CA Congressman Puffs E-cig at Legislative Debate

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on February 12, 2016 12:58 PM

Yesterday, California Congressman Duncan Hunter became the first US legislator to vape at a congressional hearing. Exhaling vapors from his e-cigarette during a debate on their use on planes held by the Transport Committee, Hunter explained the advantages of "vaping" over smoking.

"This is called a vaporizer," Hunter said, as his colleague beside can be seen waving the vapors around with her hand. Congresswoman Candace Miller's gesture is typically used to indicate how irritating cigarette smoke is to the person sitting by a smoker, but Hunter was unfazed and continued, "There's no combustion. There's no carcinogens ... Smoking has gone down as the use of vaporizers has gone up."

A Bold Gesture

Hunter late last year admitted that he "vapes" and told Nancy Pelosi in a letter that, like millions of Americans, he does it to avoid smoking. Yesterday he showed his colleagues in Congress exactly what he meant.

Hunter did not win over his neighbor, or much of anyone else in Congress apparently. But vaping while legislating did win him fans in the media. He blew what Gawker calls "a sick cloud of e-juice" as he tried to convince lawmakers that inhaling vapors is less harmful than smoking tobacco. This prompted Gawker's Andy Cush to write, "I love the USA."

Despite this gloriously American display of freedom, Hunter failed to convince the Transport Committee. Perhaps alarmed by Miller's dramatic gestures, it voted to ban vaporizers on planes.

Exploding E-Cigs and More

The decision to ban vaping on planes should not come as a surprise. Lawmakers have been struggling with electronic cigarette and vaporizer regulations since the smoking alternatives have grown in popularity in the last decade. Meanwhile, non-smokers have grown accustomed to expressing fear for their health at the first sign of smoke ... or vapor.

But the health dangers of these alternative nicotine delivery systems are not yet clear. It seems like vaping is safer for people's health than smoking tobacco because it eliminates many of the toxins associated with that habit, such as ingesting tar.

Still, these electronic devices have their own devastating drawbacks, only some of which are becoming more apparent. The data on e-cigarette explosions is thin - but between 2009 and 2014 there were reportedly 26 e-cigarette accidents caused by a lithium ion battery defects.

But this year there has already been one truck accident in Indiana attributed to an exploding e-cig, and last year a man was severely injured when an exploding e-cig led to a broken neck, fallen teeth, facial fractures, and burns.

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