E-Cigarettes: Second-Hand Smoke, Vaping, and the Price of FDA Regulations


On Tuesday, the Los Angeles city council joined a growing list of city governments that have banned e-cigarette use in parks, restaurants, and most workplaces.

The decision came after a heated debate at the City Council that highlighted the backlash smokeless cigarettes have generated as their popularity grows. Inform yourself on the new smoking trend with this Reason TV documentary short. 

This video originally aired Oct 29, 2013. Original writeup is below:

Electronic cigarettes are creating a frenzy among politicians, health experts, and the media. Local banson using e-cigarettes indoors are popping up all over the country, and many interest groups are clamoring for top-down FDA regulations, which are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

"E-Cigarettes currently exist in a complete no-man's land," says Heather Wipfli, associate director for the USC Institute for Global Health. Skeptics such as Wipfli worry about the lack of long-term data available because the product is so new.

But according to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association's Greg Conley, calls for regulation are "a perverse interpretation of the precautionary principle." The precautionary principle holds that until all possible risks are assessed, new technologies shouldn't be allowed to move forward.

Conley points to preliminary studies, like this one from Drexel University, which confirm these smokeless, tobacco-less, tar-less products are not a cause for concern—or at least not a cause for the same concerns that accompany traditional cigarettes and second-hand smoke. 

"That [Drexel University] professor concluded that there was absolutely no worry about risks to bystanders from e-cigarette vapor," says Conley.

The ingredients of e-cigarettes certainly have very little in common with tobacco cigarettes. Nicotine, the only ingredient found in both products, is mainly used to wean smokers off traditional cigarettes and is not one of the harm-inducing ingredients associated with lung cancer in smokers. The other ingredients in the "e-juice" at the core of e-cigarettes are propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and food flavorings— all of which are used in other food products.

"All we are doing is steaming up food ingredients to create a vapor," says Ed Refuerzo, co-owner of The Vape Studio in West Los Angeles. The Vape Studio is one of the many boutique e-cigarette shops popping up that might be significantly affected or even shut down by both local legislation and FDA regulations.

Conley says it's the currently unregulated customizability of the e-juice that allows these small businesses to thrive. "The availability of liquids is what is allowing a lot of these small stores to open and prosper because they are able to mix their own liquid and sell it to consumers without having to go through a big manufacturing process," says Conley.

The higher costs of complying with regulations would most likely be passed on to consumers, which would impact people who are looking towards e-cigarettes as an effective way to quit smoking. 

"We're using technology, and that's what we do in America, we use technology to solve really complicated problems," says Craig Weiss, president and CEO of NJOY. NJOY is a leading manufacturer of electronic cigarettes  – and a donor to Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV. Weiss says that despite regulations, the potential of the industry is only just starting to be realized.  

"The electronic industry is growing at quite a dramatic pace. It's more than doubled each of the last four or five years," says Weiss. "This piece of technology could have such an potential impact on the world."  

About 6 minutes.

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  1. “They look like cigarettes, therefore they must be bad for your like cigarettes.”

    1. If only people would realize how bad the FDA is for them.

    2. Animism FTW!

  2. This morning while driving to work I made the mistake of listening to need radio. They were soliciting opinions on the e-cig ban in LA and one woman flatly said that the ban was great because there’s no evidence that the vapors are not harmful to people and she had a right to take her kids out in public without fear of them getting cancer.

    1. …because nothing says “healthy and risk-free” like breathing what passes for air in public spaces in LA.

      1. I also find it hilarious how liberals tend to live in overcrowded hellholes.

      2. It’s not the ’80s anymore…

        There’s a great photo set at Griffith Observatory (I’d link if I could find it online) of the view from the observatory of downtown Los Angeles on the worst air pollution day of 1989 and 1999. You can barely see one building in the ’89 photo and you can see the city clearly in ’99.

        1. This is the 21st century. CO2 is now “pollution”.


    2. What’s need radio?

  3. To make e-ciggs work like real cigarettes, they need nicotine. That nicotine is in the form of highly concentrated liquid in bottles; hundreds of Marlboros worth of nicotine is in a tiny 30Ml bottle of the stuff.

    Eventually, some kid is going to find one of those bottles and chug it, because that’s what kids do. For the kid, it will be a toxic disaster. For the pols, they will have their cherubic sad martyr.

    I’m amazed the FDA has not seen that backdoor route to controlling e-ciggs (essentially banning them to the black market) via ‘regulating’ the supply of nicotine extract itself already. It tells you how little they understand the product at all.

    1. Actually a 30 ml bottle of liquid is more likely to contain the equivalent of 20 to 70 cigarettes, depending on the strength of the liquid. One average cigarette contains 9-10 mg of nicotine (no, that’s not what it says on the side of the box, but that’s because the box is providing estimates of absorbed nicotine – most of it doesn’t actually get into your system).

      Most e-liquid ranges from 0 mg/ml to 24 mg/ml of nicotine, so one ml of liquid will contain roughly between 0 and 2 and a half cigarettes worth of nicotine.

      1. Which also means that if some dumbass does try to darwin himself out, he’ll most likely just get really sick.

      2. If my math is right on this:


        then the 60ml bottle @100mg of nicotine per ml = ~600 cigarettes by your own measure of 10mg/conventional cigarette.

        Dare you to pound that like a shot.

        1. I imagine it would feel similar to getting bitten by a venomous cobra.

          1. More like an antidote to cobra toxin.

  4. Further proof of how corporations using marketing can attack and destroy a target that is interfering with their profits.

    E-cigs are harmless to all people where they are used. ANY health affects of their use are vastly less than cigarettes. Why is there such a rage against them?

    Start with the Anti-smoking Inquisition – a combination of religious busybodies, health-Nazi’s, insurance companies, bureaucrats, and OF COURSE trial lawyers.

    Then add BIG PHARMA.

    Do you know how many billion a year they make selling cures for tobacco addiction? Wellbutrin, Nicorette are just a few among the “cures”, gums, patches, and other nostrums they are raking it in off of the desperate smokers – especially now that employers have been pushed into campaign.

    E-cigs are doom for the plan. A safe form of nicotine that means no one has to quit using, hurts no one around the user, is clean, can safely be used every where, and is about as harmful to the user as caffeinated soda – maybe less?

    E-cigs succeeding to ALL the parties involved them would be like Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition walking into a room and finding Mary Magdalene enjoying a beer with Buddha while Jesus changes the diaper on their love-child, all of them laughing about how idiots who torture people in the name of God are all going to Hell.

    So what we have here is an intensely stupid reaction based on a created panic that is bad for everyone save those who are getting rich off people’s misery.

    1. Further proof of how corporations using marketing can attack and destroy a target that is interfering with their profits.

      Why don’t your types ever realize that it’s never actually a KORPORASHUN’s fault, but the federal agency entrusted with the power to ban shit?

      1. …for the same reason you types never seem to realize that spending a few million bucks buying regulators is chump change when you’re doing billions of dollars a year in business?

        The problem isn’t with the existence of the corporations. It isn’t with the existence of the regulatory agencies either. The problem is that the regulators are for sale (or can at least be rented by the hour). Close the revolving door where people walk out of the FDA and into no-show corporate jobs with the companies they’ve spent the last few years “regulating”, and things get a lot healthier.

        1. “you types”

          You mean the ones NOT spreading half-witted corporate-conspiracy insanity based on misrepresentations and innuendo?

          How reassuring.

        2. Close the revolving door where people walk out of the FDA and into no-show corporate jobs with the companies they’ve spent the last few years “regulating”, and things get a lot healthier.

        3. The problem is that the regulators are for sale (or can at least be rented by the hour).

          The people trying to ban e-cigs are not being bought off by some corporate paymaster. They’re just normal busybodies who are trying to interfere in other peoples’ lives based on imagined dangers.

          I always love when people act like regulatory agencies would behave responsibly were it not for corruption and the revolving door. There will always be a certain number of people who are simply hysterics and actively demand that regulatory agencies behave irresponsibly in order to make idiots feel better.

          The worst government abuses of the last 100 years did not have anything to do with corporations or the revolving door. Prohibition occurred because the mewling little shrews in the Anti-Saloon League wanted to ban the demon hooch and didn’t consider unintended consequences. Jim Crow laws happened because people were racists. Vietnam and Iraq did not happen because of evil corporate paymasters, they happened because of poorly thought out international relations theories.

          The revolving door is not the primary problem with government agencies. The primary problem is the natural abuse of power that occurs when someone has massive amounts of power and is systemically insulated from any consequences when they behave badly.

          1. …mewling little shrews…

            I’m going to once again steal one of your insults. They cause much clutching of pearls at work.

        4. this same principle could, and perhaps should, be applicable to the revolving doors between Capitol Hill and K Street, and Wall St and DC. If the revolving doors just meant contracts between the parties involved, I would be silent. But their contracts usually harm 3rd parties.

    2. I don’t know if this is the same screaming idiot I replied to the last time this bullshit claim was made, but I pointed out that ‘smoking cessation products’ sales – *including* the dual-purpose / off-label prescription meds like Wellbutrin et al – are something like, “a couple billion” at best, globally.

      Whereas, the tobacco market is in the *hundreds of billions*.

      there’s no fucking “big pharma” payout from ‘anti-smoking’. Unless you consider maybe lung cancer. I like how numbnuts does the, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH?!…”

      yes, we do. Its peanuts. Happy?

      But retards are gonna retard. KORPORASHUNS BE MAKIN THE BAD!! “someone’s getting the rich”!

      No, shithead, government is simply fucking with people because baby-people like Nanny-government and don’t like people making choices for themselves.

    3. You also forget Big G. These vapors are not buying tobacco. Therefore they are losing millions in tax revenue. Every time someone tokes from one of these e-cigs that is a penny or two not heading to DC and other government coffers. Can’t have that. Better to have people smoking tobacco. There is money to be had.

  5. “the Los Angeles city council joined a growing list of city governments that have banned e-cigarette use in parks, restaurants, and most workplaces.”

    I guess that “we’re not as shitty as NYC”!-glee was fun while it lasted.

  6. Maureen Dowd is the most vapid and moronic human being in the history of the human species.

    When Patti LaBelle took the stage, she told Obama, “Baby, you’ve got swag.”

    Swag and respect are exactly what the president needs. He’s got a swag gap with Russia. His administration, after belatedly figuring out what was going on in Ukraine, is improvising as the uber-swaggering Vladimir Putin once more rolls in with tanks anywhere he likes.


    “What are you going to do, send the 101st Airborne into Crimea?” says Terry McCarthy, the president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. “The way Republicans are dumping on the president, saying anything short of Armageddon shows that he’s weak, is silly. It’s kind of shocking that foreign policy, which used to be nonpartisan, now becomes partisan so quickly.”

    When the fuck was foreign policy non-partisan?

    It also didn’t help Obama’s swag that Reid and Nancy Pelosi peremptorily declared the president’s trade agenda D.O.A. for this session, showing that he doesn’t have the juice to override them on a key part of his economic plan. If the president doesn’t get it together, he’s headed for a big, bad midterm “thumpin’ ” in the memorable word of W., who experienced one six years into his reign.


    1. When the fuck was foreign policy non-partisan?

      when a Dem is POTUS.

    2. I don’t even understand the way she’s using the word. I thought it meant loot. Now, it would make sense if she were talking about domestic policy.

    3. Swag and respect are exactly what the president needs.

      Translation: The president has neither of these things.

    4. I assumed “swagger” was meant.

  7. I saw a paper sign in the Physics building at Northern Arizona University that was obviously put up there by some busybody (since that building is the only one with the signs) that read “According to University policy, no smoking or smokeless tobacco (E-cigarette devices) allowed inside campus buildings”

    I had to pencil in “E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco”

    Seriously, these people have no fucking clue what they are talking about.

    And who the hell is going to stop me from vaping if I’m in the men’s bathroom stall?

    1. Not to mention how staggeringly horrified I was by the amount of signatures on a petition passed around class to make NAU a “smoke-free campus”. This means no smoking ANYWHERE on campus. Not outside the buildings, not in the parking lots, nowhere.

      Their argument was “We’re not targeting smokers, we just want them to do it off campus”.. um… THAT IS TARGETING SMOKERS!

      A girl I talked to said it was because cigarette butts are a major source of litter. I suggested she banned people from eating chips from bags and drinking their beloved frappucinos because I see that shit everywhere too.

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