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A contentious Farm Bill heads to U.S. House for debate. Also on our rundown: gaps cited in protections for small-business employees and nonprofit volunteers; plus some warning signs, that increased youth activism may not correspond to voter turnout.

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A Cigarette By Any Other Name: Safety Concerns in Maine

PHOTO: Electronic cigarettes, hookah pens, e-hookahs and vape pipes are growing in popularity in Maine, but experts say there isnít enough science about how safe they are. Credit: Michael Dorausch, Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Electronic cigarettes, hookah pens, e-hookahs and vape pipes are growing in popularity in Maine, but experts say there isnít enough science about how safe they are. Credit: Michael Dorausch, Wikimedia Commons.
March 10, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine - Electronic cigarettes - also known as e-hookahs, hookah pens and vape pipes - are growing in popularity in Maine. Celebrities in advertisements tout them as a safer alternative to smoking. But experts say there isn't enough science to back up those claims. It's estimated that more than 250 different e-cigarette brands are for sale in the U.S. today.

Since they are unregulated, manufacturers are not being held accountable for potential health risks, warned Ed Miller, American Lung Association.

"The truth of the matter is I don't think anybody really knows what's in it. And that's one of the reasons why we need FDA regulation to get some ingredient disclosure so that we know what's going on," he said "for the protection of people using these products."

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule that would allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes as they do for tobacco products.

A tobacco cigarette contains thousands of chemicals, dozens of which are carcinogenic. While e-cigarettes may be considered less harmful, Miller said there is little research about the effects of the chemicals in them.

"There's glycol, which is a substance that they use in some of these, but there's no ingredient label on these," he said, "and they're manufactured, many of them, all over the world."

Currently, no legislation on e-cigarettes is pending in Augusta, but Miller said he expects some to be introduced in the next session.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME