Harford County health officials warned residents that electronic cigarettes are just as bad as the real thing.
Susan Kelly, director of the county's health department, told the County Council during her regular report Tuesday that the health department is wary of the growing trend of "vaping," whose proponents often claim it is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
The county's tobacco work group is distributing fliers and other information fighting claims that vaping is safer, more socially accepted than smoking, nicotine-free and can help users quit smoking.
"The work group has made the recommendation that e-cigarettes be treated like any tobacco product, with being used indoors," Vickie Ensor Bands, who leads community outreach for Upper Chesapeake Health, told the council as well.
Many "e-cigarettes" still contain nicotine. E-cigarettes contain vaporizers that heat a liquid solution called "e-liquid," which can contain a variety of ingredients and is often flavored.
According to the work group, the quality, ingredients and safety of e-cigarettes have not been verified, and studies have not yet determined the risk of using e-cigarettes.
The flier also states that just one tablespoon of e-cigarette liquid can kill a 65-pound child and, if the liquid is applied to the skin, can cause nausea and vomiting.
National e-cigarette sales have jumped from 50,000 in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2012, Ensor Bands said. The products are also increasingly being used by middle-school and high school-students, she said.
"We really felt it was important for folks to really have the education and information out there," Ensor Bands said.
"There has not been a lot of science and research done" regarding e-cigarettes, she said.
Work group members "recommend they certainly not be used and that they be considered as a regular tobacco product," she said.
Kelly said the county was wise to include e-cigarettes in its no-smoking policy on government property, enacted in 2012.
"There was a lot of forethought on the part of Harford County," she said.