FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) The Darlington County Detention Center is seeing benefits from the electronic cigarettes that are behind bars.

The Darlington County Detention Center was the first in the state to allow inmates to smoke electronic cigarettes, but nationally, many jails are jumping on board because of the benefits they bring to jails.

“I was skeptical at first. E cigarette what is this saying, and is it really something that&#39 s going to be beneficial to us?” asked Sheriff Wayne Byrd of Darlington County.

That&#39 s what Sheriff Byrd was thinking eight months ago, when the idea of allowing inmates to smoke electronic cigarettes first came along.

The Darlington County Detention Center had historically been a non smoking facility, mostly to keep inmates from using cigarettes and lighters as weapons, but people tried to get them in anyway.

” Inmates smoke multiple packs a day, it&#39 s hard to get them to quit, so it was a big problem with people trying to sneak cigarettes in,” Byrd said.

Because more people were sneaking contraband into the prison, and the state cut funding for the jail, Darlington County decided to get creative and solve two problems at once.

“The big thing is it cuts down on the contraband. People try to smuggle cigarettes and lighters and things like that into the facility,”said Byrd.

“The ones that we use now, they don&#39 t even look like a cigarette and they&#39 re soft,” Byrd said.

Cross Bar, the company behind the product, is run by a correctional officer who, back in 2012, was looking to bring more revenue into his jail.

The company developed the e cigarettes out of the soft, plastic, relatively harmless material, and is now on track to bring Darlington County an extra $15,000 this year, money that must go back into the jail.

The funds will go towards “mattress, blankets anything they might need, and when we can make that money somewhere else we don&#39 t have to use tax money to buy those items,” said Byrd.

Detention Center Warden Major Mitch Stanley said he&#39 s even noticed fewer inmate fights since the e cigarettes were rolled out.

“Once we started the e cigarettes and they could get their nicotine fix, they calmed down,” said Major Stanley.

In some cases, the cigarettes have actually helped some people quit smoking.

“It actually has made a lot of people stop smoking, because they have used it as a deterrent, and some people who were heavy smokers have actually stopped and no longer buying the e cigarettes,” said Stanley.

The Detention Center here makes right around $5 for each e cigarette, and the more they sell, the less taxpayer money they have to use to run the jail.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

E-cigarettes reignite tobacco wars – anna palmer and manu raju – politico.com

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But the Food and Drug Administration is set to decide soon whether the e cigarette market should remain the Wild West, unfettered by strict advertising and other rules that apply to normal cigarettes. The looming FDA decision and increased attention on Capitol Hill and state capitals have set off a lobbying frenzy in Washington and across the country.

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The industry remembers what happened the last time government stepped in millions of Americans extinguished their smoking habit. So this time Big Tobacco will fight just as hard or harder to protect its turf, even if if means reigniting the Tobacco Wars.

“We believe that regulatory and tax policies should encourage smokers of combustible cigarettes to switch to e cigarettes,” said Michael Shannon, vice president of Lorillard, arguing that e cigarettes should be treated differently than traditional cigarettes because they are different products. “We welcome reasonable FDA regulation on e cigarettes, but feel strongly that regulatory policy should not stifle what may be the most promising tobacco harm reduction product ever.”

The industry s pitch The battery powered cigarettes don t contain tobacco, so they will help hard core smokers switch to a safer alternative, helping save lives.

Even though the Big Tobacco companies have not been able to advertise on TV for four decades, e cigarette ads are now blanketing the airwaves with the firms taking full advantage of the lack of federal restrictions on their products.

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Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc., got in the market with its “MarkTen” electronic cigarette, Reynolds American unveiled the “VUSE” electronic cigarette and Lorillard acquired “blu” e cigarettes. Other big money backers like Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker have gotten in the action. He s among a group that invested $75 million in Njoy, which markets its product as a way to quit smoking.

But Big Tobacco s emergence in this new market has given ammunition to critics who say e cigarettes which turn nicotine and other chemicals into an inhalable vapor and whose health effects are not fully known are a back door way for the tobacco giants to regain their prominence by hooking a new wave of smokers onto nicotine.

Even independent e cigarette makers say that the emergence of Big Tobacco in the marketplace only complicates their argument that their products will help wean the country off of tobacco and should not be regulated as such.

Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general who now sits on the board of Njoy Inc., an e cigarette maker not affiliated with a tobacco company, says that his company s goal is to make tobacco “obsolete.”

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But given Big Tobacco s huge investment in e cigarettes, Carmona acknowledges that it “confuses” the industry s argument.

“I talk to people today, and they say, How can you get in bed with tobacco companies? ” said Carmona, a Democrat who lost a 2012 Senate race in Arizona. “I say, I m not. I say, Njoy is not a tobacco company. “

The issue isn t completely new on Capitol Hill and many lawmakers who smoke or are trying to quit have been spotted using e cigarettes, including Boehner and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R Calif.). But the industry isn t relying on potential customers on Capitol Hill to defend the industry.

To push its position, Lorillard has done everything from typical shoe leather lobbying to featuring its blu e cigarettes on signs at a smoking tent it sponsored at the annual “Taste of the South” bash, an event that draws hundreds of Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers, largely from southern states.

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The law firm Dickstein Shapiro billed $2.6 million to Lorillard in lobbying fees for the first nine months of 2013, according to federal lobbying reports. The firm s reported monitoring “all federal and legislative action related to e cigarettes,” among other issues for the company. Lorillard also has Strategic Action Public Affairs on retainer, including GOP strategists Stuart Roy and Blain Rethemeier to work on blu and e cigarette issues.

Blu has even enlisted Hollywood stars like Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff to hock its products, something that is verboten for traditional cigarette brands like Marlboro. A consultant for Lorillard said blu “selected its celebrity spokespeople, the placement of the advertisements featuring these individuals and the events in which they appear to be consistent with blu s goal of reaching smokers and vapers 18 years of age or older.” Both McCarthy and Dorff are over 40 years old.

Lorillard is hardly alone. Altria and Reynolds American paid big in Washington in 2013, spending $7.8 million and more than $1.7 million, during the first nine months of 2013 on lobbying, respectively, though the companies and their consultants did not specify electronic cigarettes on the reports. Independently owned Njoy meanwhile beefed up in Washington by hiring the Downey McGrath Group in November. The company also paid Shockey Scofield Solutions $80,000 over six months of work, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports.