E-Cigarettes like Other Tobacco Products California Legislature Asks



Californian Democratic Senator Mark Leno is introducing a bill into legislature Monday that would require users of e-cigarettes to be treated like users of real cigarettes due to nicotine content. Leno, the author of the bill, explains that all nicotine products should be subject to the same California laws. He asserts that those who smoke electrical cigarettes are inhaling nicotine just like people who smoke tobacco cigarettes. It is not just the smoke it also addiction that is being be sold Leno contends.

This bill comes after a wave of new studies and bills have been produced in Oregon and Washington State. Washington legislature is currently addressing the issue of whether the smoking age should be increased to 21 because people are still susceptible to addictive products through their late teens. It has not been clear if this bill will include e-cigarettes, but if Leno if successful in his pursuit of assimilating electrical cigarettes under regular tobacco laws in California, it would provide Washington with precedent.

A study conducted that could influence California’s decision on treating e-cigarettes like other nicotine products was done at the University of Portland and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. An increasing number of people are turning to e-cigarettes because they are reported to lack many of the carcinogenic chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. Also, they do not smell as bad and their tech-savoy appeal makes them appealing to all ages. However, the study in Portland reports that there may be more cancer chemical in them than previously thought.

James Pankow, a lead researcher and author of the study, says that there is a hidden chemical called formaldehyde found in the vapor released from electrical cigarettes and that people who use these devices should not just assume they are inhaling vapor that 100 percent safe. In the study, the researchers released the smoke at different levels of temperatures and capture it in a container to be analyzed.

Electrical cigarettes have a feature that allows the user to adjust the level of heat that the liquid is vaporized at. The average e-cigarette user sets the heat at 3.7 volts to vaporize the nicotine-enriched liquid and no formaldehyde is found. However, some of the newer vaporizers will allow the user to heat the liquid at 5 volts and when this vapor is inhaled, it contains about 380 micrograms of formaldehyde. If the smoker continues to use the vaporizer at this level, there is a 15 times greater risk of getting cancer over one’s lifetime.

In 2014, the FDA made some effort in regulating the use of e-cigarettes through federal regulations. There is no sign that these regulations will find their way into law anytime soon. The American Cancer Society is using this recent study to promote FDA regulations on the devices, but again there is little sign of federal action.

Monday, California’s legislature has the opportunity to regulate e-cigarettes like other nicotine products. Eric Jacobs, director of pharmacoepidemiolgy for the cancer institute, explains that the results of this study demonstrate how little is known about these relatively new devices. When a slight change in temperature can increase toxic exposure, what else might be found with more research. With the federal government stalling regulatory measures, it may be up to the states to put limitation on these ever-popular electrical devices.

By Joel Wickwire

CBS Seattle
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Photo by Mike Mozart – Flickr License