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RICHMOND, Va. -- Fresh off winning a key battle with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the electronic cigarette industry is facing another fight as states, municipalities and even the San Francisco International Airport move to ban the use of the products.
Despite the fact that eCigs do not burn or give off smoke, their use is at the center of debates as several states, workplaces and localities have included eCigs in smoking bans. Others have stated that the battery-powered devices do not fall under the smoking bans, and still others are reworking smoke-free laws to include them, according to the Associated Press.
Unlike cigarettes, eCigs produce a vapor – not smoke – that users inhale. But some question what harm, if any, exists with secondhand eCigs vapor. As the news outlet reported, the FDA has said its tests found the liquid in some eCigs contained toxins besides nicotine, as well as carcinogens that occur naturally in tobacco. However, there has not been a study on what people nearby may be inhaling.
As of now, according to the Associated Press, New Jersey is the only state that specifically bans eCigs where regular smoking is also banned. Other local governments have banned eCigs under their smoke-free laws.
And CSNews Online reported in April that San Francisco officials took up the debate with plans to include electronic cigarettes into its current smoking ordinance, saying that anything that looks, feels or functions like a cigarette is a cigarette and has to be banned from public places. However, in Virginia, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote an opinion that said because eCigs do not burn tobacco, the vapor emitted does not fall within the definition of the law. "The whole purpose of a smoking ban is to protect people from secondhand smoke, and there isn't any smoke from an electronic cigarette," explained Elaine Keller, vice president of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association.
As the Associated Press reported, the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation includes eCigs in its model legislation that help states and municipalities draft smoking ban laws because of fears over safety.
To at least one eCig industry insider, though, the bans are not necessary. "It truly makes no sense," Ray Story, CEO of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association and head of eCigs maker WannaVape, told the AP. He added that by allowing eCigs in the workplace, employers would save millions in productivity from employees not having the take smoke breaks.
The "to ban or not to ban" debate comes two months after the FDA ruled against continuing its court battle to regulate eCigs. Instead, as CSNews Online reported, the agency said it was "developing a strategy to regulate this emerging class of products as tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act."