AUGUSTA — While the electronic cigarette industry continues to boom, Maine lawmakers must decide whether to include the products in the state’s no-smoking law for restaurants, bars, parks and other public areas.

While numbers for Maine are unavailable, the e-cigarette industry has burst open in recent years and is expected to reach $3.5 billion this year, according to CNBC. Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that use a small heating element to vaporize liquid nicotine, which is inhaled by the user.

The process often is called vaping, and critics say that, while it may not be as dangerous as smoking regular cigarettes, the effects of the vapor still can be harmful to the user and those exposed secondhand. However, because vaping doesn’t produce smoke, using the devices is legal in places where smoking is prohibited.

Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, has introduced a bill, LD 1108, to ban vaping in all the same places from which cigarettes are barred. He cites several prominent studies that have revealed that some nicotine vapor contains known carcinogens, such as formaldehyde.

“Parents should not have to worry about their children being exposed to harmful vapor when they take them out to dinner or to the movies,” McCabe said during a public hearing on the bill Monday.

McCabe said his bill would clear up confusion among business owners and park and beach operators about whether vaporizers should be allowed or not.

While e-cigarettes have been on the market for several years, the FDA still has no regulations in place.

Public health advocates, including the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association and Maine Public Health Associates, testified in favor of McCabe’s bill, saying that, while study of e-cigarettes is ongoing, the state should play it safe.

“The burden should be on [e-cigarette manufacturers] to prove they’re safe, not on us to prove they’re unsafe,” Ed Miller of the American Lung Association, said.

A report by the World Health Organization in 2014 found that electronic cigarette vapor is not simply “water” — as claimed by many manufacturers — but contains some toxins. However, the group reported the devices likely posed a smaller health risk than conventional tobacco products, though it said it is unclear exactly how much smaller the risk is.

The WHO also reported e-cigarettes still pose serious threats to teens and fetuses.

In many ways, the only accepted fact about e-cigarettes is that there’s still a lot that’s unknown about their health risks, as well as their purported role in helping smokers quit.

Dan Riley, a representative of Reynold’s American Inc, the second-largest tobacco company in the country and producer of the Vuse electronic cigarette, told the Health and Human Services Committee on Monday that the state should recognize the products’ as a “tobacco harm reduction” tool.

He cited the work of several doctors who asked the World Health Organization to consider electronic cigarettes’ place on a continuum of tobacco products, where they believe it should be rated as far less dangerous than conventional cigarettes, cigars, chew or snuff.

“These doctors were asking the WHO to consider this new science of tobacco harm reduction and making sure they took into consideration that if these products help smokers, cigarette smokers, stop smoking, that has the potential benefit of saving many, many lives,” he said.

However, Hilary Schneider of the American Cancer Society said the problem is that not all e-cigarettes are created equal.

“We have often sought lab tests of AG’s offices that have tested these products, and not all of them contain the same things,” she said. “One e-cigarette is not another, is not another. Some may not contain carcinogens, but many that we’re testing do contain harmful products.”

Because a bystander — or even the user him or herself — may not know what’s in the e-cigarette, the state should err on the side of caution, she said.

The Health and Human Services Committee will hold a work session and a vote on McCabe’s bill in the coming weeks.

Vaped Crusaders

It’s NOT smoking, and e-cigarette users are juiced to spread the word.


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