The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule that would allow the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes as they do tobacco products.
The agency has had the authority to regulate cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and self-rolled tobacco since 2009, and is has been exploring its guidelines to extend its power to the e-cigarette industry. The FDA has submitted its regulation proposals to the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval.
Sales for e-cigarettes grew from about $500 million in 2012 to an estimated $1.5 billion in 2013, according to Consumer Reports, though a minor powerhouse compared to the $100 billion tobacco industry, it is an industry that has been rising in sales, while tobacco sales have been falling.
As an unregulated and new product on the market, the chemical composition of e-cigarettes varies, so no one can say with certainty what is in them or how much of each chemical, like nicotine, is in one. Thus, the health implication are also unknown, including exposure to second-hand vapors.
However, some health educators are advocating that the devices be classified as aids in reducing or quitting smoking, because they do not contain tar or other burning chemicals. There have been anecdotal stories posted through various online social media outlets about long-time smokers kicking the habit through the use of e-cigarettes. However, their actual success rate is not more impressive than other classified health-aid devices such as patches or gum.
Dr. Cathy McDonald runs a center for Tobacco Dependence, Treatment and Cessation for Alameda County in California. She admitted to HuffingtonPost, “right now we don’t have as much information as we would like.”
What researchers do know, McDonald explained, is “ten minutes of smoking an e-cigarette for a person who has never smoked a cigarette does cause a noticeable increase in airway resistance in the lungs.”
Sixty years ago, we just didn’t know that much either.
S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on twitter @ReporterandGirl or on Facebook.com/TheReporterandTheGirl and visit her website at www.SCRhyne.com