Debate over safety of electronic cigarettes

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Monday, February 7, 2011 | Janelle Burrell | Categories:
Many see them as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, but some Albany lawmakers view electronic cigarettes as an unregulated drug that allows smokers to continue their habit. The so-called e-cigarettes could be banned if a bill in the state assembly becomes law. As our Janelle Burrell tells us, not everyone is in favor of it. NEW YORK STATE -- It's one of his favorite pastimes, but singing was once something Gary Teed could do only on a limited basis because of his 40 year smoking habit. Until he found an alternative. "I smoked a little over half a pack a day. I was able to quit completely," Teed said. After several attempts at quitting, he says the e-cigarette has been the only method that's worked and has been a godsend. "The cough is gone, I haven't had any bronchitis attacks. My taste buds have come back," he said. Which is why Teed is speaking out against a proposed state law to ban them. Advocates of the bill say the e-cigarettes allow smokers to continue their addictions in places they're not allowed to smoke and instead promote smoking cessation aids. Teed says literature he has read shows the nicotine in the e-cigs are just as safe. "What they fail to say is that the nitrosamines are also present at identical levels that are present in the nicotine patch and the gum," Teed said. While it seems some have benefited from these e-cigarettes, health officials remain wary because of the lack of regulation. "There have been some studies that have looked at components of the liquid and it does contain, in some cases, ingredients in addition to nicotine which are carcinogenic or toxic," said Sharon Fischer, the Tobacco Control Program Coordinator at the Broome County Health Department. Most of the products are imported from China. "If the FDA was able to test them and regulate them, then it might be a viable alternative, but at this point, that hasn't happened," Fischer said. It's a point Teed doesn't dispute, but says isn't enough to prohibit them. "Yes, there are things that may need to be addressed. It doesn't need to be completely banned, though," he said. The proof, he says, is in his health and in his voice. The FDA lost a court case last year trying to regulate the e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid rather than as a tobacco product.
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