E-Cigarettes and Kids
E-Cigarettes are growing in popularity as more public places enforce smoking bans.
The concern: will kids get access to these non-smoking nicotine sources, and get hooked?
Like most places of business, Maria Rogic's employer has a strict no-smoking policy. So she switched to e-cigarettes, an electronic nicotine delivery system that is smokeless.
"I can smoke it anywhere and no one can say anything to me about it," Rogic demonstrated. The e-cigarette runs on a battery. When she inhales, liquid nicotine and other chemicals from a cartridge are turned into a thick, odorless vapor. Inhaling produces a cloud, but it's not smoke, and it doesn't smell at all. Switching to e-cigarettes was life-changing for Rogic, who smoked traditional cigarettes for 15 years.
"My skin is better, I feel better, I can go up the stairs and not be out of breath," she lauded her new lifestyle.
Maria's enthusiasm for E-cigs is shared by thousands who log in to internet forums to brag about how much better they feel. And suppliers say sales continue to soar.
But not everyone is crazy about this new craze. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' biggest issue: They are easily available to children.
"We're deeply concerned that these products are being sold in shopping malls with flavors that directly appeal to kids," said Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Some of the flavors of e-cigarettes include apple, blueberry, cotton candy and chocolate. And they're not just offered at mall kiosks, but also online.
But anti-smoking advocate Dr. Michael Siegel says there's no real evidence that children are actually using e-cigarettes. One reason: they're expensive.
"These cost between $90 and $120 to buy the starter pack," Dr. Siegel pointed out. "And most kids walking around do not have $90 that they can just spring out to buy these things."
He said studies show kids are still smoking traditional cigarettes. But the Food and Drug Administration said kids are getting their hands on the high-tech versions and it's concerned because these products are not regulated by the agency. That means they don't have to be submitted for safety evaluation. That bothers other health activists, as well.
Matthew Myers explained his concerns. "We don't know what is in these products," he said. "What we're urging is simply that anybody who wants to sell a product to help people quit smoking undergo rigorous testing for safety."
Dr. Siegel and many others insist e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to smoking tobacco products. But Siegel also wants more research done. "This is a really promising product," he added.
A non-smoker for over 5 months and counting, Rogic said it made all the difference in helping her quit.
"I was determined and I knew I wanted to be a non-smoker, so I just pulled through and did it," she said.
Limited government testing recently found carcinogens and toxic chemicals in small amounts in two brands. Those brands did not include Johnson Creek Smoke Juice, which is made right here in Wisconsin. Johnson Creek also does not carry the flavors considered "kid-friendly" (cotton candy, blueberry).
The FDA wants e-cigarettes to be classified as drug devices, which would mean more stringent oversight. While Johnson Creek Smoke Juice said it would welcome oversight, other companies do not. The E-cigarette association is fighting to have the devices regulated as tobacco products.