Growing concerns over electronic cigarettes

WICHITA, Kansas — The debate over the popular electronic cigarettes continues as the state’s health secretary brings his concerns to lawmakers in Topeka.

The secretary is hoping to see tougher regulations to keep the products out of the hands of minors. This comes as new data shows the number of people hospitalized due to e-cigarettes is on the rise.

Kansas poison control reports 24 people were hospitalized after inhaling too much vapor from an electronic cigarette in 2013. That’s the first year any cases have been reported. Almost half of those were children. Meanwhile the jury is still out on vaping safety and state health leaders are concerned

Zach Nguyen has been vaping for about six months. He gave up a 15-year-old smoking habit for what he calls a healthier alternative.

“When I first saw this I didn’t buy into it because I didn’t feel it would give me the same throat hit as a cigarette would but then eventually when I gave it a shot I was kind of amazed by how it kind of gave you the same kind of feeling when I would smoke a cigarette,” Nguyen said.

But the state’s health secretary Dr. Robert Moser isn’t sold on the safety of vaping. Moser spoke with the House Health and Human Services committee in Topeka Tuesday about some of the concerns with e-cigarettes. Moser says more research needs to be done, specifically to find out how the ingredients affect users.

“There really isn’t a lot of good studies out there because the electronic cigarette and the ingredients kind of came about though smaller manufactures they use agents in the smoke to get the visual effects and the conditioned stimuli that contribute to tobacco addiction,” Dr. Moser said.

Sales are already restricted to people under 18, but the health secretary would like to see child-proof containers for the vaping liquid .because he says special flavors like passion fruit and apple are marketed to minors.

Health officials are calling for more studies and better regulation. But Nguyen insists the products are helping people to quit smoking, but he understands the call for the FDA to tighten up standards.

“It’s just too new, as you say its people are buying into this really big and I’m sure they want to control it some type of way,” Nguyen said.

Several communities including here in Kansas are struggling with how to regulate e-cigarette use in places which ban cigarette smoking. For now, state health leaders are hoping the FDA will begin actively regulating companies that make the liquid.

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