During an Allegheny County Council public hearing held earlier this month, more than 30 people spoke both for and against a proposed regulation that would prevent people from using electronic cigarettes (commonly called e-cigarettes or vaping) in public places or inside facilities.
Supporters of the regulation argued that vaping could be a gateway for users – especially teens – to start smoking cigarettes, and also exposes bystanders to the dangers of secondhand e-cigarette smoke. Those against the regulation cited a risk of vapers going back to smoking cigarettes because of their increased exposure to tobacco smokers and claimed that vaping helps smokers quit.
“E-cigarettes help with cessation.”
A study on the association of e-cigarettes with quitting found the odds of quitting cigarettes to be 28 percent lower in vapers compared to those who didn’t use e-cigs.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, helps bust a few more myths about e-cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes are safe.”
Nicotine, even at low exposure levels, has negative and permanent effects on the adolescent brain as it relates to cognitive functions, such as thinking straight and learning. It also primes the brain for future substance use by inducing epigenetic changes (changes in the genes). Research finds this to be evident because the adolescent brain is developing and reorganizing so rapidly.
“E-cigarettes have therapeutic value.”
Suggestions of nicotine having therapeutic value to individuals with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were also addressed in the hearing. Although people with serious mental illnesses are more likely to smoke cigarettes than the general population, nicotine is not considered a medication for use in treating these disorders. There’s also no supporting evidence that not being permitted to use e-cigarettes in public places would have a greater impact on a users’ access to nicotine than what already exists.
Despite e-cigarettes being marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes or aiding in smoking cessation, regulatory authorities haven’t accepted either of these claims and little is actually known yet about the health risks of vaping.
The Allegheny County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposed legislation on Wednesday. It could then be sent to the full council for consideration. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. in Conference Room 1 at the Allegheny County Courthouse, 436 Grant St., Pittsburgh.