Smoke alternatives need puff of regulation

Smoke alternatives need puff of regulation

Smoke alternatives need puff of regulation
October 01
12:17 2013

It has been nine months since UNT became a smoke-free campus. More and more students are seen puffing away on their electric cigarettes instead of leaving the campus boundaries.

Electric cigarettes, or e-cigs, are being marketed to young people as a safe and cheap alternative.

But these devices currently aren’t being regulated and have no age restrictions, which means our youth are being introduced to an addictive chemical at an earlier age.

When e-cig users inhale, the battery-powered device releases water vapor that is laced with nicotine into an atomizing chamber where it is heated. The liquid comes from a refillable cartridge. Some e-cigs are manufactured simply to release flavored vapor rather than the liquid solutions.

The Federal Drug Administration currently has the right to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, smokeless tobacco and other so-called “tobacco products.”

In August the FDA announced its intent to rule e-cigs as “tobacco products,” subjecting them to FDA regulation. This means officials will have the ability to regulate advertising, require warning labels and impose age restrictions. The FDA must prevent minors from having access to an addictive chemical that may incline them to try conventional tobacco products.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each day nearly 4,000 people younger than 18 years old smoke their first cigarette. An estimated 1,000 youth in that age group become daily cigarette smokers.

Cigarette advertisements have been banned from television and radio since 1971, and ads with smokeless tobacco products were banned in 1986. E-cigs should be no different.

Advertisers can still target younger age groups. They do so by selling e-cigs in a variety of colors and offering flavors like watermelon and cookies and cream. The placement and types of e-cig ads need to be regulated or else people may be influenced to start smoking at an early age.

An article in The New York Times reported that Blu eCigs spent $2.7 million in 2010 on ads in the category of smoking materials and accessories. Last year that number increased to $20.8 million.

Very little research has been done on these products. The FDA’s website warns users: “As the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use or if there are any benefits associated with using these products.”

It seems like regulation of these products is a no-brainer, especially with what little we know about them. If the FDA obtains jurisdiction to regulate e-cigs, then it can conduct research to decide whether the product really is a safe alternative.

Mollie Jamison is a journalism senior. She can be reached at MollieJamison@my.unt.edu.

Man smokes an electronic cigarette. -Feature photo courtesy of nytimes.com

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