What Mailey found was a surprising lack of regulations and guidelines from the state and federal government, leaving many companies to draw up their own policies on a product that is relatively new and unknown in the market.
“We are going to be selling them in the near future, but our policy is that you cannot right now – and it’s a policy that we admit could change down the road – but right now we are not going to allow people to smoke them inside the shop,” said Mailey. “We will also only be selling the products to adults,” he added.
To many who are new to the product, it may seem surprising that smoking e-cigarettes inside shops or selling them to minors could even be an option. But without federal or state regulations in place, the product is such that traditional tobacco laws do not apply, opening up an entirely new field for health officials and law makers to consider.
According to a New York Times article published April 25, 2011, electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were first introduced into the United States late in 2006. Powered by a battery component, e-cigarettes differ from their low-tech counterparts by doing away with tobacco. Instead, e-cigarettes use a liquid solution that is vaporized into an inhalable form inside a metal or plastic tube, which then delivers nicotine to the user.
“There is no tobacco, combustible smoke, tar or many of the toxins and chemicals found in real cigarettes – including formaldehyde, arsenic, ammonia, etc.,” said Liam Burns, a representative for Electronic Cigarettes Inc. Products from Electronic Cigarettes Inc. are sold across the region, including at a kiosk in the Wilton Mall. “This is a product that is by legal definition the functional equivalent of a cigarette, but has been shown by studies to be substantially safer than traditional cigarettes,” said Burns.
Some organizations, including the American Association of Public Health Physicians, have come to the conclusion that there are in fact some benefits for current smokers who transition to e-cigarettes. According to their report released February 7, 2010, the organization “has concluded that…based partly on the potential attractiveness of e-cigarettes to current smokers, [the product] could save the lives of 4 million of the 8 million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next 20 years.” The report continues, stating, “[E-cigarettes] appear to satisfy the nicotine addiction and the habituation to the cigarette handling ritual more than any other product now on the market. For current smokers, this may be the only low-risk nicotine delivery product acceptable as a substitute for conventional cigarettes.”
However, other organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have sought to ban the sale of e-cigarettes, classifying them as a “drug delivery device” that needs further clinical trials before it can be considered safe and sellable. But the Federal District Court in Washington overruled the FDA’s blockage, saying that the FDA was not allowed to ban the product all together.
Because e-cigarettes typically contain lower concentrations of nicotine, some have suggested using the product as a cessation tool. But Janine Stuchin, project manager of the Southern Adirondack Tobacco Free Collation at the Prevention Council, cautions users on thinking about the product in this light.
“There are a couple of concerns about using e-cigarettes as a cessation device,” said Stuchin. “One is there really isn’t a phase out component to it – the nicotine dosages don’t diminish over time. And two, because of the way it’s used, it’s so similar to a cigarette that you’re really reinforcing the social nature of the habit.” Stuchin added, “That’s why there’s no one way to quit or no magic answer. One of the things many people find is they have to stop doing all the habits associated with smoking in order to quit.”
Thus far, e-cigarettes have not been heavily marketed as a cessation device, and even the companies who produce them admit that they aren’t completely risk free.
“The product still contains nicotine, which is known to be extremely addictive,” said Burns. “There are some individuals out there who also do not tolerate [the liquid solution] that well, and so the product doesn’t work out for them.”
But, Burns contends, the product is still not associated with the same high risks that standard cigarettes are recognized for.
Because the product does not contain tobacco and does not fall under current regulations, it is still technically legal in most places to sell e-cigarettes to minors. However, an overwhelming majority of companies have instated their own policies restricting the sales to anyone under 18.
“We do not sell to minors at all,” stated Burns.
And neither will Stewart’s Shops.
“I think it’s the responsible thing to do,” said Mailey. “It does contain nicotine, so you have the same cautions, which is why we’re intending it for adults of legal smoking age.”
“It’s one of those things that we still need to learn more about,” said Stuchin, who noted that much of the research about the product and its effects on health are still underway.
“But I don’t want to form an opinion until I know for sure what the FDA’s concerns are and how they’re regulating it. To me, it seems like we should establish policy and practices that err on the side of safety.” She added, “If you’re trying to quit smoking and using tobacco, this isn’t a recommend way to quit. I’m up for being convinced the other way, if there are redeemable aspects to it. I just haven’t yet heard about those.”
To view the report from the American Association of Public Health Physicians, please visit www.aaphp.org/resources/documents/20100207FDAPetition1.pdf.
To learn more about Electronic Cigarettes Inc., visit www.electroniccigarettesinc.com.