E-Cigarettes Under Fire At Legislature

Published On: Feb 08 2012 12:05:58 AM HST   Updated On: Feb 08 2012 06:56:47 AM HST

Those who smoke them say they are a better alternative to regular cigarettes.

But others say, e-cigarettes are just part of the smoking problem.

A bill making its way through the legislature would treat it as such. Joey Farrington, 28, has been smoking since he was 12 years old. He says e-cigarettes have changed his life.

"It's kept me off real cigarettes for about two years, and I'm so thankful for that," said Farrington.

But a bill that defines electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product and taxes them the same as regular tobacco products would raise the price of e-cigarettes about 70 percent. So a $70 e-cigarette now would cost $119. That would be too expensive for Farrington.

"It would make me go back to smoking real cigarettes," Farrington said.

The state's largest distributor of e-cigarettes said they would be put at a competitive disadvantage against online distributors.

"It would definitely put us out of business or drive us out of the state," said Cory Smith, owner of Volcano Fine Electronic Cigarettes.

The e-cigarettes are touted as being a better alternative to regular cigarettes, containing nicotine without the tobacco.

"We're wiping out the thousands of carcinogens and chemicals that come along with combustible tobacco," said Smith.

At Wednesday's Senate Ways and Means committee hearing, many in attendance were e-cigarette users. But with 14 percent of Hawaii's adult population being smokers and 1,100 people in the state dying each year from tobacco-related illnesses, the Health Department is in support of the bill.

"If there's been no long-term studies on the effect of this, there can be no claims that it is better or worse product than other regular tobacco," said Julian Lipsher, program manager for the Tobacco Control Section of the Department of Health.

The Food And Drug Administration says it has not evaluated e-cigatrettes for safety or effectiveness. However, the FDA conducted limited laboratory studies of certain samples. It found significant quality issues that indicate quality control processes used to manufacture these products are substandard or non-existent.The FDA found that cartridges with the same label emitted a markedly different amount of nicotine with each puff.

At least both sides agree on one aspect of the bill: e-cigarettes should be kept out of the hands of minors.

Decision-making on the bill will be on Friday.


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