Seven years after they first hit the market, electronic cigarettes are on the brink of being regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA proposed a set of e-cigarette regulations that would include:
- Prohibiting their sale to minors
- Requiring manufacturers to include health warnings
- Requiring manufacturers to submit product ingredients for FDA review
While the effects of the e-cigarette vapor remain unknown, health care providers would be wise to gather as much information as they can about these increasingly popular devices.
What They Are
E-cigarettes combine a battery with interchangeable liquid nicotine cartridges. Instead of smoke when inhaled, e-cigarettes produce a vapor. About 21 percent of adults and 10 percent of high school students have tried them. Reuters reports their growing popularity has resulted in more than 250 e-cigarette brands for sale in the U.S. and a $2 billion industry.
Do They Help People Quit Smoking?
E-cigarettes are not a smoking cessation aid approved by the FDA, and a recent study showed they may not ever achieve that status. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, noted that e-cigarette use did not result in smoking cessation or reduction in cigarette intake after one year of use.
Physician Groups’ Views
Perhaps not surprisingly, major medical societies embrace the idea of some type of government control over e-cigarettes. The American Medical Association gives a nod to the FDA for its regulation efforts concerning e-cigarettes as well as cigars and hookahs. The American Academy of Family Physicians calls to end all e-cigarette advertising until more is known about their safety.
Alluring to Youth
Teen use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It nearly doubled from about 3 percent in 2012 to nearly 7 percent in 2013. Some experts say e-cigarettes’ fruity, sweet flavors and ease of online purchase make them particularly appealing for the younger set.
Dangers of Liquid Nicotine
E-cigarettes are filled and refilled with liquid nicotine, also called e-liquid, and it can be fatal. Ingesting or absorbing the substance through the skin can cause seizures, vomiting, heart problems and even death to adults and children.
E-liquids are widely sold online in concentrations that range from about 2 percent to up to 10 percent of nicotine. E-liquids on the higher end of the scale can be deadly, and experts warn children are attracted to the substance’s bright colors and sweet aromas. The National Poison Data System reported a 300 percent increase in calls about liquid nicotine from 2012 to 213.
Big City Bans
Thirteen states and 170 cities across the nation have already started banning e-cigarettes in smoke-free zones or specific areas, such as schools or government workplaces or facilities. The effects of inhaling nicotine may still pose some risk, according to the American Lung Association, even without the harmful tars of traditional cigarettes.
Last Updated on June 9, 2014