Other Tobacco Products
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes as they are more commonly known, are nicotine-delivery devices designed to look like cigarettes in shape, size and general appearance. These battery-powered devices usually include a battery component, a vaporizer or atomizer and a cartridge with a mouthpiece.
When the smoker puffs on the mouthpiece of the cartridge, the battery causes the tip of the e-cigarette to glow and the heat created by the battery turns the liquid nicotine into a vapor, or mist, of liquid, flavorings and nicotine. The vapor can be breathed in and out by the user, creating a cloud that looks like cigarette smoke.
The e-cigarette is sold as a metal tube that requires refillable containers of nicotine and flavorings, and the cartridge can usually hold up to 20 mg of nicotine. Some of the flavors available include coffee, tobacco, apple, strawberry, banana and bubble gum. The refill bottles contain up to 7 grams of nicotine.
Safety, Quality, and Health Effects of E-Cigarettes
In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis analyzed the ingredients in a small sample of cartridges from two leading brands of e-cigarettes and conducted testing on the products. They found that the samples contained detectable levels of known carcinogens (or cancer-causing agents) and toxic chemicals, including diethylene glycol (commonly found in antifreeze) and nitrosamines.
The tests also found that there was no consistency in the levels of nicotine between different products with the same level. Some of the products labeled “no nicotine” still contained low levels of nicotine.
Like other forms of nicotine, the e-cigarettes and nicotine containers can be deadly to children or pets, who risk nicotine poisoning from ingesting the liquid nicotine. The refill bottles, as mentioned above, contain up to 7 grams of nicotine. The fatal dose of nicotine for adults is estimated at 30-60 mg, while for children it is estimated at only 10 mg, or approximately 4 drops of a maximum strength refill bottle.
Regulation of E-Cigarettes.
In 2008, the FDA moved to establish authority over e-cigarettes as drugs or drug delivery devices under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and sought to block shipments of the product from entering the United States. In response, the e-cigarette manufacturer sued the FDA in federal court.
In 2010, the court ruled in favor of the manufacturer, saying that the FDA could not regulate e-cigarettes as drug delivery devices if they are not marketed as tobacco cessation aids (like nicotine gum or patches). However, the court ruled that the FDA could regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act.
In 2011, the FDA issued a statement announcing they intend to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, as allowed by the courts, which includes marketing restrictions, mandated ingredient listing and pre-market review. The FDA is also working to develop regulations specific to e-cigarettes.
At this time, there are three large U.S. companies and dozens of smaller ones that sell e-cigarettes, though most e-cigarettes are made in China. Here, the e-cigarette is usually sold as a way to get nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed, although some may sell it as a way to quit smoking.
E-cigarettes are promoted heavily online, in mall kiosks, and have even been found in warehouse stores, like Costco.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Prevention and Early Detection. “Guide to Quitting Smoking,” Revised May 2009. American Legacy Foundation. “Tobacco Fact Sheet: Electronic Cigarettes,” Revised June 2012. Public Health Law and Policy, Technical Assistance Legal Center. “Electronic Cigarettes: How They Are- and Could Be- Regulated,” July 2011.