L.A. crams ecigs into a cigarette box

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Jackie Trejo | Illustrator
Jackie Trejo | Illustrator

May 1, 2014

E-cigarettes are now banned in Los Angeles as of April 19 anywhere that cigarettes are prohibited. The law was passed by a unanimous decision by the city council.

E-cigarettes are a new product that provides people the nicotine, cloud and flavor of cigarettes without the toxic carcinogens, additives and flammability. They offer an alternative to smoking but legislation pushed by anti-tobacco foundations may begin to make them synonymous with smoking.

Raymond Rigdon smokes e-cigarettes on Riverside City College campus and is disappointed by what the ban could mean. He made the switch to vaping from smoking two years ago for his health. His lungs have noticed the difference, as he no longer coughs up black tar. He has more all-around endurance, and though he hasn’t cut down his nicotine levels as much as he’d like, he feels better since the switch.

Studies have not yet been conclusive on the long-term effects of nicotine vapor. To make up for any shortcomings with delayed smoking bans in the 1970s, legislators are compensating by early bans on e-cigarettes preceding any negative medical findings.

 “The banning trend will seemingly continue, as the electronic cigarette is treated more and more like traditional cigarettes, and legislation is worked out to regulate the product,” said Twanna Harps in an article she wrote for The Guardian.

Some of the e-cigarette legislation makes sense, such as the federal laws prohibiting free samples, or the recent age ban on sales to minors: though they haven’t yet legislated advertising directed at minors and aren’t expected to for some time.

Prioritization needs to occur when legislating, beginning with regulating advertisement toward minors, regulating online sales and regulating the claims and ingredients manufacturers are able to use.

Laws that in some ways don’t make sense are bans that discourage people from switching to the safer alternative to smoking.

E-cigarettes hold great potential to be a solution to the innumerable deaths and health problems caused by smoking, but not if legislation and culture both continue to discourage the integration of vaping over smoking.

Anti-smoking lobbies need to focus not on bans but on comprehensive prioritization of safety in discouraging smoking, discouraging children from taking up vaping and full disclosure requirements from manufacturers.

Among people in the smoking culture, making the switch from smoking to vaping comes with a plethora of urban myths that excuse smokers from going through the tough transition from one habit to another.

Rigdon started smoking at 15, and smoked for four years until he switched to vaping. He’s 21 now. Unlike many smokers who perpetuate a series of urban myths around e-cigarettes, he said the switch was easy.

 “I know a lot about it, but it kind of gets confusing to some people,” said Rigdon. “You want to start on a higher level (of Nicotine) that’s more than a cigarette just to make the switch easy.”

Smokers say e-cigarettes are worse for you because they make you smoke more, and smokers claim they have more chemicals than cigarettes or that other countries have banned them because of health concerns.

E-cigarettes contain propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine base and water. Propylene glycol is the material used in fog machines and is found in soft drinks. They also used to use it in ventilation systems for hospitals as a disinfectant.

“Propylene glycol is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries as an antifreeze when leakage might lead to contact with food,” said a statement on http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov. “The Food and Drug Administration has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in food.”

Some of the urban myths may have some truth. Due to unregulated manufacturing, companies are able to make claims about their products that are untrue, such as a lack of carcinogens, which may be added to their vapors. Manufacturers also make claims on the nicotine levels in e-cigarettes or liquids that are untrue.

Perhaps instead of villainizing people trying to improve their health, legislators can begin their focus on villainizing the corporations who care nothing for public health and exclusively for profit margins.

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