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Health Official Issues E-Cigarette Warning

September 4, 2009

Lexington, KY - Health advocates think Kentucky should follow Oregon's lead in stamping out electronic cigarettes. Oregon was the first to ban the sale of the new products, also called "e-cigarettes," but they are still available elsewhere, including in Kentucky. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is fighting 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. Kentucky state health officials are now warning the devices can actually promote smoking.

Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, says e-cigarettes could actually end up creating new customers for tobacco in a state where adult and youth smoking rates are at epidemic levels.

"They're mistakenly marketing them as a safe alternative to cigarettes, where there are no age restrictions, and so the way they are marketed really does appeal to children."

Hahn is also concerned by the push from tobacco companies to market variations of dissolvable tobacco products. These tablets or strips are smokeless, spit-free and are often disguised as candy or bubble gum. She says it would be a bad idea for Kentucky smokers, who are trying to quit their habit, to get hooked on alternatives to smoking.

"The thing that scares me most in Kentucky particularly is because we have so many tobacco-dependent people. These products, e-cigarettes and other products, really will derail smokers who actually want to quit and instead they may switch to these products."

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

Most electronic cigarettes reportedly are manufactured in China and the American Lung Association says their health effects have not been thoroughly tested. Also known as "personal vaporizers," the products have their defenders. A group called the Long Island Vapers Club says there has not been a single case of serious illness or fatality recorded as a result of what they call "vaping."





Bill Goodman, Public News Service - KY