One way around smoking bans: Electronic cigarettes

Wichita EagleJuly 6, 2010 

Electronic cigarettes are letting smokers "light up" in the face of the statewide smoking ban that took effect last week.

The devices look and draw like a regular cigarette and the smoker still gets a jolt of nicotine, the ingredient that causes the "buzz."

Most "e-cigarettes" have a light-emitting diode where the burning ash would normally be.

A spokesman for the Kansas Attorney General's Office said that since no burning tobacco is involved, the ersatz cigarettes are not covered by the statewide indoor smoking ban that passed the Legislature in February.

The statewide prohibition took effect across most of Kansas on Thursday. In Wichita, a 2008 city smoking ordinance remains in force, pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the state ban.

Users of e-cigarettes have coined the term "vaping" to describe their activity and distance it from smoking.

E-cigarettes are marketed under a variety of trade names, primarily at tobacco shops, over the Internet and in some cases, at mall kiosks.

E-cigarettes contain a small reservoir of nicotine solution. When the user puffs on the device, a heating element creates a vapor that the smoker inhales.

Manufacturers say it's safer than a real cigarette because the nicotine solution doesn't contain the carcinogenic byproducts found in burning tobacco — and the exhalation is harmless water vapor.

Not everyone agrees.

The Food and Drug Administration banned importation of e-cigarettes last year and issued a health advisory, saying that its analysis had found some of the products contained toxic chemicals and cancer-causing agents.

The agency also expressed concern that the products, which come in a variety of flavors, could be marketed to minors.

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