How normal e-cigarettes are. Photo Credit: Mike Mozart (Flickr)

How normal e-cigarettes are. Photo Credit: Mike Mozart (Flickr)

The topic of e-cigarettes has become a rather divisive one. The recent reports of sub-standard batteries exploding which is both terrifying and hard to watch. And, unfortunately, it has claimed its first fatality.

However, the story gets a bit more disturbing when you realise that there is no real regulator for any e-cigarettes.

Well, since the panic of e-cigarettes has gotten to the point where stories of people going blind have surfaced, let’s just see what exactly is happening with these little devices.

The e-cigarette market currently has none of the regulations placed on cigarette products because they don’t burn any tobacco. This is a legal loophole that nearly four hundred and sixty brands of e-cigarette enjoy.

The e-cigarette market in Ireland grew by 478% in 2014, bucking the trend of declining sales in the tobacco industry. This may be, in part, due to the stigma of unhealthy cigarettes not transferring to their electronic cousins.

Vaping. Photo Credit: Ecig Click (flickr)

Vaping. Photo Credit: Ecig Click (flickr)

This has allowed e-cigarettes to market themselves as a healthier alternatives since their creation. But the advertising of e-cigarettes have now, finally, been subjugated to some regulation.

Despite this, people still view e-cigarettes as the healthy option and it looks like they might be. The medical research ranges from e-cigarettes containing 5 percent of the toxins in cigarettes to them being no better than cigarettes.

With such varying reports from the medical community, it has made it difficult for the government to gage what their response should be. The World health Organisation (WHO) called for e-cigarettes to be banned on July 2014 and retracted that statement only a few months later.

Yet, there is so little research that proves the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, the government  didn’t expand the smoking ban to include any e-cigarettes when they were expanding the ban to workplaces.

Some groups, including the Irish Cancer Society, believe this move to be a mistake. As a representative stated:”While it is clear that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than tobacco smoking, we are concerned that the success of the 11-year-old workplace smoking ban in de-normalising smoking may be undermined by not extending it to vaping.”

A cigarette. Photo Credit: DucDigital (Flickr)

A cigarette. Photo Credit: DucDigital (Flickr)

The lack of regulation in Ireland was set to change in the second quarter of 2015 when legislation is planned to be introduced as part of an EU directive. However, there still is no real movement on that legislation since last year, only a re-iteration of the promise to pass legislation in December of last year.

A major problem with the lack of regulation is compounded by the dangers of the e-liquid in most e-cigarettes. There have been more than a few instances of the e-liquid being harmful to minors.

In response to a query from The Circular, Elaine O’Donohoe of the National Poisons Information Centre [NPIC] stated: “The concentration of nicotine in electronic cigarette liquid is very high (up to 24mg/mL in some preparations) and children are particularly at risk of toxicity if they swallow even small amounts.”

This has only been made worse by the lack of restrictions on packaging for any e-cigarettes have ensured that accidental openings of said packaging is fairly common.

As Elaine states: “Child resistant closures are not currently in use on most refill bottles so we would emphasise the need to store these products out of reach and out of sight of young children.”

An e-cigarette starter kit. Photo Credit: Ecig Click (Flickr)

An e-cigarette starter kit. Photo Credit: Ecig Click (Flickr)

Ultimately, there isn’t a lot of evidence to prove any major harmful effects of e-cigarettes over long term use. Yet, the non-existent regulation means that provable dangers will continue without a solution.

With all that is going on, I have to ask: