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E-cigarettes : Friend or Foe?

e-cigarettes, imported from China

A decade after Clear Indoor Air Act severely limited indoor smoking in New York, the focus has turned to e-cigarettes —  battery-powered devices that deliver measured doses of vapor to the "smoker" when inhaled.

Sales of e-cigarettes are rising amid a big push by tobacco companies: Marketwatch is reporting that America's number three cigarette-maker Lorillard, which acquired an e-cigarette brand last year, saw blu eCigs boost the company's second-quarter profits by 10 percent.

But there's debate as to whether the devices are harmful or helpful.

Elaine Keller is the president of   CASAA, Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, a non-profit clearinghouse for information about alternatives to smoking.

Nevertheless, the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are unknown.   Capital District Tobacco-free Coalition director Judy Rightmyer is among those who fear that the devices will introduce and encourage smoking among children and possibly lead to future use of tobacco products.

Electronic cigarettes are not included in the standing definition of “smoking” in the New York State Clean Indoor Air Act, the 10th anniversary of which is being celebrated this month. State Health Department Executive Deputy Health Commissioner Sue Kelly agrees e-cigarettes could lead people toward traditional cigarettes.

While the state of Massachusetts hasn't taken any steps to regulate e-cigarettes, the city of Boston passed regulations in 2011 equating e-cigarettes to tobacco products, restricting sales to "adults only" and banning their use in the workplace. A handful of states have prohibited sales to minors, while others have barred e-smokers from using the devices in public places.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration is reportedly leaning toward inclusion of e-cigarettes under tobacco product regulations, but has yet to issue any specific regulations.

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