Smoking rules likely to evolve for electronic cigarettes

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Electronic cigarettes are becoming more popular, especially for people trying to quit tobacco cigarettes. But when a patron pulls one out in a restaurant that bans smoking, what happens?

"It's a questionable thing," said Charles Fagen, who is the manager at Snapper's in Biloxi. "What do you do? There is no precedent on it at this time. No smoking is no smoking, whether it's an e-cigarette or not."

The Sheraton Four Points Hotel is smoke free. But is vapor from an e-cigarette really smoke? There's no real answer, according to manager Kenny Glavan.

"It could be a great alternative, but we've got to be careful because we do tell our guests that we are smoke free. So as we get more information, we'll have to make a good decision," Glavan explained.

E-cigarettes don't contain tobacco and do not burn like a regular cigarette. The devices do contain nicotine in a liquid form, which is heated by a battery, producing what amounts to a water vapor.

Aimee Barresi is the director of Smoke Free Mississippi. When she saw the e-cigarettes being used in smoke-free Edgewater Mall, she complained to mall management.

"The impact of e-cigarettes is not yet known. Regardless of what manufacturers say, we don't know what exactly they contain and down the line what the impact will be," Barresi said.

The only thing that's certain in this debate over the use of e-cigarettes indoors is its uncertainty. No one knows about any hidden dangers, no one has a policy in place, but that could be changing in the future.

Michelle Rogers is the marketing director at Edgewater Mall.

"It's a technology that's in its infancy and has no long term studies, so it's something we will probably have to talk with our corporate office to discuss what, if any, policy we should have," Rogers said.

If e-cigarettes are eventually banned indoors, it would leave those who buy and use them fuming. The selling point for the devices says it all: Smoke them anywhere you want.

E-cigarettes were first introduced in China back in 2004. Several American companies have now entered the market and manufacture them. Again, the FDA has not given any approval for the product, or even conducted any studies on them.

Independent studies have shown the e-cigarettes themselves could possibly contain one or two cancer causing agents.

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