E-cigarettes Pose New Threats

E-cigarettes are a new threat in the fight for clean indoor air and reduced exposure to tobacco products.

Not familiar with e-cigarettes? They are battery-operated devices that create a vapor when they heat a liquid solution of nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. In many cases, they look and are used similarly to a conventional cigarette. They may also take the form of a cigar, hookah or everyday objects, such as a pen.

Currently, e-cigarettes are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Their increased use, especially in indoor, public places, has raised significant public health concerns. Additional research into the long-term effects of e-cigarette use is needed, but early studies have shown that their vapor contains nicotine, heavy metals, carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. This threatens the clean, indoor air Minnesotans have come to expect — and overwhelming support — since the Freedom to Breathe Act became law seven years ago.

Youth access is also a significant concern. There are currently no requirements that e-cigarettes be sold behind the counter, where they are out of the reach of minors. The availability of candy and fruit flavors, such as gummy bear and cotton candy, compound the issue.

Likewise, many Minnesota youth are too young to remember a time when smoking was allowed in indoor, public places. Regularly seeing e-cigarettes used in public has the potential to re-normalize smoking and lead to increased initiation — which ultimately puts more Minnesotans at risk of a life-long addiction to nicotine and tobacco.

The Minnesota legislature is looking at the issue in the 2014 session. Proposed legislation seeks to: 

  • Prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in public indoor spaces where smoking is already prohibited.
  • Protect youth by requiring that e-cigarettes be kept behind the counter and penalizing those who sell to minors. 

These actions are widely supported by Minnesotans — and by Blue Cross.

  • Making Healthy Choices Possible for All Minnesotans

    The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota tackles the leading causes of preventable disease -- tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating -- to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state.