Electronic cigarettes, also known as E cigarettes, are designed to deliver nicotine as a vapor to be inhaled by the smoker. Unlike real cigarettes, electronic cigarettes do not contain as many harmful chemicals. The elements composing an electronic cigarette are rechargeable battery operated heating elements, replaceable cartridges, and an atomizers. The job of the atomizer is to convert the contents of the cartridge into a vapor once the heating element has been engaged.
Electronic cigarettes are often camouflaged to look like the real thing. They can also be manufactured to look like pens and USB memory sticks.
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To date, the FDA has not conducted any evaluations to determine the safety or the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes. Limited laboratory testing has found some significant quality issues making it apparent that quality control policies are either not in place or not followed by those who manufacture the E cigarette. Samples taken were clearly marked as not having nicotine. Once tested, nicotine was indeed present. To further complicate the matter, the level of nicotine found in the samples differed from electronic cigarette to electronic cigarette.
The FDA's interest in the electronic cigarette stems directly from safety concerns among users, which include many young people as the electronic cigarette is not regulated and is available to those who are under 18 years of age. The reason for the concern is that nicotine addiction is one of the hardest habits to break and a strain on finances. Nicotine addiction also carries with it heavy health concerns that could be seen in younger people as long as the electronic cigarette remains unregulated.
The FDA has also issued several warnings letters to a handful of electronic cigarette manufacturers due to possible false claims and poor manufacturing processes. It is possible for an electronic cigarette to gain FDA approval which would require the Electronic Cigarette Association to work with the agency toward regulating electronic cigarettes in a manner that is lawfully marketed. Regulation of electronic cigarettes is in the works as more health concerns are raised by its use.
Many smokers protest the FDA's involvement with electronic cigarettes stating that the E cigarette can be used as a means of smoking cessation and as a legal alternative to smoking in public places. However, the exact ingredients of the chemical mix for the vapor is unknown and varies between each individual manufacturer's mix. This can create a health risk even among those who sing Electronic cigarette's praises.