Think e-cigarettes are harmless? The city of New York disagrees.
Lawmakers there voted yesterday to expand the city's indoor smoking ban to include the electronic devices. So now people can't use them in restaurant, bars, and workplaces.
Michael Eriksen, dean of Georgia State University's School of Public Health, is all for it. Eriksen is spearheading a new Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at GSU, created by a $19 million grant from the FDA and the National Institutes of Health to study smoking.
We asked him to weigh in on New York's e-cigarette ruling.
The reason why cities and states are considering these types of actions is because there is no federal law, regulation or guidance on the use of e-cigarettes (yet).
The FDA is considering exerting their authority over e-cigs since they are technically considered a 'tobacco product' even though they more closely resemble a 'nicotine delivery device.' In any case, FDA will likely soon act (don't know what they will do) but it will provide some guidance to local jurisdictions and private enterprises as how they should act.
Personally, for me, since e-cigs are legally considered tobacco products, they should fall under the same rules and regulations as all tobacco products, which would mean things like complying with relevant clean indoor air laws (which is what NYC just passed), restricting advertising to the same rules that govern tobacco products (especially, getting them off TV and radio. E-cigs are the first tobacco product allowed to be advertised in broadcast media since 1970!) Lastly, all flavors (e.g., strawberry and cotton candy) should be banned as they currently are for cigarettes (but not for smokeless tobacco or little cigars).
So, overall, I think NYC did the right thing and that we'll eventually see federal regulations suggesting similar steps.