BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
CLEARFIELD — “Vaping,” has become popular in Davis County since e-cigarette inhalers were introduced with an international patent in 2007.
Since then, eight specialty shop catering to e-smokers have opened around the county, and the Davis Board of Health is taking notice.
E-cigarettes vaporize a liquid through a system of cartridges, which hold flavored liquid, atomizers, which heat and vaporize it, LEDs, batteries and sometimes cartomizers. They generally produce a sweet smell and white puffs of air, but no lingering scent or choking smoke. As with cigarettes, they are not to be used indoors, under the state’s Clean Air Act.
In a consensus vote Tuesday morning, the board directed staffers to look at issues such as “gaps” in the product’s marketing, inconsistent labeling, child-proof caps on replacement cartridges and sanitation in stores mixing their own solutions. Other concerns, such as vaping in public areas, are not being addressed.
The devices are often publicized as an alternative to cigarettes that can help in smoking cessation.
Like cigarettes, they cannot be sold to those under 19. Stores have been pretty good about following Utah law, with only one case reported of selling to a minor, according to Davis Health Department director Lewis Garrett.
“There’s been a few studies done which show them to be effective as a cessation device,” Garrett said.” There haven’t been many studies. But they’re clearly less harmful than cigarettes.”
Nevertheless, “Garrett fears they could be a “gateway to nicotine addiction” for nonsmokers.
The electronic devices, also called personal vaporizers, are filled with a solution of propylene glycol vegetable glycerin, flavorings and various amounts of nicotine from zero to 3.6 percent, Ivy Melton Sales, emergency response coordinator for the department, told board members Tuesday morning. The list of flavors reads like that of a snow cone business and ranges from bubble gum to cherry to tobacco or no flavor.
“The concern I have is that they’re blingy,” Garrett said. “It seems a small step to using nicotine.”
The board learned about how the nicotine in e-cigarettes compares to that in regular cigarettes, and saw that different percentages of nicotine are available in various cartridges, similar to the difference between light and regular cigarettes.
Sales showed board members several e-cigarettes, pointing out that since they were first released, they’ve become much more colorful.
The solutions are usually mixed in the shop. That caused concern among health department staffers, who bought e-cigarettes at all eight stores and compared the product.
Sales said labeling was inconsistent among the stores, and there were times there was no label whatsoever, or they were written by hand. Not all sellers mixed the formulas in the same way, nor did they measure ingredients the same.
Staff members found product marked with the same percentage level of nicotine at two stores, but tested them and found the percentages differed. Furthermore, one sample marked as having zero nicotine was found to have a residual amount, Sales said.
Not all stores maintained the same sanitation level in their mixing area, Melton Sales said.
Many products with higher percentages of nicotine were imported from China, making it difficult for sellers to know if foreign substances had been introduced, she said.
The department held a meeting with the merchants and found most of them agreed with many of the department’s concerns and expressed an interest in being part of the process.