Smokeless electronic cigarettes may win converts, following new Centers for Disease Control evidence that secondhand smoke can raise the risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent in nonsmokers.
The devices are battery operated, and dispense with burning tobacco; instead, users inhale a nicotine-infused vapor as the tip of the e-cigarette glows with a small red light.
Proponents say that hit of nicotine doesn’t have the same health risks, especially for non-users. E-cigarettes have no odor and produce no smoke from combustion, which means e-smokers can get around smoking bans in public places.
But no smoke doesn’t mean no fire.
The Food and Drug Administration is awaiting a federal court ruling to see whether it has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as “drug delivery devices” for nicotine.
This follows the agency’s warning in July that the e-cigarettes may contain cancer-causing material.
Great Britain’s Action on Smoking and Health is a house-divided. After the agency issued a statement calling the product “relatively harmless,” ASH activists in the United States and Wales raise concerns about the use of e-cigarettes by minors — even as retailers anticipate boosted sales.
Because e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, there are no age restrictions on advertising or use, and tobacco companies promote smokeless products on Twitter and Facebook. These include e-cigarettes and candy-like products, that an op-ed in Central Michigan Life claims are targeted to minors.
Regulations have been hard to implement. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to sign a bill that would have banned the devices, citing “pending litigation” at the federal level that could impact state law.
An estimated 300,000 Americans use e-cigarettes, reports the Christian Science Monitor, and online distributors, who market the devices as aids to quit smoking, hope that number will grow.
Yet another backlash may have begun, with notable online retailers pulling back. Amazon.com is no longer selling e-cigarettes on its website and PayPal has cancelled its electronic cigarette accounts.
“Online Sales of E Cigarettes Expected to Rise Over the Holidays”
Retailer Press Release, October 18, 2009
“Electronic Cigarettes: in need of FDA Regulation?”
Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 20009
“Tobacco companies are marketing new products to minors”
Central Michigan Life, October 14, 2009
“Electronic Cigarettes get a brief from ASH UK”
(Commercial Press Release), October 15, 2009
“Gov. Schwarzenegger terminates e cigarette ban in California”
24-7 press release, October 14, 2009
“E-Cigarettes offer nicotine without tobacco, but are they safe”
Daily Herald, October 12, 2009
“Battery-powered cigarettes catch on with consumers”
Detroit Free Press, October 1, 2009
“Amazon removes electronic cigarettes, but sales increase”
Press Release, October 14, 2009
“Health fear over trendy cigarettes substitute”
Wales online, October 11, 2009
“U.S. report confirms smoking bans cut heart attacks”
Reuters, October 15, 2009