E-cigarette users left out in the cold

Jared Yucht was a long-time smoker before his wife introduced him to e-cigarettes. He hasn’t picked up a pack since.

Now, the 40-year-old husband and father says Chicago’s e-cigarette ordinance is troubling in more ways than one.

“I would never want to go stand in a pile of smokers outside,” said Yucht, who owns Smoque Vapours in Lakeview. “But they’re telling me now that’s what I have to do.”

When the new e-cigarette ordinance goes into effect Yucht will have to purchase a tobacco license, meaning more taxes for him as a small business owner.

More important, Yucht wonders if forcing e-cigarette smokers outside is necessary since it is unclear whether e-cigarette smoke is harmful. But James Martinez, spokesman for the American Lung Association, says there is a risk for people who are exposed to e-cigarette smoke.

“It’s kind of like the Wild West all over again,” Martinez says. “Anyone can produce an e-cigarette. You can go home right now and produce an e-cigarette and sell it.”

But e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco, says Greg Conley, a Heartland Institute research fellow, explaining that instead a light heat is applied to a solution that contains a small amount of nicotine.

Additionally, the level of toxins and chemicals in e-cigarettes are so far below what’s found in secondhand smoke that they can be compared to the FDA approved nicotine inhaler, Conley says. Also, a test by Dr. Maciej Goniewicz, at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, found toxins in the vapor from12 types of e-cigarettes, but those toxins were not as harmful as those found in cigarette smoke.

There really is no comparison between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes, says Amy Fairchild, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“There’s some toxins and some carcinogens in it, but the levels are anywhere from 9 to 450 times less than in tobacco cigarettes,” Fairchild says, adding that tobacco cigarettes kill 400,000 Americans every year. Fairchild says e-cigarettes give smokers an opportunity to move away from tobacco products.

“There’s some compelling data that show that e-cigarette users are more successful at quitting than people who are using the patch or nicotine gum,” Fairchild says.

Nevertheless, the American Lung Association asserts that e-cigarettes can be a gateway to tobacco cigarettes.

“They can be starter products for people who don’t smoke but maybe will try an e-cigarette or maybe will try hookah,” Martinez says.

Yucht says he’s proud that he convinced a friend to stop smoking and start using e-cigarettes.

Says Yucht, “It’s something that’s a much, much healthier alternative.”

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