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E-Cigarette Safety Still Up for Debate in Utah

PHOTO: The American Lung Association is calling on President Obama to order the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
PHOTO: The American Lung Association is calling on President Obama to order the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
March 17, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Electronic cigarettes often are advertised as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but Utahns still have a lot of questions about their safety. E-cigarettes provide users with nicotine through a liquid solution that also contains other substances and flavorings. Because they were invented only a decade ago and are not yet regulated, whether they are safe is unknown, said Christian Stumpf, regional director of public policy, American Lung Association.

"There hasn't been enough research done to talk about what these are good or bad for," Stumpf said.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that from 2011 to 2012, e-cigarettes doubled in popularity among middle-school and high-school students, who often call them "vape pipes" or "hookah pens." According to Consumer Reports, sales of e-cigarettes totaled $1.5 billion in 2013, nearly triple the previous year.

Stumpf said big tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds now produce e-cigarettes and appear to be marketing them to appeal to young people, with bright colors and sweet flavors. He is skeptical that e-cigarettes will ever be considered a legitimate method for people to use to quit smoking.

"If they are a legitimate smoking-cessation device," he asked, "why didn't the tobacco industry, why aren't they pounding down the FDA's door to take these to clinical trials, so that they can legitimize them as smoking-cessation devices?"

Stumpf said tobacco companies will likely fight government regulation because it could lead to warning labels on e-cigarettes and more taxes on the product. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule to allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes as it does tobacco products.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT