapor contained roughly one tenth of the amount of nicotine of cigarette smoke.
“I don’t know that it’s safe,” says Teresa George, owner of Vape Street Vape Shop in Warsaw. “Do I know that cigarettes are unsafe? Yes.”
Jake England, owner of The Lake House in Winona Lake, sells these devices at The Vape Bar in The Lake House. He feels e-cigs are safe enough to be used inside his establishment.
“You have your patches and your lozenges and those are FDA approved. I’m not going to say people can’t quit by using e-cigarettes,” continued Gray. “It’s a new product. Until it has been scientifically proven, I can’t effectively say they’re safe.”
“In the last 4 months, we’ve had at least 150 people who have started vaping and quit smoking,” said England. “We have another 100 on their way.”
“I smoked for 31 years, and I needed to quit,” said George. “I tried [electronic cigarettes]. I haven’t smoked in 6 months.”
The University College of London conducted a study of 5,863 adults who were trying to quit smoking. The study showed that 20 percent of those who used electronic cigarettes were able to stop using tobacco cigarettes and stay off of them. It also found that quitting cold turkey had a 15 percent success rate, and nicotine patches and gums only had a 10 percent success rate.
George says she’s seen studies that show a 70 percent success rate. England says he’s seen studies showing a 60 percent success rate. “What else has that kind of success rate? Nothing,” said George.
“You keep your social interactions, and that’s what worked for me,” England said. “You get that same level of satisfaction, and it doesn’t kill you.”
“So far, people haven’t been getting sick,” said England. “They’re breathing better and they’re tasting again. It’s to the point their doctors are baffled at how quickly their health turned around.”
Keep in mind, Kosciusko County has one of the highest number of smokers in the state. Roughly one out of four citizens are smokers.
According to the Center for Disease Control, tobacco cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of them are toxic, and over 70 of them are cancer-causing agents.
There are 3 ingredients in “e-liquids” or “e-juices,” the substance vaporized in e-cigs. There’s propylene glycol, a compound primarily used in the production of feedstock. It’s considered by the FDA as “generally regarded as safe,” and is only toxic to humans in very high doses.
Then there’s vegetable glycerin, a derivative of vegetable oil. It’s widely used as a food additive, and it’s used in fog machines, like those used at concerts. This ingredient produces that smoke-like cloud that comes out of the mouths of vapers.
Finally, e-juices contain food flavorings. The same flavorings used in candies and many other consumable products.
Nicotine can be, and often is, added to these solutions. Juices come in a variety of nicotine concentrations, and non-nicotine juices are available.
“Nicotine, in and of itself, is comparable to caffeine,” said England. “It’s addictive properties haven’t been studied outside of cigarettes.”
Gray, however, said nicotine is addictive. “They can’t be safe for that reason,” he stated.
“I’m confident studies will show there’s no detrimental affect on anybody vaping and the people around vapers,” said England.
“Are we going to find out in 10 years that vaping is dangerous?” said George. “I doubt that.”
As Gray previously stated, these devices aren’t currently regulated or approved by the FDA. The ingredients, however, are FDA regulated, and all are deemed safe for human consumption. George said the the wheels are turning for FDA regulation of these devices, but suspects it won’t occur for several years.
In the meantime, such as in Winona Lake, these devices are being dealt with on local or state level. According to George, in North Carolina these products are now being taxed like tobacco products, due to a push from tobacco companies.
“If you regulate beyond belief, you’re going to shut [smokers] off from something that could save their lives,” George said. “How do you deny that right to people?”
“As far as banning this in Winona Lake, it doesn’t need to be written into the [smoking ordinance],” said England. “You can’t lump these things together. Anybody who’s making this decision – do your research, think of the big picture and don’t lump them in with traditional cigarettes.”