Electronic cigarettes may pose a problem for smoke-free initiatives, local officials said.
During the Ohio County Tobacco Prevention Coalition's November meeting at River City restaurant, guest presenter Christina Mickey spoke about smoking-related issues and the rise of e-cigarettes. The OCTPC's goals include creating awareness regarding tobacco prevention via education and project implementation.
Mickey, head of the Smoke Free Initiative of West Virginia, claimed that e-cigarettes are part of the smoking industry's attempt to "defeat smoking restrictions and slow the decline of social acceptance of smoking."
E-cigarettes, designed to look like traditional tobacco cigarettes, are battery-powered and unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. When used, e-cigarettes vaporize a liquid nicotine solution. Although the cigarettes are marketed as an alternative to tobacco, Mickey noted that nicotine is a tobacco derivative.
"They are an attempt to make smoking cooler," Mickey said. "E-cigarettes are safer, but not safe."
With low costs, flavor options and store displays placed close to candy, e-cigarettes may prove particularly appealing to a younger generation.
Mickey further claimed that e-cigarettes have revived the "same old tactics" of advertising that the tobacco industry has used for years.
Some 1950s and 1960s era advertisements featuring physicians touting their favorite cigarette brands and cartoon characters smoking cigarettes existed during a time when "over half of the U.S. population smoked."
Considering other tobacco-related issues, Mickey said "there is a lot of work to do." She said such issues, when approached the right way, can offer smoke-free solutions that are cost-effective.
Mickey cited litter, even more than secondhand smoke, as a major issue associated with smoking.
"Cigarettes are the number one littered item in the world," Mickey said.
According to Mickey, greater smoking restrictions mean fewer personnel picking up litter.
Offering smoke-free action initiatives for coalitions, Mickey emphasized local efforts as the most effective. She suggests efforts like promoting air quality testing.
"In clean indoor air regulaions, West Virginia is a leader," Mickey said.
More than 40 percent of the West Virginia population lives in areas protected by such indoor regulations.