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Health District: Expect more bans on electronic cigarettes

Michael Lopardi

Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Health District: Expect more bans on electronic cigarettes

CREATED Oct. 29, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- You're not allowed to smoke in many public buildings around the valley and some places are now going a step further to ban electronic cigarettes as well.

The move is likely to leave some e-cig users huffing and puffing.

"My sense of smell has gotten better," said Michael Torsiello, managing partner of Vegas Vapor Emporium. "My taste buds have improved; food tastes better. It's been a good experience."

Torsiello used to smoke tobacco. About two years ago, he switched to the e-cigarette.

"They work, that's the bottom line," Torsiello said.

The e-cig can cost between $10 and $60, depending on the product and place of purchase. The device runs on a battery. It heats a liquid into a vapor that is then inhaled, delivering nicotine to the body. The liquid is often flavored.

"It's not like smoking where you have second hand smoke," Torsiello said. "What we exhale is harmless."

But not everyone is so sure. The University of Nevada Las Vegas has asked students not to use e-cigarettes inside the Student Union or within 20 feet of any outside door, said university spokeswoman Megan Downs.

Downs said the request came in response to complaints from people inside the Student Union. The university, which already bans tobacco smoking indoors and near entrances, is now considering banning e-cigarettes inside the buildings as well, Downs said. The proposal is currently in committee and would need approval from the president, said Downs.

University Medical Center limited e-cigarette use to designated smoking areas as part of a smoking policy that went into effect in March, said hospital spokeswoman Danita Cohen.

Torsiello, who runs his own vapor shop on North Buffalo Drive, said most bans are based on fear.

"They have no knowledge of the product," said Torsiello. "They don't know the benefits. They don't understand that there is nothing harmful going on around the person that is vaping."

The Southern Nevada Health District banned use of the e-cigarette on its campus in March, 2011. The agency said most Nevada businesses are left to decide on the matter on their own.

"There still is a lot to learn about these particular products," said Maria Azzarelli, tobacco control coordinator for the Health District.

While some states have adopted rules and regulations, the state of Nevada and the federal government have little oversight for the products, Azzarelli said.

Azzarelli is concerned smokers are using the e-cigarettes as a way to quit tobacco smoking. She said more research is needed to know if the e-cigarette poses any health risks, such as second hand smoke does to bystanders. In the meantime, Azzarelli said she expects more valley stores and businesses to ban the e-cigarette.

"We receive calls from restaurants, all sorts of businesses, wanting to know more on how they can limit the use of these products in doors," Azzarelli said.

While electronic cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes may look similar, Torsiello said they are not.

"Bans are typically based on what I call fear-based ignorance," said Torsiello. "Cigarettes are bad. This looks like a cigarette so it must be bad too."

The American Lung Association said there are 250 e-cigarette brands for sale in the United States today, according to its website. The organization is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to propose new regulations.

In September, attorneys general from roughly three dozen states, including Nevada, also called on the FDA to create rules addressing e-cigarette ingredients, advertising and sales to minors.

So the debate continues as all sides wait to see if the FDA takes action.

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