The number of places you can legally light up a cigarette in public keep dwindling — good news given the latest surgeon general’s report. But e-cigarettes, which deliver the addictive drug found in tobacco minus the smoke (and thus minus most of tobacco’s ill effects on users as well as bystanders), are a different story. What should be done about them?
As Sunday’s Gazette story indicated, e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes, but not completely benign. (A government Website indicates numerous adverse health “events” have been reported by users and bystanders.)
And because they look like real cigarettes, they encourage people (e.g. teens) who wouldn’t otherwise smoke, to start on e-cigarettes. (It’s a problem if they later switch to the real, more dangerous thing.)
And e-cigarettes present enforcement headaches to authorities and non-authorities alike: From a distance, it’s hard to distinguish them from the real thing.
Given their increasing popularity, the Food and Drug Administration needs to make up its mind on e-cigarettes soon. Given the issues mentioned above, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to regulate them as regular cigarettes — especially for kids’ sake.
Their best use seems to be as an alternative nicotine delivery system — much like the widely available nicotine patch or gum — making it easier for smokers to wean themselves from the habit than going cold turkey.