Answering the call of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office and local stakeholders to include electronic smoking devices in Guam’s smoke-free laws, Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has introduced Bill No. 198-34 (COR), a measure that would expand the Natasha Protection Act of 2005 by prohibiting the use of ESDs in workplaces, bars, restaurants, and other public establishments.
“Vaping is a choice. Breathing isn’t,” said Cruz. “No one who visits a public place should be forced to inhale potentially dangerous chemicals as the price of admission.”
While the electronic cigarette industry portrays itself as a “healthier alternative” to traditional cigarettes, public health officials contend there are numerous risks associated with the increasingly popular form of “smoking:”
“Secondhand aerosol from electronic smoking devices is not harmless water vapor. The aerosol created by e-cigarettes can contain ingredients that are harmful and potentially harmful to the public’s health, including: nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead” according to Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.
Even vapor liquids free of the highly addictive nicotine drug can still contain pulmonary irritants and cancer-causing agents—placing members of the public at risk of health complications, such as popcorn lung, arterial stiffness, and even e-cigarette explosions. The unintentional risks associated with public exposure to ESDs prompted the World Health Organization to call for a complete ban on the indoor usage of e-cigarettes in 2014, with several countries shortly following suit. As of October 2, 600 municipalities and 15 U.S. states have included electronic smoking devices in their smoke-free policies and laws.
Dr. Annette M. David, a senior partner for health consulting services on Guam, noted the “markedly higher” rate of e-cigarette use among Guam’s youth when compared to the mainland United States. Thirty-two percent, more than double the national rate, of Guam’s high school students vape, while an astounding 25% of Guam’s middle schoolers have used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days—five times greater than the rest of the U.S.
“Vaping is the next frontier for addiction. Although vape manufacturers advertise e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) as safe alternatives to smoking, the data indicates that these products come with their own risks; while they may be less harmful than smoking, they are not safe. Clearly, proposing to extend our current tobacco control policies to include electronic cigarettes and other ENDS is both appropriate and necessary to stave off a future of addiction for our island community,” Dr. David said.
As a result, Bill No. 198-34 would amend the Natasha Act’s current definition of smoking to mean “inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated tobacco product or plant product intended for inhalation in any manner or in any form”…including “the use of an electronic smoking device.” The measure further defines ESDs as “any electronic product that can be used to aerosolize and/or deliver nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling from the device, including but not limited to an electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, hookah pipe, or hookah pen, and any cartridge or other component of the device or related product, whether or not sold separately.”
“It took tobacco companies decades to fully disclose the danger of second-hand smoke. If adults over 21 choose to vape, I can respect that choice, but I’m not going to ask other members of the public to gamble with their health and that of their families,” concluded Cruz.