Legislators focus on e-cigarettes


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Bubble gum, caramel apple, peanut butter cup, gummy bear, and butterscotch. No, these aren’t flavors of candy but rather those produced by electronic cigarette — or e-cigarette — companies, in attempts to appeal to prospective consumers.

Legislators argue these types of marketing techniques used by e-cigarette companies are now targeting young children. A bill proposing to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors cleared a House committee on Monday in a 22-1 vote. The bill now heads to the House floor.

“We know when these e-cigarettes are coming in trendy colors and trendy flavors; they’re not being marketed as a life-saving or smoking cessation device some people would like to brag about,” Rep. Daniel Lundby, D-Marion, said. “It’s Camel Joe all over again.”

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that mimic tobacco smoking through use of a heating element that vaporizes a liquid nicotine solution.

The only representative of the House committee to vote against the new bill was Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn. She said she voted against the bill because she thinks the bill has not received enough attention or discussion of details such as penalties needed before going to the floor.

Like Pettengill, public-health advocates think the new bill serves as only a small step toward effective anti-smoking restrictions and more scientific research on these relatively new products is critical.

“That bill is sponsored by the tobacco industry,” said Doug Beardsley, the director of Johnson County Public Health. “OK, it’s illegal to sell to them, but my question to tobacco-industry lobbyists whose companies claim, ‘Oh, yeah, this will help people quit cigarettes, this will help people quit smoking,’ is have you submitted any of your products to the FDA for testing in order to be certified? I already know the answer to that, and it’s ‘No.’ ”

There is no significant evidence on either the long-term benefits or risks of the chemicals in e-cigarettes. However, because e-cigarettes run the risk of nicotine addiction, the regulation of these products has become the subject of ongoing debate.

Not only does Beardsley think the sale of e-cigarettes to minors should be banned, he also wants them to have the same restrictions as tobacco products, regardless of whether they are proven to be an effective smoking cessation.  

“If e-cigarettes were regulated the same as tobacco, smokers would still have access to them,” Beardsley said. “There are no negative consequences to smokers trying to quit if they were regulated the same as tobacco. But I think there are negative consequences for youth if they’re not regulated like this.”

In Iowa City, despite the Smokefree Air Act, e-cigarettes are allowed on campus, said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the University of Iowa police. Lundby agrees with Beardsley and thinks further restrictions of the e-cigarettes is necessary, specifically their use in public.  

“I don’t think we need to confuse consumers, other customers, and management,” he said. “These rules have been in place, and people have abided by them, and I don’t think that we should allow something that may look or act like a cigarette to cause some issues.”

Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, the floor manager, on the other hand, thinks that e-cigarettes may not be the appropriate subject to be regulated at this time.

“In my opinion, the reason for the Smokefree Air Act that bans cigarettes from public areas was because of the concern of the cancer-causing smoke and secondhand smoke from other people,” Baltimore said. “These products don’t create smoke, they don’t cause lung cancer like cigarettes do, so I don’t see any evidence there should be that level of concern.”

Whether or not more regulations for e-cigarettes are approved, Lundby and Beardsley hope people become better educated on what they label dangerous effects e-cigarettes may carry with their nicotine vapor.

“My friend has a hot pink one, he’s gay, and he thinks it looks really cute,” Lundby said. “He has a little holder for it, and he puts pina colada in it. I mean, he is having too much fun with this. He treats it like a toy, but it’s absolutely not a toy. It’s a very addictive narcotic. Nicotine is right up there with all the big ones.”

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.