Should e-cigs be treated as standard smokes?

“Both sides in a debate over electronic cigarettes conceded Wednesday there’s scant scientific evidence about the health effects of the devices, but that might not stop efforts in the Minnesota Legislature to regulate them like traditional tobacco products,” writes AP reporter Brian Bakst.

This Nov. 26, 2013 photo shows Steffani Leifeld exhaling a vapor at the Smokeless Smoking electronic cigarette store in Woodbury, Minn. Chris Polydoroff/St. Paul Pioneer Press/AP, file

“We do know enough to know that risks are here, we just don’t know what they are,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Laurie Halverson of Eagan.

About 200 shops have applied for licenses to sell the battery-powered devices in Minnesota, with 80 percent of the requests coming in the last year, said Cap O’Rourke of the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota.

The thin, cylindrical devices heat a liquid nicotine solution. Users inhale a vapor but they don’t emit the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes. That’s so much the case that the committee’s chairwoman twice warned audience members suspected of “stealth vaping” in the hearing room to knock it off.

“They are clever. They are attractive. They are a drug delivery system,” said Pat McKone, a tobacco control advocate at the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “The jury is out on e-cigarettes, way out.”

State Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger said the inconsistent nature of the liquid concoctions being used to fuel the vapors is troubling. “There’s no way to tell what concentrations are being used,” he said.

“I am concerned this is moving too fast without any scientific basis behind it,” said Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River.

Today’s Question: Should e-cigs be treated as standard smokes?