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Erin Hill-Oban, Published November 02 2013

Letter: Caution on e-cig situation

There’s been a lot of buzz lately regarding electronic cigarettes and the rise in popularity (and sales) they’ve seen all across the country, including right here in North Dakota. Whether news and opinions have come from the mouths of trusted news sources, Big Tobacco (which now manufactures e-cigarettes), health professionals, or e-cigarette users themselves, we should all stay informed.

Tobacco Free North Dakota adds the voice of our organization and our members to the conversation. We have no interest in scaring the public; rather, we feel education and information is important. What we know about e-cigarettes for certain is minimal.

As of today, there is not enough data collected nor studies conducted to determine how safe or unsafe these products are or to prove e-cigarettes are effective cessation devices. Tobacco companies are promoting e-cigarettes as a means to help users quit, but until science backs up that claim, TFND cannot and will not endorse it. NDQuits provides excellent (and free) services – both counseling and access to FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy – to North Dakotans who wish to quit.

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA as a tobacco product, and therefore, are neither taxed as such nor have age restrictions placed on their sales. That means your 10-year-old child or grandchild could legally purchase these devices. Though we hope retailers would deny their purchase based on morals, it’s irresponsible not to have laws in place to prevent kids from that kind of access.

TFND is concerned about reports of e-cigarette explosions, studies that show youth use of e-cigarettes doubling in just one year, and the knowledge that adolescents have found ways to alter these devices to smoke other drugs, such as marijuana, without a detectable scent.

TFND wants answers and common sense protections put in place by both the FDA and our state policymakers, a goal we will be working toward leading up to the next state legislative session in 2015. In the meantime, we encourage the public to stay informed, proceed with caution, and visit with your legislators about any shared concerns you may have.

Hill-Oban is executive director, Tobacco Free North Dakota.