The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health experts are warning consumers about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigarettes.”
These battery-operated devices designed to look like and be used in the same manner as conventional cigarettes are sold online and in many shopping malls. The devices generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.
“The FDA is concerned about the safety of these products and how they are marketed to the public,” says Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of food and drugs.
Health experts particularly are concerned about the marketing of e-cigarettes to kids, since the cigarettes are sold without any legal age restrictions and are available in different flavors (such as chocolate, strawberry and mint). In addition, the devices do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes.
Specifically, the FDA is concerned that:
• E-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.
• The products may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans.
• Because clinical studies about the safety and efficacy of these products for their intended use have not been submitted to FDA, consumers currently have no way of knowing 1) whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use or 2) about what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals or what dose of nicotine they are inhaling when they use these products.
FDA’s Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis — part of the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research — analyzed the ingredients in a small sample of cartridges from two leading brands of e-cigarette samples. One sample was found to contain diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze. Several other samples were found to contain carcinogens, including nitrosamines.