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Safety of Electronic Cigarettes Still Under Debate in IL

PHOTO:They’re often advertised as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but there’s a lot of questions in Illinois about the safety of electronic cigarettes
PHOTO:They’re often advertised as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but there’s a lot of questions in Illinois about the safety of electronic cigarettes
February 25, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - They're often advertised as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but there are a lot of questions in Illinois about the safety of electronic cigarettes. The city of Chicago and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville both recently announced bans on their use inside public buildings.

Tobacco cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals, dozens of which are carcinogenic. And according to Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society, while e-cigarettes are seen as considerably less harmful, there's just not enough research.

"They were really only invented 10 years ago and made their way to the U.S. about seven years ago, and that doesn't enable us to look at what the effects 10, 12, 15 years out, are."

The vapor emitted by an e-cigarette is made from propylene glycol, a chemical approved for use in food. But Glynn said no one knows the effects of inhaling it over the long term.

The FDA has proposed a rule that would allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes as it does tobacco products.

According to Consumer Reports, sales of e-cigarettes hit $1.5 billion in 2013, nearly triple the previous year's total.

A CDC survey found that from 2011 to 2012, e-cigarettes doubled in popularity among middle- and high-school pupils. Glynn said some e-cigarettes are candy and fruit-flavored, which is attractive to the younger crowd.

"Many of the companies are responsible. They have no flavors, or the only flavor they have is menthol. Others have flavors like bubble gum," he said. "So that's a definite concern is we do not want kids enticed into using these."

Glynn said the use of e-cigarettes could lead youngsters to switch to tobacco cigarettes.

Last year, Illinois passed a law prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from using electronic cigarettes.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL