Greg Zoeller leading national fight to regulate e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are part of a new and growing industry that, right now, faces little regulation.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is trying to change that.

Zoeller believes that e-cigarettes are dangerous and he wants Congress to regulate them in the same fashion as tobacco products.

That puts him at odds with most of the people who make, sell, and use e-cigarettes.

At a shop called Vapor Trail in Carmel you must prove that you are 18 to buy e-cigarettes and related products. Many of those who do are former smokers.

“I feel better vaping rather than smoking cigarettes,” said Sam Nielson. “You know, a month ago when I was smoking cigarettes, I feel, like, healthier.”

Whether that’s true or not, the health of the vapor industry is improving rapidly with few restrictions.

“It has the potential to outgrow cigarettes,” said e-cigarette distributor Shadi Khoury,”to outgrow the traditional tobacco industry in the next 10 years.”

But Attorney General Zoeller thinks e-cigarettes should be treated the same as tobacco products with limits on advertising as well as flavors that appeal to children. He wants Congress to act.

“We know the dangers of nicotine,” said Zoeller. “We don’t know any value to these products, and why the FDA has failed to regulate to date is unknown.”

I asked Sutton,  a spokesman for Altria, the company formerly known as Philip Morris, if the company’s products are dangerous. “Well, that’s for the FDA to decide,” he said.

Sutton says, however, that e-cigarettes should be treated differently than tobacco products and Congress should stay out of it.

“The one product emits second hand smoke because it’s burning,” he said. “The other product does not because nothing is being combusted so they’re very, very different.”

To Zoeller, a vapor cloud looks a lot like a smoke screen.

“They fooled us once,” he said. “Shame on them, but if they let this go on again, shame on us.”

Zoeller is a co-chair of the tobacco committee for the National Association of Attorneys General.

He points out that the Major Tobacco Settlement was the result of lawsuits brought by the states. He believes that the potential regulation of e-cigarettes may require the same approach.

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