Genesee County could soon be part of a growing list of communities that restrict or ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places.

If Genesee County Commissioner Archie Baily has his way, the use of electronic cigarettes will soon be restricted or banned all together in restaurants, bars and other public places. The Democrat, from Flushing has asked the County Health Department to develop recommendations for regulating the use of e-cigarettes and the issue will also be a topic of discussion at the county Board of Health meeting this month.

Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles have already revised indoor smoking bans to include electronic cigarettes and bills pending in the Michigan Legislature would prohibit the sale of the devices to anyone under the age of eighteen.

Electronic cigarettes are battery operated devices that vaporize a liquid that contains nicotine. Instead of smoke, the e-cig emits a vapor that dissipates very quickly and does not contain the toxic chemicals that are associated with second hand smoke.

Supporters of the proposed restrictions say that there are many things still to be learned about electronic cigarettes and points to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has said that they will soon regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. There is also a concern that the use of e-cigarettes glamorizes the use of tobacco products, especially for teenagers, who like the fruit and candy flavors that are available for the devices. New data from the CDC reveals that the use of electronic cigarettes has doubled in the last two years among middle school and high school students, and that agency calls them the "gateway to nicotine addiction."

Cynthia Cabrera, on the other hand says that electronic cigarettes are a "reliable alternative" to a "product known to do harm." The executive director of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association worries that restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes will be counterproductive. Cabrera says the ban would be a "huge disservice to the people who are using the product." Most scientists agree that regular smokers who make the switch from tobacco do lower their health risks substantially.

Tell us what you think... are electronic cigarettes a health risk?

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