South Bend Tribune
The Indiana legislative study committee tasked with considering e-cigarette regulation should keep in mind what is known about e-cigs.
And what isn’t.
Among the known: A National Institutes of Health report says that e-cigs have surpassed traditional smoking in popularity among teens. Nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders, 16 percent of 10th-graders and 17 percent of seniors said they’d tried an e-cigarette in the previous month. Between 4 and 7 percent of students who tried e-cigs said they’d never smoked a tobacco cigarette.
Committee members also should consider the figures for Hoosier youth are higher than the national average. The Indiana Youth Survey found that an average of 15 percent of youth between seventh and 12th grades said they used vaping products at least once in the month before they took the survey. Only 11 percent of ninth-through 12th-graders in Indiana said that they used cigarettes in the month prior to the survey.
Ruth Gassman, executive director of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, which conducted the survey, said that what’s inferred is that “students have this misconception it’s somehow safer than smoking a cigarette.”
Which brings us to what isn’t known about e-cigs. Despite talk about “vaping” being a less dangerous alternative to traditional smoking, there is scant solid information regarding the possible health risks of the electronic devices. A member of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network told the study committee earlier this month that the jury’s still out on e-cigarettes.
which produce a vapor infused with nicotine but without the same tar and chemicals in tobacco cigarettes.
And it certainly hasn’t helped that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t been as proactive on this issue as it should be, especially in light of the product’s growing popularity with young people.
In a letter to the FDA last year, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller urged the federal agency to do more “to warn young people and their parents that they could be subjecting themselves to health risks.” Further, Zoeller noted, the argument that e-cigs aren’t as bad as cigarettes “does not mean that e-cigarettes are a safe product.”
Earlier this year, in supporting legislation that proposed the first-ever regulations for the liquids used in e-cigs, we asked lawmakers not to wait around for the FDA to take action on “a fast-growing product about which little is known” and which poses a potential threat to youth. The bill that passed was a first step. Now it’s time to go further, with a more comprehensive list of proposals.