Regulation

E-cig proponents denounce health and teen use concerns

Proponents of electronic cigarettes said vaping is 99 percent safer than smoking combustible cigarettes and denounced health studies that point to an increase in underage use as "engineered concern."

"All the statistics you hear about for underage use are based on surveys where people were asked, 'Have you ever taken so much as a single puff from an e-cigarette?' If they had, it classified them as an e-cigarette user," said Carl Phillips, chief operating officer for The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, which represents consumer interests.

"Obviously, this is a fairly misleading characterization given that teenagers experiment with things in social situations."

The study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released late last year found that of the 23 percent of high school students who were using tobacco products last year, 4.5 percent had smoked an e-cigarette in the last 30 days, up from 2.8 percent in 2012.

With the Food and Drug Administration expected to extend its regulatory oversight to cigars, pipe tobacco and e-cigarettes as early as June, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research hosted a panel discussion Wednesday to discuss the science behind vapor products and, as the pro-business group's resident scholar Sally Satel said, "set the record straight."

The teenagers who are actually using e-cigarettes in any "normal sense of the word," Phillips said, are smokers, and they're using them for the same reason adults are - because they are safer than cigarettes.

Phillips also attacked claims that companies are creating candy-flavored liquid nicotine used in these tobaccoless products to attract underage users.

"These flavors are much beloved by the adult users that are the target audience of this, the people we are trying to encourage to quit smoking," he said. "After all, adults like flavors. As I understand, not too far from here, there is the official Senate candy dish."

After a toddler in upstate New York died earlier this year after swallowing that often-flavored liquid chemical used in e-cigarettes, lawmakers have been pushing for legislation that would require manufactures to create child-resistant packaging.

Though Phillips said there's a lot of suspicion about whether that story of the toddler is true, he's in favor of safer packaging.

As for the safety of the liquid nicotine, he said it's important to remember that it's not actually straight nicotine.

"It's a 1-percent or 2-percent solution of nicotine," he said. "Pure liquid nicotine is toxic, but that's not what people have in their houses."

Panelist Igor Burstyn, an associate professor from Drexel University School of Public Health, said the amount of nicotine you get from vaping is not at a level that will harm your health.

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