Blowing Smoke: FDA Cracks Down on E-Cigs

E-cigarettes don't smell or cause second-hand smoke but still might not be safe.

ByABC News via logo
June 2, 2009, 6:21 PM

June 12, 2009 — -- It may look like the common cigarette, but the electronic cigarette costs much more and emits an odorless water vapor substitute instead of smoke, which has made them popular with smokers like Sonja Finkes despite its $50 to $150 price tag.

Finkes, who has been a smoker for 40 years, now can get her nicotine at her desk for the first time. Her non-smoking campus allows the use of electronic cigarettes because they don't smell or cause second-hand smoke.

"It's not as offensive product as a combustible cigarette and there are a lot of people looking for those kinds of alternatives," said Matt Salmon, president of the Electronic Cigarette Association.

But health advocates contend the electronic cigarettes have never been tested for safety.

"We just don't know the answer to the question to whether or not it's safe," said Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center Director Dr. Richard Hunt. "What we know about smoke-free work places is that it helps people to stop smoking this will actually help people to continue to smoke cigarettes, conventional cigarettes as well as this product."

And now the Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on electronic cigarettes, partly out of concern kids may be attracted to electronic cigarettes because some are fruit or chocolate flavored. Even though they don't contain carcinogens like tobacco and tar, they do contain nicotine, which is one of the most addictive chemicals known to man.

Since March, the FDA has seized multiple shipments at domestic ports and told "GMA" they are "drug/medical device combination products … that would require FDA approval … before being legally marketed in the United States."