GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 14, 2014) — It gives a nicotine fix that’s sparking controversy in health circles across the nation; e-cigarettes.
With the number of users on the rise, the feds are questioning safety and possible limitations on sales and access.
While the regulation battle plays out, leaders at Grand Rapids Public Schools said that they can’t wait on new rules, and are taking action now.
“I am absolutely 100 percent certain that have, well it sounds crazy, but yes, they have saved my life,” said e-cigarette user Julie Woessner.
After more than 2-packs a day for 30 years, Julie Woessner said that the switch to e-cigs five years ago, changed her life.
“My lung capacity has remarkably improved. Instead of having a pause halfway up a flight of stairs,” said Woessner.
Woessner is the president of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association. The organization is made up of a group of people working to protect the rights of e-cigarette smokers.
Woessner said that while the federal government said that the health affects of e-cigarettes are unknown, she claims there is enough evidence to prove they’re 99 percent more healthy than traditional cigarettes.
“What causes the smoking related problems is actually lighting something on fire, and then inhaling the products of combustion. It’s smoking that causes the smoking related problems, not nicotine,” said Woessner.
The use of electronic vaporizers is also on the rise in schools.
John Helmholdt with Grand Rapids Public Schools said that teachers are on a constant look-out for the device, and any other smoke-free nicotine products. The district recently changed their tobacco policy to include smokeless nicotine.
“We now have this emerging market of smokeless nicotine products. That’s the e-cigarettes. They have the mint version. They have a couple other versions that are out there and yet at the time, our board policy did not cover that,” said Helmholdt.
The district said that e-cigarettes are appealing to teens with sleek designs and allowing users to avoid the smell of a typical smoke.
“They have different flavors or they are designed as a mint that you can just pop in your mouth. They’ve made it so convenient and easy to use that makes it more difficult for the schools to police it,” said Helmholdt.
Woessner said that e-cigarettes are marketed to adults and her organization doesn’t support its use to minors.
“It is normal for kids to experiment with things and the numbers that the CDC are reporting is ever use, that means if you used it one time,” said Woessner.
Woessner said that her group supports regulations that prohibit nicotine to minors, and that people don’t typically start smoking e-cigarettes out of the blue. She said that most are former smokers looking to improve their health.
“E-cigarettes have not been shown to pose any kind of risk to bystanders for one, and in fact the evidence that we have to date shows pretty clearly that there is no risk to bystanders,” said Woessner.
While the e-cigarette debate isn’t about to disappear anytime soon, GRPS said that parents need to have conversations with their children about smokeless nicotine.
“Parents go online, research it. Learn what these products are and keep an eye out for them. Talk to the children, talk to the students about it. Make sure they all understand,” said Helmholdt.
There are still about two months left for public comment before the federal government is expected to make their decision on regulating e-cigarettes, which presumably would prohibit its use to anyone under 18.
The Center for Disease Control said that in 2012, the number of high school kids who use e-cigarettes doubled from the previous year to 10 percent.