PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Food and Drug Administration is taking the first step toward regulating electronic cigarettes.
“It’s like the wild, wild west. Companies can do anything they want,” says FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
The battery-powered devices allow users to inhale vaporized nicotine.
“We need to understand a lot more about how they’re being used and what are the potential risks and benefits of e-cigarettes,” Dr. Hamburg continues.
Once the FDA proposal is approved, new regulations will prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18. They would be banned from vending machines. And they would carry a warning label that nicotine is addictive.
Puneet Nanda, the founder of e-cigarette maker Rejuve, says the devices are safer than tobacco cigarettes.
“I think this is a great product for people who are addicted to smoking, who just can’t live without it, who are already trying to quit,” she says.
Having a smokeless alternative to regular cigarettes is what appeals to some e-cigarette smokers.
“That doesn’t worry me as much as the carcinogens in cigarettes,” says Sandy Frauens, a cashier at Smoker Friendly in Robinson.
But the FDA is concerned about the marketing to teens, and many anti-smoking advocates agree.
“There’s no reason to have a bubble gum watermelon, e-cigarette. It’s the 31 flavors to getting kids addicted to nicotine,” says Cindy Chavez, of Santa Clara County, California.
In Pennsylvania, a bill to ban sales to minors was introduced by State Sen. Tim Solobay, but it did not make it beyond the Senate.
“We kept bringing articles in from the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the manufacturers themselves, a lot of editorial boards across the state were all saying, ‘Hey, we need to do something with this to stop the kids from getting it,’” says Solobay.
It could take a year or more for the new regulations go into effect.
A report last fall from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the number of middle school and high school students who tried electronic cigarettes doubled to nearly two million kids in 2012.