Electronic cigarettes still not FDA regulated - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Electronic cigarettes still not FDA regulated

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Electronic cigarettes have become extremely popular in the United States.

They're battery operated, and use a liquid that contains nicotine and chemicals that create a fog -- giving the appearance of smoke.

It's a two billion dollar industry.

However, e-cigarettes -- which have been around for years -- aren't regulated by the FDA.

On Tuesday, the City of Los Angeles banned all electronic cigarettes from businesses and restaurants in a vote.

Health experts say more research is needed. E-cigarette users believe it's a much safer alternative to cigarettes.

"The fact that you can do this and not offend other people is what turned me on to it," says
Randy Fox. Fox had been a cigarette smoker for nearly 40 years.

He made the switch from 'smoking' to 'vaping.'

"I can 'vape' next to somebody and they don't know that I'm 'vaping'," says Fox. "They see 'vapor coming out and they think it's smoke. But, I tell them, no this is basically steam."

Fox is a self-proclaimed 'vapo-holic.' He runs a "vapers" group in Birmingham.

To him, vaping mimics smoking.  It fulfills the oral and hand fixation that comes from holding a cigarette and smoking it.

"You can choose the amount of nicotine that you want, you can customize it to your taste," Fox explains.

A handful of stores across Birmingham sell these products.

"There are so many different types of devices out there, it would boggle your mind," says Fox.

That's where Dr. William Bailey, professor in pulmonary and critical care at UAB, has concerns.

"All of this may not be a problem, but it needs to be researched," says Bailey.

E-cigarettes and other vaping products are not yet regulated by the FDA.

"The FDA is going to regulate these (e-cigarettes) but they don't have the information either on how best to regulate them," Bailey says.

Bailey breaks down what goes into an electronic cigarette, and why it's raising eyebrows in the medical field.

"The carrier has to be something that will produce this vapor, and that's propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is an irritant. It has caused people irritation. So that is potentially a problem. We have not studied that enough to know how much of a problem that is," Bailey says.

Another concern, the colorful packaging and flavors of the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes, could glamorize smoking for children and teenagers.

"Chocolate and cherry and all these flavors, that are intended to bring children into the mix. And that's going to addict new people to nicotine, leaving them very subject to relapsing to cigarettes or other things," Bailey explains.

Bailey considers the jury is still out on these products, and whether 'second hand vapor' is harmful.

"When you heat chemicals up, they change to different chemicals. And all that (research) work needs to be done. And, the actual temperature of the battery itself, the variation in that temperature can vary what chemical products are produced. So we need to study it."

Randy Fox agrees that he would like to see more research on e-cigarettes and vaping.

However, he believes if these devices can help people quit smoking, he's all for it.

"We're all about doing the studies. We want to make sure that this is a safe thing to do for everybody involved. We also don't want the government to come in and put a stop to something that are going to save millions of people's lives getting them off of cigarettes," says Fox.

Europe, also is regulating these products.

New rules have been approved that would subject e-cigarettes to the same restrictions that apply to tobacco products.

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