Attorney General Cuccinelli issues official opinion on E-cigarette

Electronic cigarette does not violate the Indoor Clean Air Act

CENTRAL VA –At the request of a resident of the 97th District, Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) recently asked for a formal written opinion from Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II in reference to the use of electronic cigarettes. 

An electronic cigarette, known as an e-cig, is a battery operated nicotine delivery system.  The device is used as an alternative to smoked tobacco products.  The nicotine vapor emitted provides users with a similar experience of lighted cigarettes without the combustion and smoke associated with smoked tobacco products. 

The AG’s opinion states: “an e-cigarette does not involve the “inhaling, or exhaling of smoke.” Smoke is defined as “the gaseous products of burning carbonaceous materials made visible by the presence of small particles of carbon.” To be sure, one definition of smoke is “fume or vapor often resulting from the action of heat on moisture.”  That, however, is not the way the term smoke is commonly understood.  Statutes should be construed under their “ordinary and plain meaning.”  Water vapor containing traces of particulate matter, such as water evaporating from a tea kettle, is not ordinarily understood to be “smoke.”  

Additionally the opinion reads: “An e-cigarette does not function in manner of a traditional cigarette because it functions electrically rather than via combustion of a material such as tobacco.  Therefore, the vapor emitted by an e-cigarette would not fall within the definition of “smoke” or “smoking” in Virginia Code 15.2-2820.  Second, an e-cigarette is battery powered and is not “lighted” as that term is commonly understood.  No flame is involved in its operation.” 

Speaking to the recent opinion Peace stated, "Logically if the purpose of the smoking ban was to create a healthier atmosphere in public places across the Commonwealth and reduce second hand smoke emissions, the e-cigarette does not seem to fit the parameters.”

“One positive outcome of e-cigs is that many users express the product has helped them reduce or eliminate the use of tobacco cigarettes.  These actions will result in healthier outcomes, increased quality of life and a reduction in medical expenses for these citizens,” Peace further asserted. 

Delegate Christopher K. Peace was elected to his third term representing the 97th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. The District includes parts of Hanover, Caroline, King William, King and Queen, Henrico, Spotsylvania Counties and all of New Kent County