Calgary creates plan to research e-cigarettes and their health effects

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Some Alberta smokers are living within a loophole of the law when it comes to indoor puffing of electronic cigarettes, also known as E-cigarettes.

Alberta’s Tobacco Reduction Act states that, “‘smoke’ means to smoke, hold or otherwise have control over a lit tobacco product” – the word “lit” being the loophole.

Once again technology has outpaced law-making and the City of Calgary is trying to catch up.

City councillors met on Sept. 22 and passed a motion to begin a work-plan on E-cigarettes. The goal is to conduct comprehensive research about E-cigarettes to better understand what health concerns there may be. Some Calgarians are worried that this work-plan is only the beginning of future bylaws restricting use of the cigarette substitute.

Abba Shytermeja smoked for 15 years. She used E-cigarettes to quit smoking and thinks the possibility of bylaws is ridiculous.

“You can see the smoke, but it’s just vapour air,” she says.

Shytermeja says E-cigarettes have done nothing but improve her health and her life, and thinks removing them from public places is a “waste of time.”cigarettes1E-cigarettes are a popular replacement to other tobacco products, and come in many flavours.

Photo by Jessica Brady

“I smoke these in restaurants all the time. Some people look at you but they don’t smell it – it’s so harmless,” she says.

Councillor Richard Pootmans believes E-cigarettes will probably fall under the city’s smoking bylaws, but in justifying the need for research, he says, “we don’t want to approach it ignorantly.”

The work-plan will focus on: the health effects of E-cigarettes, the potential environmental and economic risks, as well as the social impacts on youth. The work-plan states concern for the “renormalization of smoking” for youth because E-cigarettes come in a variety of flavours like “cotton-candy”.

cigarettes3Dustin Campos demonstrates smoking an electronic cigarette indoors.

Photo by Jessica BradyGary Smith, who switched to E-cigarettes after smoking cigarettes for seven years, can see the electronic cigs as “being a gateway” product for youth because when he started smoking it began with shisha, tobacco smoked with a hookah pipe.

Smith is all for new bylaws on E-cigarettes similar to the ones on other tobacco products.

“I consider it as smoking, therefore I don’t consider it as quitting smoking,” he says. “I already abide by the rules of where smoking is okay – that’s where I smoke my E-cigarette.”

Pootman says, “The key question is how similar E-cigarettes are to traditional tobacco smoking cigarettes and I’m not sure anybody really knows the answer to that. I think we would have to see the health research on this before we come to any conclusions.”cigarettes2E-cigarettes v.s. Cigarettes, City of Calgary has implemented new work-plan regarding puffing indoors.

Photo by Jessica Brady

The Financial Times reported the E-cigarette market was worth $3 billion in June, 2013, and it was expected to expand.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that propylene glycol, a key ingredient in most E-cigarette liquids, will produce mouth and throat irritation and dry cough. The FDA has also received reports from the public that the E-cigarette allegedly causes pneumonia, congestive heart failure, disorientation, seizures, hypotension and other health problems.

However, the FDA said in a 2014 report that “studies evaluating whether E-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes are inconclusive.”

“We don’t want to approach E-cigarettes ignorantly.”

– Councillor Richard Pootmans

Both Smith and Shytermeja said switching from cigarettes to E-cigarettes has vastly improved their health.

“I’m a health freak and I smoke. I would run 10 km and then get in my car and spark a cigarette so it (smoking) didn’t fit into my lifestyle,” says Shytermeja. “I don’t want to see my efforts of quitting become more difficult with new bylaws.”

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