E-Cigarettes: What Renters Need to Know

e-cigaretteBans on smoking have drawn both controversy and congratulations in varying degrees across the country. In many apartment communities, there are rules are in place restricting smoking.

Now, the introduction of a new technology that looks and feels like smoking — without actually being tobacco smoking — is reigniting the debate about where and when it’s appropriate to “light up.”

Should electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, be restricted along with other nicotine products to protect nonsmokers?

Here’s the latest information we found for those who share apartment spaces.

What are e-cigarettes? How do they work?
An e-cigarette is a device which delivers nicotine to the user by inhaling a vapor mist. Unlike a regular cigarette, no actual burning takes place. Instead, a battery-powered vaporizer heats a liquid which contains the nicotine. According to e-cig.org, common ingredients in this “e-liquid” are “Propylene Glycol, Glycerine, natural and artificial flavors, tobacco essential oil, tobacco absolute, citric acid, lemon, vinegar and water.”

Using this type of device is also known as “vaping.”

Are e-cigs less harmful for smokers? Non-smokers?
In e-cigarettes, nicotine is still the active, habit-forming chemical which makes their use pleasurable, though advocates claim the absence of actual burning means users do not inhale the carcinogens associated with tobacco combustion. A study referenced in the New York Times, however, shared findings that the vaporization process can still contain some of these carcinogens.

In April 2014, the Federal Drug Administration proposed extending aspects of its regulations on cigarette smoking to e-cigarette use.  The FDA has commissioned a study on the effects of e-cigarettes.

When asked for comment about e-cigarette smoking, the organization Smokefree Apartment House Registry referred to a document posted on their site about e-cigarettes containing this statement: “Health advocates are recommending that e-cigarettes not be used in areas where people will be exposed to the vapors they give off until much more is known about them. For landlords and condominium boards, banning e-cigarettes except in specific outdoor locations may be the best solution for now.”

Proponents of e-smoking say that e-cigarettes do not have the unpleasant, distinctive cigarette smell, that they are safer to use, and less likely to intrude on the rights and health of non-smokers. e-Cigarettes are used by some smokers of traditional cigarettes to help them quit smoking.

Asked for a statement about e-cigarettes, Ray Story, CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, replied: “The e cigarette is a less harmful alternative to any and all tobacco products. Nicotine is still addictive but has zero history of harm for adult tobacco users. We hope that in the next decade conventional tobacco products will take a back seat (or end up in the trunk) to e cigarettes. The e cigarette can provide the user with all the satisfaction the user seeks without all the negatives associated with conventional tobacco cigarettes.”

What does this mean for apartment dwellers?
Bans on smoking in shared spaces — and even in a renter’s own unit — have become more and more common in apartment communities. Whether e-cigarettes should be similarly banned is a relatively new question to consider.

Policies and attitudes toward e-cigarette use seem to vary as much in the apartment space as elsewhere, with some apartment communities choosing to treat e-cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes, and others waiting for more information.

According to Greg Brown, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, the National Apartment Association “does not have a formal policy on e-cigarettes … except that NAA supports the right of building owners to establish their own policies, as long as they follow federal, state and local laws.”

It is worth nothing that cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and the District of Columbia have banned vaping in smoke-free settings. North Dakota, New Jersey and Utah have banned the practice statewide in areas protected as smoke-free.

Photo credits: Shutterstock / goldyg, Nneirda

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