Among Growing Vaping Trend, Will Pittsburgh Follow San Francisco In Sales Ban?

San Francisco officials recent passed a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes

Shelby Cassesse
June 27, 2019 - 2:22 pm

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - Vaping is a habit commonly used by smokers as a way to transition away from cigarettes, but e-cigarettes are also taking younger generations by storm. 

According to federal data, there was a 78 percent increase in high school students who used e-cigarettes from 2017 to 2018. 

Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Medical Department, is one of many who has criticized e-cigarette companies for targeting younger people with advertisements. 

"The big problem that everyone is seeing is that these sexy little canisters that look like you can plug them into your computer have just become incredibly popular among adolescents," she told KDKA Radio's Larry and John. "So you're taking populations that would likely not smoke, because of all the shifts that have gone around around cigarettes in general, who are now becoming addicted to nicotine. We also know that nicotine has an impact on the adolescent developing brain."

San Francisco officials took action Tuesday, voting to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

Dr. Hacker says it's likely not the course of action in Pittsburgh.

"I think we can understand why they did it, but I do think that there are going to be arguments against a full-fledged ban. You know, some people are already saying 'well, why don't they just ban cigarettes, too?’”

Allegheny County voted to prohibit vaping in indoor public places where cigarettes were already prohibited in 2017.

Tiffany Babinsack of Tobacco Free Allegheny told KDKA Radio she believes the ban in San Francisco will be ineffective. 

"I am concerned that it's too small of an area," she said, "I think that people will be likely just to go to neighboring cities to buy these products."

She believes the best course of action is to implement a nationwide increase in the age for tobacco product purchase from 18 to 21. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says e-cigarettes typically contain nicotine, ultrafine particles, flavoring such as diacetyl, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. Diacetyl is a chemical linked to a serious lung disease. 

Babinsack says middle and high school students are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of vaping. 

"Adolescents using these products, especially nicotine, it's causing learning disabilities, and mood disorders, and issues with impulse control, and it leads to permanent addiction throughout adulthood."

The CDC does say e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes, but acknowledge there is still significant research to be done on the products. They suggest those that are non-smokers avoid the use of e-cigarettes.