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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Be cautions with e-cigarette regulation

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, January 05, 2015 08:46 am
Electronic cigarettes have passed the $1 bil­lion-a-year mark, so naturally they are catching the attention of public officials. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling for the FDA to regulate the product, and there are indications the General Assembly will consider regulations and restrictions.Such scrutiny is appropriate, but caution is in order, too. E-cigarette use is steadily increasing, and the health effects of the product haven’t been studied enough for new legislation to be on the solid factual footing it should be. It would be reactionary and misguided to just regulate “vaping” the way smoking is, because they are clearly not the same thing.

E-cigarettes are pushed both as a healthier alternative to smoking and as a way to quit smoking. Certainly they are healthier than cigarettes. They contain nicotine but not the tars and other highly toxic substances in tobacco. But nicotine is highly addictive, so the long-term prospects of quitting might not be all that great.

A separate issue is the fact that a lot of young people are now vaping. It would be helpful to know how many of them starting on e-cigarettes would have begun with the real thing if the substitute weren’t available.

Then there is the issue of secondhand smoke. One big plus for e-cigarettes is that they produce only vapor, not the poison-laden smoke of cigarettes. So they would be less dangerous to non-smokers than real cigarettes, but how much less dangerous? That might be difficult to determine given the dangers of secondhand smoke have been so brazenly and shamelessly exaggerated.

And, please, let’s not ignore the issues of taxes, no matter how much lawmakers won’t want to talk about it. Despite all its anti-smoking efforts, governments at all levels have been highly dependent on the tax revenue collected from smokers.

As smoking has declined, that revenue has been greatly reduced, and lawmakers keep looking for alternative sources. E-cigarettes will be an obvious choice. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with taxing people’s vices — it’s a time-honored and justifiable practice. But let the lawmakers be honest about it.

Imagine the awful irony if lawmakers put so many taxes on e-cigarettes that some users are driven back to real cigarettes.

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