, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 29, 2014

As e-cig use grows, so does talk of regulation

Proponents cite safety; industry argues that rules will chase users back to tobacco

Electronic cigarettes are used as an alternative to tobacco, but some people want cities to regulate where the devices can be used.

“To ban these products will drive people back to smoking,” said Sean Gore, chairman of the Oklahoma Vapor Advocacy League, or OVAL.

Many cities are discussing ordinances to ban the use of e-cigs on city property as a safety measure for residents’ health. Some cities, including Tahlequah, have already passed such ordinances. Delbie Walker of the Muskogee County Health Department said that in August, the idea of banning e-cigs on city property was brought to the mayor of Muskogee.

“Now that we have a new city manager, we will go and visit him,” Walker said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma tobacco smokers are declining — 23.3 percent of Oklahoma residents smoked in 2012, down from 26.1 percent in 2011.

The number of retail stores carrying electronic cigarettes, also called “vapes,” is on the rise. Electronic-cigarette sales tripled in 2013, making it a $1.5 billion industry in the United States, according to Bloomberg Industry.

Gore said e-cigs are beneficial to people trying to quit using tobacco products.

Two main studies cited by Gore in his advocacy for e-cigs are the 2012 ClearStream-AIR study and Peering Through the Mist, conducted at Drexel University in 2013.

Mark Holinsworth, an employee at 918 Vapes in Muskogee, said the average users of the devices are not all young.

“They are late 30s to early 60s,” Holinsworth said. “We do have younger users — people who have decided to quit.”

Data from the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey show that 7.8 percent of Oklahoma high school students and 2.7 percent of Oklahoma middle school students who responded to the survey had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days.

Of those who responded, 17.9 percent of high school students and 6.6 percent of middle school students reported ever using an e-cigarette. The 2013 survey is the first year the survey has included a question about e-cigarette use.

“What they are failing to tell are the youth who are using already smoke. The youth that don’t smoke, aren’t picking up the e-cig,” Gore said.

But opponents say that the lack of Food and Drug Administration regulation of e-cigs poses a threat, especially to youths.

According to the World Health Organization, electronic cigarettes or ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) are devices that vaporize and deliver to the lungs of the user a chemical mixture typically composed of nicotine, propylene glycol and other chemicals, although some products state they contain no nicotine. Each device contains an electronic vaporization system, rechargeable batteries, electronic controls and cartridges of the liquid that is vaporized.

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