By: Sophie Hunt

The last thing you would expect to see while sitting on a city bus is a puff of smoke. Yet there I was, on the number 44, sitting next to a young man exhaling smoke in my direction. It took a moment to realize that it was not a cigarette he was smoking, but a thin metallic cylinder about the size of a cigar.

With the sudden rise in the use of electronic cigarettes, this is a sight that is becoming much more common.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, use a mixture of water, nicotine, flavouring, and other additives as a replacement for real cigarettes. Whether people are choosing to smoke them in order to kick their smoking habit, or simply as a less harmful alternative, e-cigarettes are not as safe as people seem to think. The liquid nitrogen used by this product can be very dangerous in a concentrated form. Also, the smoke released can potentially contain chemicals that, while less harmful than regular cigarettes, can still have an impact on people that inhale it through second-hand smoke.

The lack of information regarding e-cigarettes has led to a disregard for the regulation, and even creation, of laws that control the use of this product. Currently there is a Canada-wide ban on the importation, sale and advertising of this product. Despite this, people are still able to bring them into the country.

But this is not the main issue.

There is a startling absence of regulation on the use of e-cigarettes in the province. Many people are using their e-cigarettes in public places that are considered smoke-free, raising questions of whether or not they are potentially harmful to both the smokers and the people around them. Which begs the question: should e-cigarettes have the same restrictions as the average cigarette?

Little is known about the full health risks associated with smoking e-cigarettes. This makes the growing presence of them in public spaces even more terrifying. If there are harmful effects associated with the inhalation of second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes, then it may be too late for many who have already come into contact with too much of this smoke without realizing the risk. But it is not too late to take action in order to educate people of the possible risks of inhaling e-cigarette smoke.

Not only should the Government of Ontario put more effort into fully exploring likely health risks, work should also be done to raise the public’s awareness about the growing presence of e-cigarettes. It is not enough to simply limit the distribution of e-cigarettes in Canada. By exploring the potentially harmful risks of e-cigarettes, the government can create more rigid laws regarding where e-cigarettes can be smoked, and as a result make public spaces – including city buses – safer throughout the province.

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