The jury is still out on the potential health hazards of electronic cigarettes.
The FDA is set to propose regulations on electronic cigaretts later this month. A bill that would prohibit the use of the devices is being considered by the Prince George's County Council.
An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that looks like a cigarette and delivers a vaporized dose of nicotine to users who inhale the vapor like a cigarette.
County Councilwoman Ingrid Turner of Bowie is the author of a bill which would ban the use of such devices in restaurants, bars and public housing. Turner says she's had lots of calls from county residents concerned about second hand smoke exposure from the device.
"This bill goes to the fact that in a restaurant or public place we don't know what kind of chemical compound is in that vapor, or what effect it will have on the people around it," Turner says. "We also don't know the effect it will have on the individuals smoking the cigarette."
The use of e-cigarettes among adults in the U.S. is growing rapidly, according to Centers for Disease Control director Tom Friedan.
Rob Burton, director of corporate and regulatory affairs for e-cigarette maker White Cloud e-cigarettes, says the risk from e-cigarette vapor is low.
"A recent study by Roswell Parks Center, which is part funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that the levels of chemicals and toxins in the vapor of and e-cigarette are hundreds of times less than regular cigarette smoke," Burton says.
Dr. Donald Schell with the Maryland Department of Health says not enough studies have been done to render an accurate verdict on the product.
"We don't want to assume that no knowledge is consistent with safety," he says.
The Food and Drug Administration plans to release a set of proposed regulations on the use of cigarettes later this month.