What Are E-Cigarettes, and What Are the Laws Governing Them?
Electronic cigarettes are called e-cigarettes. They are colloquially called vapes, a short version of personal vaporizer. Instead of burning tobacco, an e cigarette turns a liquid solution into a gas that is inhaled by the user.
Benefits of the e-cigarette to smokers is the elimination of the fire hazard posed by burning cigarettes and their embers, the health effects of inhaling the toxic chemicals often added to cigarettes and a lesser risk of lung cancer. Second hand smoke and its associated risks are essentially eliminated. E-cigarettes still deliver a stream of nicotine, which may be even higher in the electronic cigarette than it would be in a traditional cigarette. While the e-cigarette is made to look like a cigarette, it uses a refillable chemical that the cigarette’s heating element turns into an inhalable vapor. For parents with young children, the ability to get rid of safety concerns associated with matches and lighters are invaluable. You can smoke an e-cigarettes near an asthmatic without fear of triggering an attack or creating smoke that drives cleaners up the wall. One reason why they have grown in popularity is the ability to add flavors to the liquid without dealing with messy tobacco leaves and rolling papers.
However, there is significant debate as to which laws on smoking and regulations on tobacco apply to e cigarettes.
The Legality of E Cigarettes
If electronic cigarettes are classified as a way to help people stop smoking, electronic cigarettes then have to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or FDA. If e-cigarettes are considered medical devices, they are also regulated by the FDA. A December 2010 ruling by the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. agreed that the FDA cannot regulate e cigs as it does nicotine gum and patches. In January of 2011, the federal appeals court in DC refused to review the prior ruling that said the FDA could not regulate e-cigarettes as medical devices. The FDA shifted gears and started regulating e cigarettes as a form of tobacco, using the same rules for e-cigarettes as it does cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
While various bills have been proposed to ban e-cigarettes, none to date have passed Congress. Several states are debating a prohibition on the fruit and candy flavorings that are added to the liquid in e-cigarettes under the opinion that these flavorings are intended to lure young people into smoking. Using any flavoring other than menthol in conventional cigarettes is illegal under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
E-cigarettes are not classified for tax purposes the same way traditional cigarettes are taxed. This makes electronic cigarettes cheaper for many smokers than cigarettes with every tobacco tax hike. However, several states are determining the legality and taxability of electronic cigarettes. As a customer, you will have to pay local sales tax on the purchase of e-cigarettes if your state has a sales tax and any tobacco taxes your state has attached to them. Marketing of e-cigarettes to minors is already illegal in states like California and Arizona, in addition to the FDA decision to apply the limits on advertising tobacco to minors in 2011.
Depending on the jurisdiction where one lives, e-cigarettes may or may not be allowed in venues where smoking is banned. For example, Chicago forbids smoking cigarettes and cigars but does not forbid e-cigarettes. Check with your town’s smoking ordinance or the restaurant owner before you light up the e-cigarette. A business that forbids smoking can choose to kick out an e-cigarette user even if the jurisdiction allows smoking in restaurants.
Ask your landlord whether e-cigarettes can be smoked inside of an apartment if smoking is generally forbidden.