Questions grow about safety of e-cigarettes

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014 file photo, a man exhales vapor from an e-cigarette in New York. A study at 10 Los Angeles high schools links e-cigarettes with later tobacco use. The government-funded study was published in Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It doesn't prove that electronic cigarettes are a "gateway drug" but some doctors say it bolsters arguments that the devices need to be strictly regulated. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

WALLAND (WATE) – The FDA is looking into regulating a popular smoking alternative better known as e-cigarettes. Advocates say they work and don’t pose any harm, but doctors aren’t so sure that’s the case.

Alicia Galvin, of Walland, used to smoke around two packs of cigarettes a day. She started vaping two years ago and part of that reason was for her family.

“I wanted to be healthier for my kids and myself. I just thought it was better just to be healthier,” said Galvin.

There are a lot of vape shops in East Tennessee so it’s clear the smoking alternative has become very popular, but is it safe?

“They are less dangerous in terms of causing lung cancer than traditional cigarettes with the information we have now,” said Dr. J. Turner of UT Medical Center.

Dr. Turner said there’s some uncertainty with e-cigarettes since the long term effects aren’t known. They currently aren’t regulated by the FDA like regular cigarettes.

He said Galvin, a mother of two, should be somewhat cautious using an e-cigarette around her children.

“She should be worried in two instances. First, again, we’re uncertain whether vaping or smoking e-cigarettes whether there’s any second-hand smoke effect. The other real effect is poisoning in childhood,” said Dr. Turner.

“I’m not going to do anything that puts my children in harm’s way and I think this was the best alternative to smoking that I could get without them being subjected to something bad,” said Galvin.

Advocates say e-cigarettes have only four ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, along with natural and artificial flavoring. Both doctors and the American Cancer Society told WATE 6 On Your Side they aren’t ready to recommend the smoking alternative just yet.

“I would prefer to use something that’s been studied more long term such as nicotine patches then again inhaling something into the lung,” said Dr. Turner.

However, people like Galvin said using an e-cigarette was one of the best decisions they could have made.

“I also feel much safer. I know what I’m vaping. I actually know where I get my juice. I know who makes my juice. I’ve seen the pharmacy and everything that goes into this,” said Galvin.

There isn’t a timeline for when the FDA may make a decision on whether or not they will regulate e-cigarettes. Some states like Tennessee have passed laws banning people under 18 from buying the smoking alternative.

Others have restricted where you can use an e-cigarette.

The Tennessee Smoke Free Association said they oppose the proposed FDA regulation.

“In essence, these regulations will do more public harm than they will do good,” said Dimitris Agrafiotis of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association.

Agrafiotis said the organization has requested to sit down with representatives from the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. on December 15 to discuss the proposed regulations and how they will affect the small businesses in the Tennessee Valley.