To puff or not to puff — to regulate or not to regulate — those are the questions.
When e-cigarettes came on the market, they were touted as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes.
However, instead of smokers using e-cigs as a cessation tool, many tobacco users are using the products in addition to traditional cigarettes or to maintain their nicotine addictions.
Although health officials have yet to quash the claim e-cigarettes are healthier than burned tobacco products, they are hesitant to back claims that the electronic cigarettes are healthy.
Officials at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control both admit more research needs to be done determine the long-term health effects of consuming nicotine vapor both by the smokers and those who might come in second-hand contact with the nicotine liquid or vapor.
The CDC has reported a sharp increase in the number of poison control hotline calls related to liquid nicotine exposure in children — from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. The most common adverse health effects mentioned in e-cigarette calls were vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.
Previously nicotine poisoning was only reported in children who ate tobacco products. Liquids can be ingested or absorbed by the skin and may be more enticing to children because of their flavorings.
The National Institutes of Health notes nicotine itself can have adverse health consequences, which can include increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, sweating, and diarrhea.
Although not all the evidence is in on e-cigs, the FDA was not deterred in April from requesting authority to regulate e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine products.
Among the new regulations would be:
n Minimum age and identification restrictions to prevent sales to underage youth
n Requirements to include health warnings
n Prohibition of vending machine sales, unless in a facility that never admits youth
Tobacco product makers would have to:
n Register with the FDA and report product and ingredient listings
n Only market new tobacco products after FDA review
n Only make direct and implied claims of reduced risk if the FDA confirms that scientific evidence supports the claim and marketing the product will benefit public health as a whole
n Not distribute free samples
Local governments, including the city of McPherson, also are looking at regulating the new nicotine products.
On Monday, the city will look at e-cigarettes in terms of city codes. The new regulations would treat e-cigarettes similarly to other tobacco products, including prohibiting purchase and consumption of liquid nicotine by anyone younger than 18.
The city also is considering a city ordinance based on Salina’s smoking ordinance that would ban smoking e-cigarettes in all the same locations traditional cigarettes are banned.
The nonsmoking public should appreciate some users of e-cigarettes are using the products to quit smoking or reduce the adverse health effects of their nicotine consumption.
However, trading cigarettes for e-cigarettes is trading one addiction for another. Smoking cessation options are available that will not injure smokers or those around them.
Government officials can’t ignore the potential adverse health affects of liquid and vapor nicotine on the nonsmoking public.
They also can’t neglect the potential hazards to youth who may be exposed to or become hooked on a highly addictive drug through contact with e-cigarettes.
The e-cigarette industry already has grown at rapid rate. The time to put in place safeguards is now.
The McPherson community is urged to support the city’s attempts to regulate e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine.

— Cristina Janney for The McPherson Sentinel Editorial Board.