The latest craze sweeping the area involves an old habit — smoking — in a way. And like its well-know toxic predecessor, not much is known about it as it begins to become more commonplace.
Electronic cigarettes — known as E cigarettes — provide its users with many of the mannerisms of smoking tobacco without the known hazards tobacco use carries. E cigarettes involve a battery-operated device that is filled with a flavored liquid. A heating element in the device heats the liquid to produce a vapor, much as burning tobacco produces smoke. The liquid can contain nicotine — the addictive substance found in tobacco — as well as substances now used to other foods and flavorings.
The Food and Drug Administration has no regulations for E cigarettes due to the lack of information about the devices and their use. The nicotine-laced liquid does pose a hazard for young children, but no one is sure what inhaling the vapor during a long period of time might do to someone’s lungs.
The attraction of E cigarettes is obvious. They appear to offer a safer alternative to smoking tobacco, and many smokers use them to kick the tobacco habit. They also are much less expensive than cigarettes, and they don’t have a stench that lingers as do traditional tobacco products.
Many communities include E cigarettes in their rules governing tobacco use, and that seems like a practical step until more information is known. Danville Area Community College and Presence United Samaritans Medical Center both ban the use of E cigarettes.
The move is under way to study the substances used in E cigarettes. Until those results are known, communities and states should strongly consider regulating the use of the devices as they do tobacco products. A delay seems more reasonable than finding out too late about dangers that could have been prevented.