Do you have questions about electronic cigarettes (e-cigs)? More and more people are finding out about these tobacco alternatives, yet sometimes it’s hard to get the right information. Let’s go over a few common questions:
Q: What exactly are electronic cigarettes?
A: E-cigs are handy little devices that deliver nicotine dissolved in water vapor. You puff on them just like regular cigarettes, and they deliver a delightful nicotine punch without all that unwanted “tar”. The secret to the device is a battery-operated heating element. You attach a replaceable cartridge containing the nicotine solution, and an atomizer converts the solution to hot vapor. You then inhale the vapor and feel the satisfying rush. The devices are usually constructed to resemble regular cigarettes, pipes and cigars. You can also find versions that look like everyday items (pens, memory sticks, etc.) for low-profile individuals who don’t want to broadcast their usage.
Q: What does the FDA have to say regarding e-cigs?
A: The FDA found some quality control issues in early versions of the products having to do with the delivery of inconsistent nicotine dosages. Some cartridges had nicotine even though they were labeled as nicotine-free. Presumably, these early problems have been worked out by manufactures. Some “experts” feel that any nicotine is bad, because it may lead to the use of tobacco products. This is completely speculative, and what is more likely is that tobacco users will migrate to e-cigs, not the other way around.
Q: What have the courts ruled about e-cigs?
A: In 2009, the FDA tried to classify e-cigs as drug delivery devices, and thus subject to their regulation. However, Federal Judge Richard J. Leon smacked down the FDA, telling them that e-cigs should be regulated as tobacco products, not as drugs or medical products. The judge ended the FDA’s ban on e-cigs imported from China. The FDA then went to the US Court of Appeals and got a temporary stay. The government argued that they already regulate nicotine gum and patches, so why not e-cigs? However, in a unanimous decision, the court handed a devastating loss to the FDA, ruling that the agency could regulate e-cigs only as tobacco products, and could not ban their import. To ice the victory for e-cig manufacturers, the District of Columbia Circuit Appeals Court refused to review the lower court decision.
As of 2014, the FDA was considering new rules regulating e-cigs. At the time of this writing, you can obtain them legally in most locations.