Just say 'yes' to regulating e-cigarettes

Calls for restrictions growing as e-cigarette sales rise

With the newest nicotine-delivery trend sweeping the nation, calls for common-sense regulation are both warranted and necessary.

Last week, e-cigarette regulations burst upon the political stage of the western world. The European Parliament, representing the 28 European Union nations, approved tough new rules regulating the e-cigarette market. Following the move, Democrats in the U.S. Senate proposed a bill to ban marketing of e-cigarettes to minors.

The moves in Europe and the United States have sparked a conversation about the appropriate way to regulate the newest, en vogue way to get a nicotine fix.

The debate is long overdue.

E-cigarette use has sharply risen in recent years. Between 2012 and last year alone, sales have doubled and stores offering e-cigarettes have quadrupled. Sales reached $1.7 billion in 2013.

The numbers shouldn't come as a surprise. E-cigarettes have made a highly public move from Internet banner ads to gas station counters, with stores dedicated to "vaping" popping up across towns and cities.

Any dramatic rise in the popularity of a method of inhaling a drug, particularly something as addictive as nicotine, deserves careful consideration.

E-cigarettes are small battery-powered devices that allow for the inhalation of nicotine in the form of a vapor made up of several chemicals including propylene glycol, which makes the trademark puff of vapor from e-cig users. The chemical is also well known for its use as stage fog.

Often considered a path to smoking cessation, the device's cartridges are available in various flavors and with different levels of nicotine.

The vapor is considered a minor lung irritant, but conclusive science on the effects of using e-cigarettes is out. That void is filled with the claims of detractors who argue that e-cigarettes - because they can so easily be used inside and do not impact others nearby - increase nicotine use and are a gateway to smoking cigarettes.

But many consider the new trend a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes and praise the new devices.

E-cigarettes are certainly better than traditional cigarette use, for bystanders and the actual smoker. They are far from harmless, though. Some regulation is necessary.

The bill proposed to the Senate would ban marketing to minors, an important and vital first step.

The European bill goes further and sets an important precedent to consider in this country. The passed bill bans advertising, similar to the regulation for traditional cigarettes, mandates health warnings on packaging, makes e-cigarettes childproof and limits the amount of nicotine per milliliter.

These laws are far from draconian and maintain the status quo for nicotine regulation. Laws need to keep up with the development of new methods for the drug's delivery.

The United States must update its laws to match current smoking trends. Though more research is needed, nicotine's addictive nature and e-cigarettes' popularity certainly justify introductory rules in line with those passed in Europe.

Warning labels addressing the dangers of nicotine, reductions in advertising similar to those on traditional cigarettes and limits on the concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes are all necessary and straightforward regulations.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com