Calgary creates plan to research e-cigarettes and their health effects
Some Alberta smokers are living within a loophole of the law when it comes to indoor puffing of electronic cigarettes, also known as E-cigarettes.
Alberta's Tobacco Reduction Act states that, "'smoke' means to smoke, hold or otherwise have control over a lit tobacco product" – the word "lit" being the loophole.
Once again technology has outpaced law-making and the City of Calgary is trying to catch up.
City councillors met on Sept. 22 and passed a motion to begin a work-plan on E-cigarettes. The goal is to conduct comprehensive research about E-cigarettes to better understand what health concerns there may be. Some Calgarians are worried that this work-plan is only the beginning of future bylaws restricting use of the cigarette substitute.
Abba Shytermeja smoked for 15 years. She used E-cigarettes to quit smoking and thinks the possibility of bylaws is ridiculous.
"You can see the smoke, but it's just vapour air," she says.
Shytermeja says E-cigarettes have done nothing but improve her health and her life, and thinks removing them from public places is a "waste of time."
"I smoke these in restaurants all the time. Some people look at you but they don't smell it – it's so harmless," she says.
Councillor Richard Pootmans believes E-cigarettes will probably fall under the city's smoking bylaws, but in justifying the need for research, he says, "we don't want to approach it ignorantly."
The work-plan will focus on: the health effects of E-cigarettes, the potential environmental and economic risks, as well as the social impacts on youth. The work-plan states concern for the "renormalization of smoking" for youth because E-cigarettes come in a variety of flavours like "cotton-candy".
Gary Smith, who switched to E-cigarettes after smoking cigarettes for seven years, can see the electronic cigs as "being a gateway" product for youth because when he started smoking it began with shisha, tobacco smoked with a hookah pipe.
Smith is all for new bylaws on E-cigarettes similar to the ones on other tobacco products.
"I consider it as smoking, therefore I don't consider it as quitting smoking," he says. "I already abide by the rules of where smoking is okay – that's where I smoke my E-cigarette."
Pootman says, "The key question is how similar E-cigarettes are to traditional tobacco smoking cigarettes and I'm not sure anybody really knows the answer to that. I think we would have to see the health research on this before we come to any conclusions."
The Financial Times reported the E-cigarette market was worth $3 billion in June, 2013, and it was expected to expand.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that propylene glycol, a key ingredient in most E-cigarette liquids, will produce mouth and throat irritation and dry cough. The FDA has also received reports from the public that the E-cigarette allegedly causes pneumonia, congestive heart failure, disorientation, seizures, hypotension and other health problems.
However, the FDA said in a 2014 report that "studies evaluating whether E-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes are inconclusive."
"We don't want to approach E-cigarettes ignorantly."
- Councillor Richard Pootmans
Both Smith and Shytermeja said switching from cigarettes to E-cigarettes has vastly improved their health.
"I'm a health freak and I smoke. I would run 10 km and then get in my car and spark a cigarette so it (smoking) didn't fit into my lifestyle," says Shytermeja. "I don't want to see my efforts of quitting become more difficult with new bylaws."
- By Jessica Brady