I recently received a phone call from a woman confused about e-cigarettes. While taking her grandchildren to lunch she noticed people using e-cigarettes inside the building, the same building her grandchildren were eating and playing. She didn’t think e-cigarettes were allowed indoors and after asking the manager, she was told the truth, e-cigarettes are not covered under the Wisconsin Smoke Free Air Law.
So what are e-cigarettes? Whether an e-cigarette looks like a cigarette, a pen, or something completely different, the basic structure remains the same (see photo).
Like traditional cigarettes, the user is not the only person affected by e-cigarette use. The aerosol or “vapor” from e-cigarettes has been found to contain harmful substances like nicotine, propylene glycol, arsenic, aluminum, and lead. Propylene glycol is a known “food grade” substance used to absorb extra water and retain moisture in medicine, cosmetics, and food. While small amounts can be eaten safely, it has not been proven safe when inhaled. Unlike the stomach, lungs do not have acid to break down food and/or chemicals. Most of us can remember accidently inhaling water and the coughing fit that followed. Our bodies know what the lungs need and crave… clean air.
In 2014 Wisconsin reported the lowest smoking rates ever in adults and youth, however, at the same time reports also came in showing a drastic rise in e-cigarette use. Using e-cigarettes indoors re-normalizes smoking. Youth today have never seen a tobacco ad on TV and can barely remember when people could smoke inside public places. E-cigarettes use indoors has the potential to reverse decades of progress in preventing tobacco use and addiction to nicotine.
E-cigarettes are new, unregulated products and the long term effects of use are still unknown. What we do know is e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is an addictive substance, they give off an aerosol containing harmful substances, and they threaten our ever popular State-wide Smoke Free Air Law.
State prevention experts agree, we need to let scientists and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do more research on e-cigarettes and until we know more, we need to keep e-cigarettes out of public places.