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Oklahoma lawmakers consider tighter regulations for e-cigarettes - KOAM TV 7

Oklahoma lawmakers consider tighter regulations for electronic cigarettes

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Oklahoma's legislature will soon vote on putting new restriction on electronic cigarettes.  They're a tobacco-free product that some people use as an alternative to traditional smoking.

The proposal has passed the state senate and will soon be up for vote in the state house.

The core belief by supporters of the bill is that e-cigarettes are not much safer than traditional cigarettes, if at all.  But tobacco store workers say some customers think electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional smokes.

There's no tobacco in e-cigarettes, just liquid that, when heated, turns into water vapor that's inhaled.  Nicotine and other chemicals are in that water vapor.

"I get asked a lot about them," says Victor Colson of Discount Smokes & Liquor in Joplin.  "They are wanting to quit or their doctor has told them that they need to quit.

But doctors warn to think twice before deciding on alternatives, especially since long-term side effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown.

"The regular cigarettes, they have more toxins compared to the electronic cigarette, but they're still not safe," says Dr. Wagas Chishti of Freeman Health System.  "So they had a lung function test before they used the electronic cigarette, and they did a lung function test immediately after they inhaled an electronic cigarette.  It did show their lung functions decreased immediately after they used the electronic cigarette."

Some lawmakers in Oklahoma say the known short term effects of e-cigarettes are bad enough to put them in the same category of traditional cigarettes.

State officials want to limit the sale of e-cigarettes to people ages 18 and older.  Doctors and tobacco store workers both in and outside Oklahoma agree with the proposal.

"There should be some regulations on it," says Dr. Chishti.

"Kids under 18 even would still see that their 'cool' friend maybe smoking an electronic cigarette," says Colson.

The Oklahoma proposal also would tax e-cigarettes like regular tobacco.  However, Oklahoma's American Lung Association is against the bill's new regulations writing:  "...it would effectively have the state of Oklahoma endorse and promote deadly products as 'harm reduction' solutions."

No date has been set yet for when Oklahoma's House of Representatives will debate this bill.  Tobacco store workers say they would only support this proposal as long as any new taxes on e-cigarettes are "reasonable."

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