The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 30, 2013

Smoke alarms sound on e-cigarettes

The Tribune-Democrat

— While we urge our readers to live healthy lifestyles, it’s none of our business what they do to their bodies. That is, unless their actions are illegal or affect the welfare of others.

At an increasing rate, smokers looking to quit or, perhaps, find a way to skirt no-smoking-zone regulations, are looking to the use of electronic cigarettes.

They’re facing roadblocks in each instance.

They should consider healthier, proven alternatives.

“Conemaugh Health System does not allow electronic cigarettes because of the negative visual association they have with a real cigarette,” Joe Shetler, employee wellness coordinator, said last week.

“CHS fully supports (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) recommendation and prohibits patients, visitors and employees from using e-cigarettes on hospital property.”

Shetler was asked about a policy in response to a visitor seen using an e-cigarette at Memorial Medical Center.

Parade magazine, in its April 21 edition, said usage in public isn’t that unusual, that “in many parts of the U.S.,

e-cigarettes can be used in traditionally nonsmoking areas, such as bars, restaurants and offices.”

Obviously, businesses tasked with enforcing state bans on public smoking now face a dilemma: Whether to also ban e-cigarettes.

We urge them to follow Conemaugh’s lead and we urge our readers to encourage businesses to say no to e-cigarette use in their establishments.

In its role as the community’s leading health care provider, Conemaugh sent a clear message last year by banning use of all tobacco products by employees during their shifts, and also use by patients and visitors. That expanded an earlier rule banning smoking on campus.

CHS also encouraged businesses in our region to do likewise, a move we wholeheartedly have supported.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices designed to look like the real thing. Like their conventional counterparts, electronic cigarettes contain nicotine. An atomizer heats a liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled and creating a vapor cloud that resembles cigarette smoke.

Shetler says the FDA has questioned the safety of these products. When it analyzed samples of two popular brands, they found variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). This prompted the FDA to issue a warning about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes.

The state Department of Health says that while there is currently no regulation on this, the department does not support their use for a number of reasons.

“Consumers may believe this is a safer way to smoke when, in fact, there is a lack of long-term studies that have been done on the product, therefore leaving the long-term effects unknown,” Kathleen Gillis, DOH deputy press secretary, told us last week.

She added that “e-cigarettes have the potential to promote more smoking or attract new smokers.”

She suggested alternatives such as cessation aids including nicotine gum, patches and lozenges.

“The quitting strategy with the best success,” she said, “has been through the combination of nicotine replacement treatments and coaching, which is available for free at 800-QUIT-NOW.”

Additionally, she said, the department has launched the Young Lungs at Play program (YLAP), a policy initiative aimed at promoting healthy behavior by limiting children’s exposure to secondhand smoke and tobacco products at public parks and playgrounds. There are 4 YLAP locations in Cambria County.

Conemaugh also offers help for those in the community wishing to quit smoking.

Anyone who has ever smoked knows how tough it is to quit. We urge those wishing to beak the habit to heed the advice of organizations such as Conemaugh and the Department of Health.

We’re rooting for you.

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