What About E-Cigarettes?

E-Cigarettes have emerged over the past decade and researchers in the early stage of investigating what the health effects are for people who use these products or who are exposed to the aerosol (vapor) secondhand.

E-Cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine without the other chemicals produced by burning tobacco leaves. Puffing on the mouthpiece of the cartridge activates a battery-powered inhalation device (called a vaporizer). The vaporizer heats the liquid inside the cartridge which contains nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals. The heated liquid turns into an aerosol (vapor) which the user inhales—referred to as “vaping.”

There are conflicting studies about whether or not e-cigarettes help smokers to quit. For tobacco cigarette smokers, e-cigarettes may be a safer alternative, if the goal is not to quit nicotine all together. However, health experts have raised many questions about the safety of these products, particularly for teens:

  • Testing of some e-cigarette products found the aerosol (vapor) to contain known cancer-causing and toxic chemicals, and particles from the vaporizing mechanism that may be harmful. The health effects of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear.
  • There is animal research which shows that nicotine exposure may cause changes in the brain that make other drugs more rewarding. If this is true in humans, as some experts believe, it would mean that using nicotine would increase the risk of other drug use and for addiction.
  • There is an established link between e-cigarette use and tobacco cigarette use in teens. Researchers are investigating this relationship. The concern is that e-Cigarette use may serve as a “gateway” or introductory product for youth to try other tobacco products, including regular cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to early death.
  • The liquid in e-cigarettes can cause nicotine poisoning if someone drinks, sniffs, or touches it. Recently there has been a surge of poisoning cases in children under age 5. There is also concern for users changing cartridges and for pets.

Are E-Cigarettes Regulated?

Yes. The U.S. government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on May 5, 2016 that effective in 90 days, the FDA will now regulate how and to whom e-cigarettes, as well as hookah tobacco and cigars are sold. This means that the FDA will now regulate these types of tobacco products in much the same way they regulate cigarettes.

This means that beginning on August 5, 2016:

  • It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars in person or online to anyone under age 18;
  • Buyers have to show their photo ID to purchase e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars, verifying that they are 18 years or older.
  • These products cannot be sold in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility); and
  • It is illegal to hand out free samples.

FDA regulation also means that the Federal government will now have a lot more information about what is in e-cigarette’s, the harmfulness of the ingredients, how they are made, and what risks need to be communicated to the public (for example, on health warnings on the product and in advertisements). They will also be able to stop manufactures from making statements about their products that are not scientifically proven.

Regulation does not mean that e-cigarettes are necessarily safe for all adults to use, or that all of the health claims currently made in advertisements by manufactures are scientifically proven. But what it does mean is that e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, and cigars now have to follow the same type of rules cigarette manufacturers have been following since 2009.


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