E-Cigarette Legal Battle Comes to Close

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced it will regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, in other words, just like regular cigarettes. The agency had previously been pushing to regulate the smokeless cigarettes as drug delivery devices, but lost a court battle in early 2011. The FDA decided not to appeal the court’s decision, which puts to rest a legal battle that had been ongoing since 2009.

E-cigarette manufacturers and distributors and I imagine e-cigarette smokers consider the FDA’s decision not to appeal a major victory. If classified as drug delivery devices, e-cigarettes would be subject to much tighter regulations. Anti-smoking groups are expectedly disappointed the agency has accepted the court’s ruling.

E-cigarettes were first released overseas in 2002, but did not become readily available in the US market until 2006. E-cigarettes are plastic or metal battery-powered devices that use chemicals to turn liquid nicotine into vapor. They are designed to look and feel like regular cigarettes, but do not contain tobacco or produce smoke. As more places ban smoking indoors, e-cigarettes have become more popular. However, some states have begun banning electronic cigarettes indoors as well.

A lack of scientific evidence about health claims and the drawn-out court battles with the FDA have allowed electronic cigarette makers and sellers to operate in somewhat of a gray zone. Until now, e-cigarettes were not clearly classified as either drug delivery devices or tobacco products, so sales to minors and manufacturing flavored products had previously been legal. However, some e-cigarette manufacturers, such as Sottera, have come under fire for targeting minors. Many states have now passed legislation to prohibit e-cigarette sales to minors.

Some e-cigarette makers say their products are healthier alternatives to regular cigarettes, but the FDA warns that they often contain harmful toxins and may be addictive. Some people use the devices to try to quit smoking, but no studies have proven whether they actually curb smoking cravings.  The FDA has cited companies, such as Dragonite International (formerly Ruyan America), for making unsubstantiated health claims. E-cigarettes are relatively new to the market and there is little research on the products’ safety compared to traditional cigarettes.

The days of legal loopholes and lacking laboratory testing may be short-lived, however. While e-cigarettes won’t be subject to the strict regulations and clinical trials of drugs, they will now have to comply with federal laws that apply to regular cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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Picture by James Dunworth used under a Creative Common license.
Rebecca Mallett

Rebecca Mallett has been researching and writing about companies, industries, and executives as a member of the Hoover’s editorial team since 2007. For the past 4 years, she has focused on the agriculture and food manufacturing, business services, and mining and energy industries as a member of the First Research team. Follow her on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. I welcome the regulation, but not the taxes, that will follow. Let’s do some studies, so the public can make an informed decision. I smoked for 15 years. The FDA says I can’t you I quit…so I’ll tell you I “Switched” and never looked back. No more second hand smoke, no more cigarette breath, yet the cravings are satisfied.

  2. Tobacco companies will do anything to prohibit e cig

  3. What study is needed? Ask an ecig smoker if they curb cravings. I’ve been using them exclusively for about 2 years and can answer with a definitive yes.

  4. I have recently quit smoking tobacco cigarettes for 2 months by vaping on electronic cigarettes instead! So, it does help to curb your smoking. I have smoked for 35 years.

  5. Rebecca Mallett Rebecca Mallett says:

    Thanks for all your comments. It’s good to hear so many of you have benefited from e-cigarettes. However, if e-cigs are marketed as products that can help people quit smoking, stricter regulations could follow. For now, they will be considered tobacco products. I do agree they seem like good alternatives to tobacco cigarettes since they do not produce second hand smoke. I’m sure more research will be done since e-cigs are a relatively new product.

  6. James Tomas says:

    You really got to check out Vapage.com I quit smoking for good after 27 years of 2 packs a day…. love it

  7. Eyedunno says:

    I’ll go further: I got an e-cig just to cut back and save money, but within a week, I was no longer smoking at all.

  8. Eyedunno says:

    Oh, but I noticed an inaccuracy:
    “E-cigarettes are plastic or metal battery-powered devices that use chemicals to turn liquid nicotine into vapor.”
    Actually, they use heat or (much more rarely) ultrasound to turn liquid propylene glycol or glycerol (which may or may not contain nicotine and/or flavorings) into vapor.

  9. Yes, nicotine is never vaporized. It’s simply the propylene glycol (a VERY common food additive) being vaporized which carries the nicotine, if any, with it.

  10. I love the idea. But i welcome regulation and testing. I want to know whats in the vapor. They would have you believe it’s just nicotine. I’m betting there is something more. They seem promising as a healthier alternative. I’ve already been smoke free for two years and tried an e-cig just to check it out. I’m not about to go out and buy one until i know whats in that vapor.

  11. “They would have you believe it’s just nicotine.”

    Not sure who this “they” is but here is what is in the e-juice : vegetable (and/or) propylene glyco), food flavoring and nicotine. The juice is so easy to make that many “e-cig” users make their own.

  12. I’m glad that its over. Now e-cigarette companies can focus on investing money into developing better e-cig models! I follow the E-Cig Review Blog at http://www.e-cigcentral.net and I find it exciting to hear of all the new e-cig developments. Can’t wait till these things become mainstream!

  13. I just hope this has really undergone testing.

  14. J Coffey says:

    There has been several tests done on the vapor and even second hand vapor.
    They have even tested American made ejuice and the results showed that they contain the same ingrediants a FDA approved Nicitrol Inhaler or Nicorette Gum has,in fact some tests showed E-Cigs as having less.

    Of course the FDA won’t show those findings.

    I quit analogs the first day after starting useing a e-cig and haven’t had a single cigarette since and no desire for one.

    Be sure to buy a trusted American Ejuice company that lists the ingrediants or just make the juice yourself.

  15. J Coffey says:

    and by testing I mean they tested the vapor that the user breaths in and what he/she expels.

    I have been cigarette free for 1 1/2 years and so has eight of my relatives.

    I smoked for 34 years and was a 2 pack a day smoker.

    My health is 1000% better!

    Funny thing is when someone else smokes it smells horrible to me and gets me sick to my stomach.

  16. I am a non-smoker. I have relatives and friends who smoke. In Canada, the e-cigarette is banned, for now. I am trying to compile information in support of the e-cigarette compared to a real cigarette. I have a 7-page report which I may take to a lawyer to file a class-action law suit against Health Canada’s ban.
    What I have found is that the e-cigarette appears much safer than a real cigarette as it contains nicotine, propylene glycol (fog juice) (or vegetable glycol). glycerin, maybe water, and flavorings.
    The marketing to kids must be banned. And as a quit smoking device needs to be instructed or banned as well. It’s a nicotine delivery device to replace cigarettes. Yes, one could quit smoking by using this device, by using will power and reducing the amount of nicotine in doses. In this way, it’s nothing different from the nicorette inhaler. I am going to fight for this.

  17. Rebecca Mallett Rebecca Mallett says:

    Very interesting, Joe. Thanks for the Canadian perspective.

  18. I agree with Joe and will back you.

  19. I think the e cigarette is a great thing perhaps,Although there is a lot we don’t know yet.
    This could be a gateway smoke leading up to the real thing with kids.[I don't mean with addiction], unless of coarse they get their hands on the nicotine packets, which will induce head rushes and light headed feelings,after the body builds a tolerance, that’s a good opportunity for a lot of premature deaths. kids don’t know, and will push the limits.

    As a parent i’m not impressed that people can smoke these anywhere, freely.
    What a way to promote “smoking”, i can just see it now, another era of “smoking is cool!” Great!, just when kids were starting to get the idea that its not so cool! >:(
    Although some of them claim they are smokeless, they are not.
    Even if the smoke is allegedly harmless, that does not make it alright to blow in someones face whether directly or indirectly , that is the equivalent of spitting at someone.

    Bottom-line, great idea and it may solve some health problems, but smokers are smokers, no matter the type of smoke is. These shouldn’t be glorified, there is no reason to smoke in buildings, we have been doing it for this long. Smoke is smoke…*Sigh* im done, sorry for the rant but it is a reasoned one.

    -Unhappy Canadian.

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