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FDA wants to regulate electronic cigarettes—again

Consumer Reports News: April 27, 2011 04:48 PM

E-cigarettes may not contain tobacco but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to regulate them under federal laws governing tobacco products. It’s the agency’s latest bid to rein in the popular products, which deliver vaporized nicotine.

Previous attempts by the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes failed when a federal judge ruled that, contrary to the agency’s claims, they could not be considered drugs or medical devices unless they were marketed for therapeutic purposes. However, the court left the door open saying that products “made or derived from tobacco” could be regulated.

Why the big fuss? Electronic cigarettes (also sold under the names e-cigarettes and smokeless cigarettes) look a lot like the real thing—but produce a nicotine vapor absorbed by the lungs, instead of smoke. Unlike cigarettes, they contain no health warnings and are readily available for purchase online and in malls. Often, they have fruit and other sweet flavors, which could encourage children and teens to give them a try. And to top it all off, the FDA has warned that e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze. Despite these and other concerns, their popularity has soared in recent years.

Bottom line: Until electronic cigarettes can be regulated, there’s no way of knowing whether or not they’re safe. If you’re looking to quit smoking, you’re better off sticking with medically proven cessation aids.

Public Health Focus: Electronic Cigarettes [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]

Letter: Regulation of E-Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]

FDA Warns of Health Risks Posed by E-Cigarettes [U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Ginger Skinner

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