A bill restricting electronic cigarette use in California will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, as industry and public health officials continue to face off over the health effects of e-cigarettes.
SB 140, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would include e-cigarettes in California’s smoke-free laws. The bill would prohibit smoking e-cigarettes — known as “vaping” — in workplaces, schools, daycares, hospitals, restaurants and bars, on public transport and other public places.
Use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, but their health effects are unknown, said Judith Prochaska, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University.
“We don’t know what daily, repetitive use and exposure will do to your lungs,” Prochaska said during a panel discussion Saturday in Santa Clara at the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
Also unknown are the second-hand health effects of e-cigarettes, Prochaska said. “Do these give out second-hand smoke? Yes, at a lower level than cigarettes but still at a level.”
Officials representing e-cigarette manufacturers contend that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to tobacco products.
“It’s obvious that vapor products are less hazardous,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, at the panel. He said public health officials are using “dishonest tactics” to vilify products that are helping people quit smoking tobacco.
An e-cigarette is a nicotine delivery system that uses a battery to heat a liquid combination of nicotine and other chemicals and flavorings. E-cigarette users inhale the combination into their lungs to get a nicotine fix. As of January, there were 466 brands of e-cigarettes and 7,764 products on the market, including rechargables, disposables, vaporizers and inhalers, Prochaska said.
“Why there are so many of these products on the market is because they are unregulated,” Prochaska said.
FDA has yet to establish regulations on these products. Meanwhile, the e-cigarette industry is exploding. The sector is expected to grow to $3.5 billion this year, Conley said.
This relatively new nicotine delivery system has allowed smokers to successfully shift to a less harmful product, while preserving the familiar act and habit of holding a cigarette and puffing on it, said Conley.
Prochaska said concrete studies are lacking on not just the safety but also the success of e-cigarettes in helping people quit smoking.
Leno and other proponents of the bill have expressed concern about the sale and use of e-cigarettes to minors. E-cigarettes come in a variety of flavors such as watermelon, grape, chocolate and coffee.
The use of e-cigarettes tripled among middle and high school students in 2014 over the prior year, according to data released by CDC earlier this month. In the same period, tobacco cigarette use among youth declined to record lows.
Forty-five states — including California — have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. In addition to restricting e-cigarettes in public places, AB 140 would beef up enforcement on sales of these products to minors.
The Senate Health Committee passed SB 140 in a 6-1 vote earlier this month. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday also will hear a related bill, SB 151, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa), which would raise the legal smoking age in California to 21. That bill passed the Senate Health Committee unanimously.