Electronic cigarettes have yet to be fully studied, so consumers presently are not aware about the potential risks of electronic cigarettes when used as intended. They also don’t know how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use. Finally, it is unknown whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.
Additionally, it is not known whether electronic cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.
Currently, electronic cigarettes are not regulated under smoke free laws in the UK. In general, users are free to use them in most public places such as bars, restaurants and on public transport, although the managers of some premises have prohibited their use.
Parties and groups that are anti-smoking are calling for regulation of electronic cigarettes like tobacco products, claiming it is necessary to “prevent initiation of use among youth and other non-tobacco users, protect bystanders in public areas from involuntary exposure, regulate marketing, and prohibit unsubstantiated claims.”Only electronic cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Currently, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) regulates
- Cigarette tobacco,
- Roll-your-own tobacco
- Smokeless tobacco.
The WHO is assessing its position on electronic cigarettes, and has indicated it is leaning toward restrictions like those on all nicotine-containing products, including banning advertising and flavours.
One stated advantage of smoke free legislation is that it de-normalises smoking, effectively distancing the behaviour from what is an accepted social norm. The ban on smoking in public places has reinforced in many people’s minds that such behaviour has gone from a normal, widely accepted activity to one that is abnormal and unaccepted. There are concerns that electronic cigarettes will undermine this process, threatening the now established practice of smoke free public places, such as at work or on public transport.