Vape Pens Are Under Fire

The following article originially appeared in The Leaf Online

Several cities in California have begun to regulate the sale and use of e-cigarettes and other vaporizing devices.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles City Council this week passed a law that places electronic smoking devices in the same category as tobacco products. Legislation is also under consideration to ban the use of e-cigs—battery-powered devices that are used to vaporize a liquid form of tobacco, as well as cannabis—in places where tobacco is prohibited, including restaurants and parks.

“It's important to protect young people from this deadly habit and to protect people from second-hand smoke,” Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz said. School principals told the council that some of their students are loading their e-cigs with marijuana rather than liquid nicotine.

In arguments reminiscent of cannabis prohibition, opponents of e-cigs proclaimed that their intent is to protect the children. Marlene Gomez of the American Lung Association claimed that e-cig manufacturers, some with ties to tobacco companies, are marketing the devices with fruit-flavored liquid to children with names like Cap’n Crunch and Fruit Loops.

If the mayor signs the new law, merchants will need to obtain a license to sell liquid nicotine vaporizing devices.

In addition, the Associated Press also reported that city councils in Richmond and Carlsbad voted this week to prohibit battery-powered nicotine inhalers from parks, restaurants and other places where cigarettes are banned. More than 40 California cities have taken steps to regulate sales or use of e-cigarettes, the AP reported.

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said banning vaporizers would be a mistake.

“Prohibiting the use of vaporizers would be a public policy blunder that jeopardizes public health in order to soothe some people's unfounded fears,” Tvert said. “These devices eliminate the adverse affects associated with smoking. Banning them would likely have the effect of steering adults back toward smoking. There are already laws in place to prevent the sale of these devices to minors. It is unfortunate that the city council is spending its time on this when it could be addressing other far more pressing issues.”

The usage of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed recently, to sales of more than $1.7 billion this year, according to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the health director for Los Angeles County. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration. A study by Dr. Donald Abrams showed that technology similar to that used in vaporizer pens can be an effective way to eliminate harmful chemicals from cannabis smoke.

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