The FDA & E-Cigarettes
Sometimes it is what the FDA does not know that can hurt you. Such is the case with electronic cigarettes and the industry’s ongoing dispute with the FDA. In a July announcement, the FDA expressed its concerns over e-cigarettes but took no action to ban the products.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA’s deputy commissioner issued the following statement: “Public health experts, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society, have expressed concerns about the safety of these products and the risk that electronic cigarettes may increase nicotine addiction among young people and ultimately lead kids to try conventional cigarettes.”
Most electronic smokeless cigarettes are marketed similarly to the nicotine patch but with the ability to provide the oral fixation that accompanies smoking. Electronic cigarette manufacturers state that there are “no ingredients in our cigarettes that can cause cancer.” Thus far, the FDA does not oppose this contention, but does fear that certain mint and chocolate flavored e-cigarettes may encourage young persons to start smoking. However, many health experts contend that e-cigs present a good alternative to tobacco smoking.
Electronic cigarettes have gained popularity in the UK, Switzerland, Brazil and the U.S. where smokeless cigarettes have been imported since 2007. Industry representatives have sued the FDA to perform due diligence and testing on electronic cigarette products.
Electronic cigarettes run on a battery. The user inhales as if using a regular cigarette. When inhaled, a battery warms the nicotine liquid, which is stored in a plastic filter. The combination of heat and the liquid creates the vapor of smoke.
Nicotine does not cause cancer. The carcinogens emitted in the smoking of tobacco products are cancer causing. According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco smoking causes 90% of the lung cancer fatalities in the U.S.
As smoking cessation expert Dr. Steven Schroeder of the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center said; “If it is a choice between smoking tobacco products or a nicotine replacement, of course keep taking the replacement. It is a heck of a lot healthier than tobacco smoking.”
While expressing concern about the intangibles of electronic cigarette smoking, both the World Health Organization and the FDA have not rules out the possibility that smokeless cigarettes may be a good alternative for tobacco smoking. Meanwhile, consumers continue to purchase thousands of electronic cigarettes on a daily basis, as online sales remain extremely strong for the safer e-cigarette alternative.
**UPDATE AS OF DECEMBER 2010**
A federal appeals court says that electronic cigarettes should be regulated as tobacco products by the FDA, rather than as drug-delivery devices. This means they will follow the same restrictions as traditional cigarette products – which is basically good news for the e-cig industry because of less regulatory requirements! Read more about the court ruling here.