By Geoff Williams
New bills could impose strict rules on manufacture and sale of electronic nicotine delivery devices
Mike Cline, 64, started selling electronic cigarettes almost by accident. A lifelong smoker, he took the advice of his son and on Nov. 7, 2009, tried a popular alternative to smoking cigarettes. He inhaled from an e-cigarette.
“I haven’t wanted a cigarette since then. This has been a miracle,” Cline said.
Miracle or not, his discovery of e-cigarettes, battery-operated devices that turn nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor that is inhaled, led to a business. He began selling e-cigarette starter kits at a coin store he owned in Indianapolis, and they proved so popular, he eventually opened up the Indy Vapor Shop and sold his other business, which he had run for 32 years.
But lately he is worried about the health of his e-cigarette establishment. He fears that new regulations being proposed in Indiana to govern the fast-growing industry will stunt his companys growth.
E-cigarettes are inspiring a lot of fear these days. People working in the industry worry that they’re going to be hit with the same regulations that regular cigarette companies operate under. Meanwhile, public health officials and lawmakers feel that the e-cigarette industry has been allowed to flourish unchecked into what someday could become a public health crisis.
That worry was increased recently when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual youth tobacco survey, finding e-cigarette use among middle and high schoolers tripled from 2013 to 2014.
The report suggested that some of these students may be using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, but lawmakers also fear that the reverse could happen, that if teenagers begin using e-cigarettes regularly, it could be a gateway to smoking cigarettes.
That’s why Indiana is trying to pass legislation to regulate e-cigarettes, according to Bryan Corbin, a public information officer with the Indiana attorney generals office.
“The focus of the Indiana attorney generals office remains on the public health risks associated with rising e-cigarette use among Indianas teens, such as the threat of creating a whole new generation of nicotine addicts,” he said.
Regardless of how e-cigarettes are ultimately regulated, Dr. Derek Yach, the director of the Vitality Institute, a health research organization in New York City, hopes that states don’t overregulate e-cigarette stores out of business. He wants to keep children away from e-cigarettes but not keep e-cigarettes away from smokers.
“E-cigarettes are far safer than cigarettes. It’s almost beyond debate now,” said Yach, who for five years was the director of the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ agency for health.
Cline, a heart attack survivor, said that before switching to e-cigarettes, he had a persistent smoker’s cough and couldn’t walk far without getting out of breath. Now he can walk up and down stairs easily, and he said his taste buds have even regenerated.
Given that he sells the product, he probably won’t ever give up e-cigarettes, but for those who want to give up both smoking and vaping, Yach said studies have shown that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit the nicotine habit for good.
But Yach stressed that he favors “smart regulation” for the industry, especially when it comes to children, something that Martin also said he is for.
“I don’t know how someone can responsibly say it’s a good idea to have cotton candy or bubble gum flavoring,” Martin said.
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