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Smokeless "E-Cigarettes" Raise New Health Concerns

August 13, 2009

Sacramento, CA - Health advocates think California should follow its neighbor's lead in stamping out electronic cigarettes. Oregon has banned the sale of "e-cigarettes," but they are still available in the Golden State. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) will soon be in court to fight a legal challenge from two distributors after the FDA confiscated product shipments in Oregon. The battery-operated tubes look a like authentic cigarettes, and they contain nicotine and flavors that can be inhaled without producing smoke. The FDA wants to regulate them as drug devices, while companies that manufacture e-cigarettes call them a safer alternative to smoking.

Dana Kaye, executive director of the American Lung Association of Oregon, disagrees.

"My fear is just the opposite with these. If people are thinking they're not going to get addicted, we'll have a new culture of folks who are hooked to nicotine, who weren't previously."

Electronic cigarettes don't make nicotine any less addictive, adds Kaye, and the FDA has found other chemicals in them, including diethylene glycol, a common ingredient of anti-freeze.

"We see it in some other products, such as makeup and lotions. There's a safe limit of that particular chemical, but not necessarily as an inhaled substance."

Most of the electronic cigarettes reportedly are manufactured in China and their health effects have not been thoroughly tested, according to the Lung Association. E-cigarettes cannot legally be sold in Oregon, but are available online or in neighboring states, such as California.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA