The second largest city in Kansas adopted an ordinance earlier this month adding electronic cigarettes to its ban on smoking in public places.

Council members in Overland Park disagreed on whether there is conclusive research that vapor from electronic cigarettes is dangerous to smokers and those exposed to it second-hand, according to an Associated Press story on Aug. 20. Proponents of the ban said it was better to err on the side of caution.

Kansas is one of nearly a dozen states that regulates electronic cigarettes. Tobacco use, including the use of e-cigarettes, is prohibited on all Department of Corrections property and grounds, by both employees and inmates. In 2012, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Three states, North Dakota, New Jersey and Utah restrict electronic cigarettes in 100 percent smoke-free venues.

In 2011 the Kansas Attorney General issued an opinion that the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act does not apply to e-cigarettes and stated that if the Legislature wished to extend the Act to cover e-cigarettes, it may amend the Act to define “cigarette” to include e-cigarettes, or “smoking” to include the use of e-cigarettes.

The 2010 Indoor Clean Air Act was predated by the prohibition of smoking in indoor public places in many Kansas cities and counties, including the city of Pratt and Pratt County in 2009. There does not, at this time, appear to be an organized movement to extend Kansas law to include electronic cigarettes.

The Pratt Health Foundation, which has advocated for changes in the local environment (marked bike routes and extension of sidewalks, for example) to promote a healthier population and sponsored a workplace wellness seminar this summer, has not added e-cigarettes to its agenda. Executive Director DeWayne Bryan is not aware of efforts at the state level.

“I don’t think there’s enough information about it,” he said. “It hasn’t been around that long.”

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn chemicals into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user and exhaled as vapor. They have been sold in the United States since 2007 and studied only since 2010, according to the Kansas Health Institute. Sales are expected to reach $1.5 billion this year.

The device is promoted as a less harmful alternative to smoking and a good way to quit smoking.

Dr. Robert Moser, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, isn’t convinced that e-cigarettes improve smokers’ chances of quitting, according to the KHI. He worries that normalizing their use could lead young people to take up the habit and form addictions to nicotine that will make them more likely to start smoking.

More than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three times the number in 2011. Nearly 44 percent of the youth who had ever tried e-cigarettes intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within a year, the surveys of high school and middle school students revealed. About 21 percent of young people who had not tried the electronic version said they would try traditional cigarettes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a proposed rule that would extend the agency’s tobacco authority to electronic cigarettes.

An FDA fact sheet states that e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know:

• the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended

• how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or

• whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.

American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation says the use of e-cigarettes is a public health concern, not only because of their potential health impacts on users and bystanders, but also because e-cigarette use causes public confusion as to where smoking is allowed, resulting in compliance problems with smoke-free laws.

The e-cigarette forum, which claims to be the largest e-cigarette website in the world, is a community dedicated to protecting ex-smokers’ rights, protecting the right of smokers to switch to far safer alternatives, finding the best e-cigarette products available, and promoting freedom of choice.