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Smokeless "E-cigarette" Makers and FDA in Court Today

August 17, 2009

DES MOINES, Iowa - The battery-powered tube looks like a cigarette and contains vapors of nicotine and flavors that can be inhaled without the traditional cigarette smoke; those who use them call it "vaping" rather than smoking. Oregon has banned the sale of so-called electronic cigarettes, as have Canada and Mexico.

Some makers of e-cigarettes say "vaping" is safer than smoking. Peggy Hubbert with the Iowa Chapter of the American Cancer Society begs to differ.

"In initial lab tests the FDA found detectable levels of carcinogens and toxic chemicals, and there is no comprehensive research that has been conducted on the health effects of these electronic cigarettes."

Hubbert says these e-cigarettes are to be had right now in Iowa.

"They are definitely available in Iowa. In fact, there is a kiosk in Jordan Creek Mall right now, in West Des Moines, that's selling them. And they are presently legal and available."

Two distributors of the devices are challenging the FDA for confiscating shipments from China, in a court case that starts this week. The federal court will be asked to decide whether e-cigarettes should be classified as tobacco or nicotine products. If classified as nicotine, then the FDA says they should be treated just like any smoking cessation aid and be subject to federal regulation and testing. The manufacturers want the court to classify the e-cigarettes as tobacco products to be more loosely regulated.

The Electronic Cigarette Association, which represents the distributors, claims e-cigarettes deliver a harmless mixture of nicotine and water vapor.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA