California Officials Declare Electronic Cigarettes A Public Health Risk

stevendorffCalifornia has taken a stance in the debate over electronic cigarettes, and it is coming down squarely on the side that says e-cigarettes are potentially harmful. In a new report released this week by the California Department of Public Health, officials declare e-cigarettes as a threat to public health.

The report wants lawmakers to regulate e-cigs just like traditional cigarettes, reports the Wall Street Journal, with the state planning to launch a campaign in California warning residents about health risks associated with e-cigarettes.

“We really, really believe strongly people of California need to know what is in e-cigarettes and the harm that they can cause,” Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director, California Department of Public Health told the WSJ. He points to studies that show e-cigarettes release a mix of more than 10 toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, such as benzene and acetaldehyde.

Thus far, California is the biggest state to take such a stance against e-cigarettes, with Alaska as the only other state with a public-education campaign warning about their dangers.

The report came out this week in response to what Dr. Chapman says is the growing profile of e-cigarettes, and what he calls misinformation about their safety.

In California, the number of stores peddling e-cigs quadrupled between 2011 and 2013 and now includes more than 7,000 retailers. It also pointed to rising use among the younger set, saying it could help to addict future generations to nicotine. Citing a state survey of 430,000 middle and high school students in 2013, it points out that 6.3% of seventh-graders, 12.4% of ninth-graders and 14.3% of 11th graders had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Tasty flavors like cotton candy and no restrictions on how companies market those products are bringing more kids in to vaping, Dr. Chapman said, calling it a “wake-up call.”

He did say that while e-cigarettes aren’t as harmful as traditional cigarettes, they’re “not harmless.”

“The reality is with many of these chemicals such as benzene and acetaldehyde there’s no level that’s safe,” he said.

Advocates of e-cigarettes have come out swinging against the report, saying it contains false claims that could confuse people, and perhaps stop people from switching to e-cigarettes from traditional cigarettes.

“They’re grossly misrepresenting the safety profile of e-cigarettes. It’s really disappointing,” Julie Woessner, executive director of Consumer Advocates for Smokefree Alternatives told the WSJ. “It’s going to have the impact of discouraging people from making the switch from smoking, and it’s going to cost lives.”

Back in October, U.S. senators urged the Food and Drug Administration to hurry up and finalize months-old e-cigarette regulations it’s been promising since April 2014.

California Declares Electronic Cigarettes a Health Threat [Wall Street Journal]