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Vape: Oxford's Word of the Year Spells Legal Trouble

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on November 20, 2014 10:20 AM

"Vape" has been named the Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2014.

Following in the hallowed footsteps of last year's winner, "selfie," "vape" beat out some fierce competition from other up-and-coming slang terms such as "normcore," "slacktivism," and "budtender" to take this year's title reports CNET. "Vape" acts as both a verb and a noun, describing the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or vaporizer as well as the vaporizing device itself.

The addition of "vape" into the popular zeitgeist is due in no small part to the legal issues surrounding the burgeoning e-cigarette industry.

Regulation of E-Cigarettes

Earlier this year, the FDA announced that it was proposing new regulations on e-cigarettes. The agency had previously been rebuffed by a federal appeals court when it attempted to regulate e-cigarettes as a drug or medical device. In the absence of federal regulations, individual states have begun to enact their own vaping regulations.

A growing number of states restrict the use of e-cigs in areas where smoking is already outlawed, such as public areas, workplaces, and schools. In other states, however, regulations distinguishing vaping from regulations on the use of traditional tobacco products is being considered, in part to promote what some claim is a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

Trademark Infringement

The lack of FDA regulation on e-cigarettes has allowed e-cig manufacturers to do what cigarette-makers no longer can: offer flavored varieties. But this has led to its own fair share of legal controversy as iconic brands find their trademarks infringed by varieties of flavored e-cig liquid.

Among the high-profile brands that have begun sending cease-and-desist letters to manufacturers of so-called e-juice: Tootsie Roll Industries, cereal-maker General Mills Inc., and Girl Scouts of the USA, who discovered e-juice makers marketing Girl Scout cookie-flavored liquids.

Vape Devices Also Used for Marijuana

In addition to being used to vaporize nicotine, vape devices may also be used to smoke marijuana. In states where marijuana remains illegal, vaping can lead to the same criminal consequences as the use of traditional marijuana paraphernalia. A Florida man found this out the hard way when he was busted taking hits off his vape device in the maternity ward of a hospital.

In Colorado, one of the four states where marijuana has been legalized, state law nevertheless prohibits smoking pot indoors. To skirt the law, some marijuana clubs have turned to vaping, which technically heats the marijuana without burning it.

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