Officials declare e-cigarettes a health threat for California

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Health officials have declared electronic cigarettes a health threat for California, and they are seeking statewide regulations.

The use of electronic cigarettes is growing. It's called vaping, and there's new shops opening up all over.

The California Department of Public Health released a report saying e-cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and get users hooked on nicotine, but officials acknowledged that more research needs to be done.

"There's a misnomer that e-cigarettes emit just water vapor, and that's not true. They actually admit aerosol that contains particulate matter," said Timothy Gibbs of the American Cancer Society.

California Health Officer Ron Chapman said if the products remain largely unregulated, new generations of young people will become nicotine addicts.

"There is propyleneglycol, which is a food substance. They have actually used it as medication. However, when it's heated up, if it's heated up high enough, it becomes ethylene glycol, that's anti-freeze," said Dr. Brian Tiep of City of Hope.

But proponents say it is never heated that much.

"There is a dangerous part when you are heating up ... but we don't do that. Usually vape shops don't sell those kinds of things," said Mike Mailyan, who owns the Vapor Shop in Sherman Oaks.

He says electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, and there is nothing burning like a cigarette. Instead, a heating element vaporizes a liquid that can have different flavorings.

"Basically it's boiled water with vegetable glycerine," Mailyan said.

California banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010, but the report raises concerns about children consuming liquid nicotine with flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear. Reports of children under 5 with e-cigarette poisoning jumped from seven in 2012 to 154 last year.

There's a proposal in the state legislature that would define e-cigarettes as a tobacco product and would prohibit its use in public places. A similar bill was defeated last year over opposition from tobacco companies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also proposing regulations that include warning labels and ingredient lists on e-cigarettes, although enactment could take years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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