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Debate over electronic cigarettes rages on

Some call them electronic cigarettes. Others call them personal vaporizers. Nickname them ecigs, vapes, mods, JUULs or anything else, but they permit users to inhale water vapor.

When users draw on them, battery-heated, nicotine-containing liquid is atomized to become vapor in any of nearly 8,000 flavors.

Vaping has become massively popular. According to a story in USA Today published Aug. 14, 2014, “There have been an average of 10 new brands entering the market every month for the last two years, a recent Internet survey found.”

It has found favor with younger Floridians. According to Tobacco-Free Florida (http://tobaccofreeflorida.com), the current e-cigarette use rate among high school students here is 24.8 percent, a 58 percent increase over last year; one in four Floridians 11 to 17 years old has tried e-cigarettes this year.

In September, the Food & Drug Administration labeled electronic cigarette use among young people “an epidemic.”

JUUL, which once marketed its cigarettes toward hip, young users, seemed to have agreed last month, when it announced that it temporarily would halt sales of flavored pods in stores. It will continue to sell the products on its own website, where customers will be asked to verify that they are older than 21. The company added that it will return these products to stores with age-verification technology.

Though so many residents of the Sunshine State participate in use of electronic cigarettes, however, they seem unimpressed with the notion of having them everywhere and on Election Day, approved Amendment 9 to the state constitution, which bans the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping in the workplace — including restaurants — with exceptions for private homes in which certain businesses operate; stand-alone bars; designated hotel rooms; and tobacco and vape shops.

Whether it is harmful to health is a subject for debate.

According to Dr. Joseph Blaha, a public health specialist with Johns Hopkins Medicine (www.hopkinsmedicine.org), tobacco cigarettes contain about 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic, and although exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes remains unknown, Blaha believes, “There’s almost no doubt that (e-cigarettes) expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes.”

However, doctors at Johns Hopkins say they still contain nicotine, still cause cravings, still raise blood pressure and still spike adrenaline. Furthermore, many users actually get more nicotine from their devices than they would from cigarettes, via extra-strength cartridges.

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