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E-Cigarettes Are Not Atmospheric Effects
E-cigarettes are gaining favor as substitutes on stage for real cigarettes. It could be argued that e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes, or even herbal cigarettes, in that the fire hazard is much less and there are no weird products of combustion. However, it is possible that an actor smoking an e-cigarette is exposed to glycol or glycerin levels that exceed the ceiling limits in ANSI E1.5 and Equity contracts. Research is needed on the health effects of short but concentrated exposures to glycol and glycerin fogs as a result of smoking e-cigarettes. Until that research is done and available for evaluation, PLASA neither recommends nor condemns the use of e-cigarettes on stage. At the Fog & Smoke Working Group's 28 March 2014 meeting, it was decided that e-cigarettes should be considered hand props, not atmospheric effects, and therefore are outside the scopes of PLASA's Fog & Smoke Working Group, the Fog Testing Program, and the Fog Stewardship Program.
E-cigarettes are little fog machines people suck on. The e-cigarette fog is usually laced with addictive and tasty chemicals, but versions that only contain glycol or glycerin are available for use by actors on stage. It has been reported that Actors' Equity has published a time-distance table for one brand of e-cigarette to establish how far away an actor must be from an e-smoking actor or how long after an exhale the non-smoker may move in closer and not be exposed to fog that exceeds the limits written into Equity contracts. This time-distance table helps assure the safety and comfort of the actors around the actor with the e-cigarette, but it has little relevance for the actor smoking (or "vaping") the e-cigarette, whose exposure is essentially at zero distance.
The ceiling exposure limits in ANSI E1.5 and Equity contracts are based on numerous studies over decades on glycol and glycerin as theatrical effects or as chemicals in the workplace atmosphere. We have virtually no data on the health effects of short but concentrated exposures to glycol and glycerin fogs as a result of smoking e-cigarettes. More study is needed about the possible health effects of e-cigarettes on smoking actors--nobody benefits from making performers sick--but this study would be outside the scope of PLASA's Fog & Smoke Working Group.
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