Smoking, no. Vaping, maybe.
It's lunch time, and William Brown has stepped away from his desk for a nicotine fix in the lobby of the building where he works. The city employee isn't allowed to smoke here, but he can vape. He flips the switch on his sleek black electronic cigarette, with its digital readout to gauge the nicotine, and inhales. He sucks in on the plastic tip and blows out a big white cloud that dissipates fast. People pass by, but Brown says he rarely gets a reaction. "E-cigarettes have gotten so popular that when you spew out vapor, people put one and one together," said Brown, who works for the Municipal Telephone Exchange. "Though a year ago, I got a lot of 'What the heck is that?' I would go through the spiel of how it works and how it helped me stop smoking." Electronic cigarettes turn nicotine-laced juices into an inhalable vapor. The e-cigarette industry claims it's a safer way to take in nicotine, and they say e-cigarettes can help smokers quit. But skeptics aren't convinced. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it's seeking regulatory power over e-cigarettes, something it doesn't now have. Efforts to regulate vaping failed in the recently ended Maryland General Assembly session when a bill that would have treated e-cigarettes as traditional cigarettes died in committee. This week, the Baltimore City Council took up the issue when Councilman James B. Kraft, who represents Southeast Baltimore, introduced a similar bill that would ban e-cigarettes at all places where smoking is banned. Kraft called e-cigarettes a "new threat" and said they "create an impression on the young that smoking is OK." It will likely be several months before the bill's fate is known. For now, with no formal regulations about the practice, it's up to individual workplaces, restaurants and other businesses to determine whether vaping will be allowed on their premises. "Legally, people can vape anywhere in Maryland. But policy is at the discretion of employers in the workplace, just as it is at the discretion of other public establishments," said Jeff Blumenfeld, who works at the Westminster corporate office of S.S. Vape, a chain that sells the devices and juices. Blumenfeld likes to partake when he eats out. "I won't vape in family restaurants like Bob Evans or Chick-fil-A out of courtesy for people who are not comfortable with it. But I do it in every other restaurant I go to," he said, adding that if he gets a reaction, it is one of curiosity. He says he quit two packs a day of Newports, cold turkey, the day he bought his e-cigarette starter kit. Gordon Harden, co-owner of Souris' Saloon in Towson, is happy to give vapers a place to partake of their e-cigarettes. "They are not breaking laws," he said. "It is not putting out an offensive odor or lingering smoke, and I have heard no complaints." While some have no qualms, others are skeptical. "There is no conclusive evidence that nicotine heated in liquid is less harmful than nicotine burned in tobacco," warns Cynthia Hallett, executive director of the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. "It is not proven that secondhand exposure is not toxic. And because e-juices are not FDA-regulated, they have been shown to have varying degrees of nicotine and, sometimes, other chemicals." And as e-cigarette use has risen, so have calls to poison control centers related to their nicotine — up from one call per month nationwide in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And just over half of those calls were for children under age 5. "Use of these products is skyrocketing, and these poisonings will continue," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. "E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children." With no federal or state guidelines to follow, some local employers and organizations are proceeding with caution. Baltimore County employees were told in March that e-cigarette use at work is prohibited. Dr. Gregory Branch, the county health officer, advised, "Given the lack of scientific information regarding the safety of e-cigarettes, I believe it is prudent to treat them as we do regular cigarettes and tobacco products in the workplace." The Johns Hopkins University has no organization-wide policy, but beginning this fall, vaping will be banned in student housing at the university's Homewood campus.
Original author: James
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