Huntsville leaders monitor e-cigarette trend - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Huntsville leaders monitor e-cigarette trend

Use of e-cigarettes, known as "vaping," has increased in the last year. (Source: WAFF) Use of e-cigarettes, known as "vaping," has increased in the last year. (Source: WAFF)

The popularity of an alternative to traditional smoking is booming.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that e-cigarette use, or "vaping," has nearly doubled in a year. At first glance, they may look like a normal cigarette, but rather than paper and tobacco, e-cigarettes are made of plastic and contain a battery and a metallic device that heats liquid into a vapor. The liquid usually - but not always - contains nicotine.

Kurt Morgenweck, owner of Huntsville-area e-cigarette chain Eco-Smoke, said business has increased because dozens of studies prove e-cigarettes emit far fewer toxins and have less health risk. While the information is out there, Morgenweck said many folks are still wary.

"There is still a stigma behind the visual effect of electronic cigarettes," said Morgenweck. "What most people realize is that what they're seeing is not actually smoke."

That stigma has some restaurants and businesses restricting the use of vaping devices, including fast-food chain Zaxby's.

Now, city leaders in Huntsville are actively looking into how to best handle the sudden increase in e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

Councilman Bill Kling said in a way, leaders were caught off-guard by the new trend. He said citywide bans or restrictions will be considered, but not before they get educated.

"This new technology just came along so quickly that cities all over the country, including Huntsville, were caught unprepared," said Kling. "We don't know what the technology is, and are there any health risks. I think the federal government is still learning, and we are also."

Kling said after some research, he hopes to have a public meeting to get the community's input. Morgenweck said when that happens, he plans to be there. He said he welcomes any and all discussion about vapor.

Critics of e-cigarettes say the different shapes, colors and flavors of the devices are appealing to children, and could be used as a gateway to more dangerous substances. They also say there hasn't been enough long-term research of the effects of vapor.

E-cigarettes are not approved by nor are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, although they have proposed rules that would extend the agency's authority.

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