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Pro: Smoke or not, e-cigarettes bother others, present unknown risks

Aug. 3, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.


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Consumers have until Friday to comment on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposal to extend its regulation to include e-cigarettes. Read and comment on the rule at regulations.gov.

Did you know?

•  Electronic cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers don't know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended.

Only e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The FDA Center for Tobacco Products regulated cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Carla Rackley said there is no way she'd dine at a restaurant that allowed smoking - including e-cigarettes.

"It may not be the same hazards of cigarettes," Rackley, 54, of Victoria, said, "but we shouldn't be subjected to unhealthy things if we don't know the damage it may cause to the smoker, or the general public."

E-cigarettes aren't regulated at the state or federal level, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed including e-cigarettes in its authority on tobacco products.

The FDA hasn't fully assessed the public health impacts of unregulated tobacco products, FDA press officer Stephanie Yao said.

"Some testing of e-cigarette cartridges has revealed significant variability in nicotine content and the presence of chemical constituents that raise concerns of toxicity," she said. "A final rule will require manufacturers to submit information about each of their products, enabling FDA to thoroughly evaluate their ingredients, harmful constituents and health risks in order to assess their impact on public health."

While some Victoria restaurants, such as Olive Garden, will not adopt a policy until the FDA says otherwise, other establishments are stepping up now.

Jae Woo, manager of the Tokyo Grill and Sushi Bar, said the restaurant allows diners to use e-cigarettes but is considering a ban.

"We're considering to ban it because other customers aren't really enjoying it and are really bothered by the people who do," he said.

Management at Johnny Carino's, Chili's, Skillets and Hungry's-Thirsty's said they've never allowed the use of e-cigarettes.

"We don't know if the vapors that they give off are toxic to the people," Rackley said. "That stuff hasn't been studied enough. We don't know what the long-term effects are for the people who smoke them or the people around them."

E-cigarettes entered the American market in 2007 but were first introduced to China in 2003. In 2012, nearly 200 of the 1.2 million German electronic smokers marched to peacefully protest widespread lies by the police, according to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association.

Venezuela's government threatens to punish those who smoked e-cigarettes, with fines up to $8,400 for those who distribute or promote the banned electronic cigarettes, according to the association.

You can watch the video online here.

While many e-cigarette users have said being able to "smoke" freely has been one of the greatest reasons to use an electronic device and quit smoking, Kristan Alvarez isn't buying that as an excuse to smoke at a restaurant.

"It's an extra hour, and it's not going to kill you," she said. Alvarez used to live in Victoria and recently moved to San Antonio. She said San Antonio restaurants have designated areas for e-cigarette users.

Still, that's not enough.

It's not something she wants her young children to see.

"A cigarette is a cigarette is a cigarette, and they can't tell," she said.

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