By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- As regulations regarding the sale and use of electronic cigarettes are considered at the state and federal levels, a local company's future hangs in the balance.
The Amsterdam-based electronic cigarette company Revolution Vapor has seen a growing business since opening its doors three years ago, but legislation before the state Senate could jeopardize that.
The bill prohibits the sale or provision of any quantity of electronic liquid used to refill an electronic cigarette or cartridge. Electronic cigarettes heat a liquid nicotine solution, and create a vapor that is inhaled.
"They seek to ban the sale of all e-liquids, which is my company's main product. It's an integral part of all e-cigarettes," chief development officer Joseph Bittlingmaier said. "That would put me right out of business, within two months of being enacted."
The company, located on Route 30, produces more than 70 flavors of the e-liquids. The company distributes products to various markets throughout the United States, primarily in the southeast, as well as some local shops. The company is growing, and has also opened a sales office in Schenectady.
Bittlingmaier agreed there should be regulations regarding the use of the devices, but that they needed to be fair to the distributor as well as the consumer.
"When it comes down to legislation, we are not opposed to it because there are many steps that should and need to be taken, but the legislation in its current form hurts businesses and consumers who are trying hard to give up tobacco cigarettes," he said.
Founder Eric Swick, a former smoker, said his prime motivation in creating the company was to help people who wanted to quit.
"This is revolutionary technology that can change the world," Swick said. "It pains me to see legislation being enacted before we can do the research."
The Senate bill is just one of several being considered by the state legislature in an attempt to regulate the alternative smoking devices that have gained in popularity in the past five years.
The bills are being considered just as the Food and Drug Administration has started to evaluate the potential health effects.
A preliminary laboratory analysis of two leading brands was conducted by the FDA, and found that the electronic cigarettes contained detectable levels of carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed, according to the FDA website.
However, the FDA does state that the product has not been fully studied. Therefore, the actual risks of e-cigarettes are unknown when used as intended, and how much nicotine or other harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use.
Several county governments, including Montgomery County, have decided not to wait until that is figured out, and banned the use of the battery-powered devices in all county buildings.
Bittlingmaier said in some case studies, evidence shows there is no danger of second-hand vapor, and banning the use of the devices indoors is forcing those people to go outside among those who smoke traditional cigarettes that are proven to be harmful.
According to the bill sponsored by Sen. Kemp Hannon, while the health risks are unknown, the liquid used to produce the vapor in some electronic cigarettes has been found to be harmful to humans if ingested, or simply upon contact with an individual's skin.
Between 2012 and 2013, calls to poison control centers involving e-liquids have increased by 300 percent, with 1,351 calls in 2013, the bill states.
Bittlingmaier said Revolution Vapor has already added a number of safety measures to ensure the product is not misused, including child-proof caps.
The bill also says many e-liquids are made on factory floors or in the back rooms of shops and, similar to e-cigarettes, are not regulated by the federal government, which Swick said is a misconception.
He said it is an unfair justification that is hurting the companies that are doing it right.
"We take pride in doing it right and setting the standard," Swick said. "It's something more people are using and its improving lives."