Err on the side of caution

Published 8:39 pm Monday, August 12, 2013

As it turns out, e-cigarettes have more than a little nicotine and water vapor. The FDA refused to deem them safe in 2009, reporting that e-cigarettes contain some of the same ingredients found in antifreeze.

Five years after the FDA’s findings, North Carolina did something about it.

Until this month, minors could walk into any North Carolina smoke shop and buy something to satisfy (or start) their nicotine habit, an e-cigarette. Because the battery-powered devices did not contain tobacco, they did not fall under the same laws as tobacco products.

Critics question the effectiveness of the e-cigarette in curbing the use of other tobacco products.

The jury is also still out on the safety of e-cigarettes. In contradiction to the FDA findings, A Drexel University study released this month said the e-cigarette contents were not harmful to users or those in proximity.

North Carolina law has erred on the side of safety, prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and penalizing those who break the law with $1,000 fines.

Now, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is seeking to take things a few steps further. In leaked documents, the mayor proposes rising the age to buy tobacco to 21, increasing fines for illegal cigarette sales and banning cigarette-advertisement displays in stores.

Bloomberg wants to set the base price of a pack of cigarettes at $10.50, and he would prohibit the use of coupons to buy them.

And where do e-cigarettes fit into this tobacco scheme? Smack-dab in the middle of it: e-cigarettes would be classified as a tobacco product and subject to the same laws. It is interesting that while researchers continue the study and debate of e-cigarette safety, the laws will continue to err on the side of caution.