Makers of electronic cigarettes claim their products are safer than tobacco products. But many businesses and government entities say 'no' to their usage.
Critics claim they are no better than a standard cigarette, while advocates say a supposed lack of health risks makes banning them a civil rights issue.
Taking a pull from an e-cigarette, or vaping, has become popular in the Valley the last few years. Because it is so new, city governments have had to decide whether vaping is good or bad for a community; and they don't all agree.
In Meridian, vaping is treated the same as smoking tobacco. It's outlawed in city parks and buildings.
"You know for us, it models that same behavior,” said Natalie Podgorski, a spokeswoman for Meridian. “Even though it's not the traditional cigarette, it's still modeling that behavior and especially in our parks we don't want that behavior to be shown around our children."
Boise, on the other hand, has excluded e-cigarettes from their smoke-free air ordinance. Jim Longden of Vapology petitioned the city to keep vaping separate from smoking.
"There are too many people in this world trying to tell us how to live by government instead of giving the right to choose” Longden said. “They're trying to tell us what to watch, what to drink, what to eat, what to do, what's right, what's wrong."
The key argument for pro-vaping is that there is no health risk to the person vaping or those around them. On that front, there’s not much to go off.
"The problem currently is that there really is very little known about the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes," said Dr. Amy Baruch of St. Luke’s Hospital.
Since the city has not restricted them, Boise businesses are deciding for themselves whether or not vaping is allowed. The Crescent No Lawyers Bar and Grill lets patrons puff on e-cigarettes.
"We’re vape-friendly,” said Brady Maddox, a bartender at Crescent No Lawyers. “It doesn't bother us. Unless it bothers a customer, feel free."
The debate on vaping is just starting and much of it will depend on health research that has not yet been done. Until then, the cities of Boise and Meridian will be split on the issue.
The FDA has yet to determine whether e-cigarettes are safe to use. Proponents believe since the compounds vaporized when using them are all food-grade, it is a healthy alternative to smoking.