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The Cloud Around E-cigs

By Expert Author: Julia Jackson

Electronic cigarettes are a booming business, with sales expected to be close to $2 billion by the end of the year in the United States.

As The Pilot's Tim McGlone recently reported, they're widely available at local convenience stores, drug stores and other retail outlets, as well as a couple of places devoted to selling the devices. They're also easily obtained online.

And in a sure sign of the e-cig's potential growth, the nation's three largest makers of conventional tobacco cigarettes - Altria, Reynolds and Lorillard - are now staking out territory in the relatively new industry.
But public health officials are offering mixed -and mostly incomplete - reviews of e-cigs, which emit a vapory cloud rather than smoke and contain far fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes.

Most e-cigarette brands deliver nicotine, and many users view them as safer alternatives to traditional tobacco cigarettes. Some see the e-cigs as a safe way to ease out of their addiction to nicotine.

But, as the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa recently noted, "the quality and safety of the devices are largely unknown." Last month, the center launched an online survey of Floridians who use e-cigs, a precursor to a larger study on the safety of the devices.

The nationally known Mayo Clinic expresses similar uncertainty.
"At this time, we simply don't know enough about them," Dr. Jon Ebbert at the clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center recently wrote. "They have not been proven safe, nor have they been shown to be effective in helping people stop smoking."

What is known is that e-cig use is rising rapidly among young people, raising concerns among public health advocates about the safety of the products and their potential to lead underage users to traditional smokes.

According to a survey released recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 percent of U.S. middle and high school students said they'd used an e-cigarette in 2012 - double the percentage from the year before.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said e-cigs are heavily advertised and are being used to "re-glamorize smoking."

The Food and Drug Administration has signaled its intention to regulate e-cigs, but so far it has not done so.

Four years ago, the agency ran preliminary tests on two brands and found diethylene glycol, an ingredient also used in antifreeze. But without broader testing, that's too vague to issue anything beyond "let the buyer beware."

The hazy nature of the devices needs to be cleared up quickly. For the sake of consumers spending billions on e-cigs, let's establish just how safe - or unsafe - they are.

Article Credit: http://hamptonroads.com

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