From the Daily: Prioritizing minors’ health

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published March 19, 2014

Michigan is poised to take another step to prevent underage smoking by extending a ban on electronic cigarettes with state Senate Bills 667 and 668. Under Michigan’s public health code, minors may buy e-cigarettes because they don’t contain tobacco. E-cigarettes are appealing to minors due to easy accessibility and variety of flavors. The Michigan legislature should pass this legislation to protect vulnerable minors, however it should not take further action to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

The bills are on their way to the Michigan House of Representatives after both were adopted unanimously by the state Senate. The FDA doesn’t regulate e-cigarettes or their advertisements and little significant testing has been done to show the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on human health. Furthermore, there is also little research about the effects of second hand vapor smoke.

E-cigarettes are much more accessible to minors than traditional tobacco cigarettes, but still pose health risks. Nicotine levels in e-cigarettes are unregulated, and often provide users with as much or more nicotine than tobacco products. The availability of e-cigarettes, combined with flavors such as bubblegum, chocolate and cherry, leaves minors susceptible to addiction, which could lead to future tobacco use. Smoking habits usually develop at a young age — about 90 percent of smokers began smoking as kids. According to the American Cancer Society, men who smoke are about 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Since e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, it would be a difficult issue to label them as such. Organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer society links them to tobacco products, in order to maintain awareness of the possible dangers. This would entail extensions of bans on where they can be used. Some individuals with health issues report that the vapor is irritating to the nose and throat, but until more research supports these claims, legislation should not restrict e-cigarette use in the same manner as tobacco smoking.

Though e-cigarettes may pose a threat to minors, they can be a useful tool for smokers in the process of quitting tobacco. More research on the subject is needed, but currently the vapor of e-cigarettes is considered to be less harmful than the smoke of tobacco. Using an e-cigarette will not break the addiction to nicotine but it can end dependence on tobacco. E-cigarette cartridges without nicotine are available as well — in this case, the smoker goes through an imitation of smoking without the nicotine, which could lead to breaking the addiction. If the state classifies e-cigarettes as tobacco then smokers will lose incentive — such as smoking in public — to switch to the less harmful product. Further research needs to be conducted before the government imposes arbitrary rules on e-cigarette users.