BRISTOL, Va. - Tennessee State Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner told News 5 on Thursday that he has some concerns over the growing use of e-cigarettes. His comments on the need for regulation set off a string of reaction on our Facebook page.
We wanted to know more about the product that's also known as 'vapor' or 'vaping,' but not smoking.
So what is it? Jason White, owner of Vape Aloud! in Bristol, Virginia, breaks it down for us. "Instead of getting smoke, instead of setting something on fire, you're getting a vapor from pure nicotine, kind of like what they use in the pharmaceutical patches," said White.
In simple terms, an "e-cig" or "vape" pen uses a battery=powered heating element to boil a liquid and produce the vapor for inhalation, simulating smoking.
However, Doctor Hamdii Mamudu, Assistant Professor of Public Health at East Tennessee State University, believes it is not simple at all. "It's a health challenge, it's a policy challenge," said Mamudu. "Because we don't know the health effect of the chemistry of this product. We don't know the health effect at a population level. But what we do know for sure is that there is an increase in uptake of the product."
There is, though, some anecdotal evidence that shows vaping can help someone kick a smoking habit. "I myself, after one year, am down to zero nicotine," said White.
Two other people in Vape Aloud! on Friday told News 5 same thing: vapor helped them stop smoking. "According to the FDA, I can't tell you that its safer, can help cure any disease or help you stop smoking, but I can tell you my experience," said White. "My experience: this thing was so easy to do. It's a tool. Where ever you want to get with your cigarettes and smoking, this can help get you there."
But for people like Dr. Mamudu, concerned about the health effects of the chemicals, it is too soon to tell what, if any, long-term implications of vaping exist. "Some of this evidence has to come up through long term studies. Five to ten years. Thats when you see the impacts of the product," said Mamudu.
A product, according to Jason white, does indeed need some oversight. "You're ingesting something into your lungs. Your lungs are very sensitive. So we want to make sure its pure, make sure that its only USP [food]-grade ingredients," White said.
The Virginia State Legislature recently passed a law aimed at preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and the Food and Drug Administration says it is currently exploring the possibility of product standards for vapor.