ANNAPOLIS — Lawmakers are weighing a measure that would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes wherever conventional cigarettes are banned.
The bill, sponsored by Del. Aruna Miller (D-Dist. 15) of Darnestown, would place e-cigarettes under the definition of “smoking” in the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that mimic smoking a conventional cigarette. Unlike a tobacco cigarette, it emits vapor, not smoke.
E-cigarettes contain a solution that usually contains a mix of nicotine, flavoring, and propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. The device heats up the solution to emit vapor that users inhale.
Smoking cigarettes is prohibited in virtually all indoor workplaces, according to the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act. Currently, e-cigarettes can be used everywhere — in bars, offices and even school classrooms.
“E-cigarettes could be a gateway product to a lifelong addiction of nicotine,” Miller said. E-cigarette users can control the amount of nicotine, an addictive substance derived from tobacco, in the fluid of their e-cigarettes.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes, so it’s up to states and local governments to establish regulations if they choose.
“There is a lack of standards and quality control,” said Susan Glover, a smoking cessation counselor, in a recent legislative hearing. Glover said that the amount of nicotine on e-cigarette fluid labels could be inaccurate, and that there could be contaminants in containers.
Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and most recently Los Angeles ban the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other public spaces. In Los Angeles, the use of e-cigarettes in “vapor lounges” is permitted.
In Maryland, Harford and Anne Arundel counties have restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes. Airlines prohibit e-cigarette usage, as do MARC trains. It became illegal for minors to buy e-cigarettes in Maryland in 2012.
Only four states — New Jersey, Utah, Arkansas and North Dakota — have banned the use of e-cigarettes in public places.
Decades of research conclude that tobacco smoke from conventional cigarettes is harmful. For e-cigarettes, it’s may be too early to tell.
Tobacco smoke contains 7,000 chemicals. About 250 of those chemicals, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, are known to be harmful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those 250 chemicals, 69 can cause cancer. Secondhand smoke is a known human carcinogen.
However, there is no conclusive evidence that the vapor produced from e-cigarettes is harmful.
A 2012 study published in science journal Inhalation Toxicology compared the effects of e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality. The study concluded that electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study also indicated that there is no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed.
There is no research on the long-term effects of e-cigarette use.
However, the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, has reported that some carcinogens, including benzene, cadmium, lead, nickel and formaldehyde, can be found in some brands of e-cigarettes.
Supporters of the proposed ban also say the glamorous portrayal of e-cigarettes in advertisements could be sending the wrong message to youth. Many e-cigarette ads use sex appeal to sell their product, not unlike the tobacco and alcohol industries.
E-cigarette use more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011 to 2012, according to data published by the CDC.