Regulating E-Cigarettes Could Have Unintended Consequences

In the absence of federal regulation of e-cigarettes, states have started to make their own rules, but not without controversy

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Reed Saxon / AP

John Hartigan, proprietor of Vapeology LA, a store selling electronic cigarettes and related items, takes a puff of an electronic cigarette at his store in Los Angeles on Dec. 4, 2013.

Regulations of electronic cigarettes are expected to be a top priority for states and cities in 2014. But some of the new laws being considered — bans on use in public places like restaurants and bars, and high sin taxes — are based on the assumption that electronic cigarettes, battery powered devices that produce a nicotine vapor, are exactly like the real thing. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the thinking goes, it must be a duck.

But it isn’t that simple, say e-cigarette makers, and if policy makers overreach, they’ll face a fight with e-cigarette smokers and manufacturers who say it’s irrational to treat electronic cigarettes like regular cigarettes, and that the laws, which might dissuade smokers from switching to a safer product, may even be bad for public health.

“I’m looking forward to federal regulation. But each state doing its own thing in absence of a federal framework, I think is a mistake,” says Miguel Martin, the president of LOGIC Technology, an electronic cigarette maker in New Jersey.

It seems like every week another city or state has a new electronic cigarette rule under consideration. Utah, North Dakota and New Jersey ban using electronic cigarettes in public places like bars and restaurants. New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles are considering similar bans. Maryland’s Prince George’s county, a suburb of Washington, has agreed to hold off on a ban pending the results of a study on the risks. Proponents of such bans say second-hand vapor might be harmful and that electronic cigarettes glamorize smoking at a time when anti-smoking advocates have largely succeeded in stigmatizing it.

Minnesota is the only state that taxes electronic cigarettes (at 95% of their wholesale price), but industry insiders say they expect electronic cigarette taxes to proliferate in 2014. Utah, Oklahoma, and Hawaii have tried and failed to impose taxes on electronic cigarettes. Lawmakers in South Carolina and Oregon have also considered electronic cigarette taxes, making them likely candidates to continue the debate next year.

The flurry of state regulation has started without any guidance from the federal government — the FDA, which missed a deadline to start the regulatory process in October, says it will announce its intention to regulate electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product in December, kicking off a regulatory process that will take months.

E-cigarette makers say the patchwork of state laws without a federal framework will result in an unintelligent approach to electronic cigarettes that could lead to unintended consequences.

LOGIC’s Martin, a former executive for tobacco giant Phillip Morris, says that absent federal regulation, state taxes would punish retailers who check ID and create incentives for people to buy electronic cigarettes over the Internet, where ID isn’t as easily verified. LOGIC prohibits sales to customers under 18. “There’s a knee jerk reaction to tax. It has cigarette in the name, ‘I don’t know what the thing is, let’s treat it like a cigarette.’ What if science turns out to show that there’s a health benefit to using e-cigarettes over cigarettes and you have a financial disincentive to use them?” he says.

Craig Weiss, the CEO of the Arizona-based manufacturer NJOY, agrees. “If you make it just as inconvenient and expensive to smoke an electronic cigarette as a Marlboro, people are going to keep smoking Marlboros. Is that really the unintended consequence they want? To keep them smoking? Because that is what they are doing and we know the consequence of that is people are going to die a painful and early death.”

In response, some advocates of regulation in the public health community say it doesn’t make sense to subject non-smokers to any kind of fine particle pollution, even though there is wide agreement that e-cigarettes are much less toxic than traditional cigarettes.

Stanton Glantz, a professor at the University of California San Francisco medical school and a leading expert on the effects of secondhand tobacco smoke, says electronic cigarette vapor still emits harmful fine particles in the air. “If you look at absolute levels of risk [of electronic cigarettes], they are pretty bad, because a cigarette is just ridiculously toxic and ridiculously polluting,” he said in a September TIME story. “If you go into a bar or casino where there is a lot of smoking, the only way to get the air that polluted outdoors is to be downwind from a large forest fire. If you say an electronic cigarette is only 10% to 20% less polluting than a massive forest fire, that’s not so good.”

State and city regulations are likely to see major push-back from the electronic cigarette industry and e-cigarette smokers, many of whom believe that electronic cigarettes have helped them quit smoking. “If states get this wrong, if they [incorrectly] tax electronic cigarettes, you are going to see a lot of litigation” from e-cigarette companies, says Christian Berkey, CEO and founder of Johnson Creek in Wisconsin, the largest producer of the liquid used in electronic cigarettes. Berkey says that electronic cigarettes have not produced any proven public health costs that justify taxing them the way regular cigarettes are taxed.

States are also likely to face challenges from grassroots protesters and some members of the public health community who’ve become excited about the prospect that electronic cigarettes could provide safer alternative to smoking that is actually popular with smokers. Roughly 1,000 people protested at the Hawaii legislature when it considered a tax on electronic cigarettes in 2012, a measure that eventually failed. And electronic cigarette smokers — many of whom call themselves “vapers”— puffed on their electronic cigarettes at a New York City council hearing to protest a public use ban in December. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times cautioning against over-regulation of electronic cigarettes, professors Amy Fairchild and James Colgrove of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public health wrote: “If e-cigarettes can reduce, even slightly, the blight of six million tobacco-related deaths a year, trying to force them out of sight is counterproductive.”

26 comments
jaharris
jaharris

If you have anti-freeze at your house and leave it out, is it poisonous if a child ingests it? So we should ban anti-freeze next then correct. This is stupid, it is about being responsibility and not putting children in a situation when they can get to the e-liquids. http://ehookahbrand.com/ you can find the e-liquids on this site then research the ingredients and determine for yourself if this is poison.

tfgmg
tfgmg

He is looking forward to federal regulation over a patchwork of state regulations that may or may not be consistent with any data at all.  He is well aware of the impact passionate idiocracy can have on his product and knows that however messed up we think federal regulations are, states can be asinine.  The fact is, we just don't know if e cigs are better, worse or neutral from a public health standpoint.  We all have our conjecture and opinion, but it needs to be looked at.  I believe they will be a major stepping stone to a smoke free society, healthier society, but that's just my personal opinion that I am disclosing.   That being said, people need to establish that second hand e cig vapor is unhealthy before propagating such a ban.  That combined effort would shed light on these issues shortly. 

jrex
jrex

“I’m looking forward to federal regulation. But each state doing its own thing in absence of a federal framework, I think is a mistake,”


Holy crap! This guy is a huge part of what's wrong with this country today; he's got the idea completely backwards. The federal government is NOT here to regulate us - well, it isn't *supposed* to be - it isn't here to restrict us or standardize us. Its sole purpose should be protecting the inalienable rights endowed by our creator and settling disputes between states. Looking forward to federal regulation?! Who EVER looks forward to federal regulation?!

I don't even understand how there is a debate at all. People want to ban these things because... they don't like to see people *looking* like they're smoking? I know lots of people who use e-cigarettes (most who have used them to successfully quit smoking real cigarettes), and I've been around them quite a bit, and they have pretty much no affect on their environment. They don't smell, they don't choke you, they don't affect anyone but the user. Not to mention, recent studies have shown that second hand smoke from real cigarettes doesn't have any clear link to cancer. But I guess that's a different story.

morgs8185
morgs8185

A decent article, but the professor's comments show how over the top e-cig opponents will go. Innovators come up with a smart response to the anti-smoking jihad and now we have to ban them, so see E Cig Werks www.ecigwerks.com for more.

TimObservant
TimObservant

Anti-smokers who don't understand e-cigs are now trying to go for the "subjective fine particles" scheme. Look people, the vapor you see coming from e-cigs is a condensed cooling fog. There's a trace of nicotine in it (if it's from a nicotine version), but it's no more than what you would find in a tomato. Yes, a tomato has nicotine alkaloids in it. What? You really thought you just liked the tomato taste? Other particles are the left over residue of whatever flavoring and/or vegetable glycerin that was in the e-liquid, which is no more than what you would be breathing in a bakery shop. The moist vapor enhances the normal breath of the user so you can see it. The user would still be exhaling most of the same particles without it, but you wouldn't normally see it. Things like respiratory viruses and other bacterial particles are being exhaled by everyone all day long, but these jerks are complaining about a short period of time when a vapor allows you to see the path of those particles for the first time.

There are also e-cig devices which produce very little vapor and you see absolutely nothing during the exhale. Would they prefer the e-cig users to deploy those devices instead? Actually, you don't need a stealth device, you can deploy a stealth method with your current device instead. Simply holding a short burst of vapor longer on the inhale will warm up the vapor quickly and evaporate it before the exhale. Any e-cig user would know that by now, but we like playing with the vapor and keeping it visible.

The vapor that does manage to escape dissipates within seconds while it falls to the floor (depending on the local atmospheric pressure and temperature). If you need another example, then simply look up into the sky and pick out any ordinary white cloud. What happens to a cloud when the pressure above it is higher than what's below it? It falls closer to the ground and we call it fog. As soon as an energy source strikes it (like a source of heat), it begins to evaporate and disappear. E-cig vapor does the same thing. Apparently the jerks doing all the complaining are paranoid freaks afraid of CLOUDS!

Kosenko.Max
Kosenko.Max

This is the blog writing of Stanton Glantz about concentrations http://www.tobacco.ucsf.edu/new-study-shows-e-cig-users-exhale-nicotine-and-fine-particles-air-where-bystanders-are-breathing


This study clearly shows that there is only nicotine pollution exists. There is no VOC increase. USA regulations states limit of 500 mcg/m3 for nicotine. So study shows that nicotine was 80-600 times below the limits.


Propylene glycol (which is main material in the e-cigarette vapor) particulate limits are 10000 mcg/m3.

Glycerol (which is often used as second main ingredient) limits are 5000 mcg/m3 (respirable dust) and 15000 (inhallable).


Even assuming that those particulates were 100% respirable glycerol mist and had no absorbed water and we extrapolate that to heavy case of vaping bar 140 mcg/m3 - that would mean maximum particulates exposure from vaping at least 35 times below the limit.


And those limits are internationally accepted already. So this study shows no evidence of second-hand smoke and there are no reason to limit their usage.


Realistically it's easy to demonstrate that concentration of anything in the air even at extreme vaping condition is 100-1000 times below the existing limits.


secondhandcaffeine
secondhandcaffeine

Quick!  No more brewing coffee at the office!  It is creating water vapor CONTAMINATED with second hand caffeine!

grid.gypsy
grid.gypsy

To borrow a quote, Stanton Glantz would push for a ban on indoor plumbing if he thought there was grant money involved.

JunsonChan
JunsonChan

Something new and unknown and this is what always happens.


Tax, ban, regulate, even though we don't know its effects yet. This is why fear is such a bad thing.


Second hand smoke from real cigarettes can cause health problems, and causes others around you to be immediately sick (if they are sensitive to it).


Second hand vapor though, doesn't cause nearly the same kind of effect, on the same people. I know because my neighbor's children don't have issues with it, though we try not to expose them to anything anyway.


Drop by my ecig blog at www.urlen.com and say hello!

srgtstone
srgtstone

So das hat der Herr Glantz  gesagt?? Aber sicher hat der Herr Glantz  vergessen, die passende Studie zu übergeben, die seine Aussage bestätigt. Dieser Mann und das ist sicher, sagt das, weil Er wahrscheinlich dafür bezahlt wurde. Was jemand sagt ist noch lange kein Beweis das es auch den Tatsachen entspricht. Medien verlassen sich anscheinend neuerdings darauf, was Sie vorgebetet bekommen ohne selber Nachforschungen zu betreiben. Fragen Sie doch mal was Ihre FDA dazu für Studien in der Schublade hat. Ich bin sicher das Sie das überzeugen wird, wie wesentlich unschädlicher eine E-cig im Vergleich zur Tabakzigarette ist. 


Sorry my english is lousy, but I understand what Mister Glantz said. Thats verry bad!

Uma
Uma

Has Glantz disclosed how much money he receives for being an anti crusader? Also, by whom?

FrancineBowman
FrancineBowman

Taxes on cigarettes are falling fast since vapes came along.  Governments are losing their fun money.  So are big Tobacco Cos.  This outrage at vapors is a LIE.  Cigarettes have over 4000 chemicals that cause illness and that doesn't even cover the tar and ash.  If this helps people stop smoking then STFU.  The Government is getting exactly what it wanted, reduced smokers, now they miss their money. 

lurch
lurch

My 2 pack a day son in-law started using one of these electronic cigarettes a couple months ago. He don't stink no more. He's not coughing his head off every morning like he was. I can't smell it when he is using the thing. 


I hope they don't try to tax these high like real cigarettes. Anything that can help long term smokers quit is a good thing, don't ruin it.

MYitzhakSamuel
MYitzhakSamuel

There have been plenty of studies on the subject. Just nothing that proves that electronic cigarettes are in any way dangerous. Since there's nothing that proves the point that anti-tobacco advocates want to make, they tell you that there have been no studies on this, and that they're waiting on "the science" to come through. What this amounts to is religion, plain and simple. These people are crusaders, and they don't actually care how many people die of cancer, as long as things stay the way they are - terms the advocates are okay with. It's disgusting and sadistic, what these people are doing, and many of them need to be convicted of outright fraud.

cigbuyer-dot-com
cigbuyer-dot-com

Virtually all of the studies done on the second-hand vapor produced on e-cigarettes has found that the so-called "fine particle pollution" is at levels well below occupational safety standards. In other words, it's almost untraceable and virtually harmless to bystanders. You're exposed to more "particulate pollution" walking down the street in a big city! See a complete list of studies here: http://www.cigbuyer.com/studies/

cvphilo
cvphilo

Notice that Glantz did not actually say ecigs create 80-90% of the air pollution of smoking or forest fires -- he said "if...."  The reporters were tricked into quoting that as if it were information.  Why can't we have better health journalism?


The reality is more like 0.1% of the pollution from smoking.  Lets see if the press is willing to circle back and say "you predicated your opposition on X, but now it is clear X is not true, so have you changed your mind?"  But don't hold your breath that it will happen -- health reporters do not seem to have any training in investigative journalism.


Carl V Phillips casaa.org

vocalek
vocalek

Where is this study that quantifies the chemical output of conventional cigarettes and shows vapor to contribute anywhere near 10% of that? One study stated that chemical levels were up to 450 times lower.  That's a far cry from 10%.

DebbieGuardino
DebbieGuardino

The more states try to implement "sin taxes" on these products the more it becomes apparent that this has nothing to do with health and everything to do with money. States rely on tobacco taxes for their general funds instead of putting the money towards what it was intended for. The Anti-tobacco crowd can't see past the "vapor" and realize that these products are helping millions worldwide who have tried and failed time and time again with NRT's. Banning these products is counter productive to public health. The arguments they use are laughable and not based on science but on a misguided moral judgement.

MartinHarvey
MartinHarvey

@TimObservant Or, maybe, just don't be an addict. E-cigs are just as annoying as teenagers texting during movies. Learn some self control.

MartinHarvey
MartinHarvey

@MYitzhakSamuel Uhm, you do realize that no one forced you to start smoking cigarettes. Your cancer is self inflicted. You have no will power. You are an addict. You are of your own free will continuing to use products that will kill you. This is natural selection at work. Just go with it.

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