The booming business of electronic cigarettes is facing its first potential regulations.
Some critics say it's taken the government too long to start the process.
"It is inexcusable that has taken the FDA and the Administration so long to act," said the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The Food and Drug Administration received approval five years ago to act, but the agency just proposed the new rules on April 24.
What would the regulations do?
For now, the FDA wants to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, require approval for new products, and require health warning labels on the products. It's not moving to ban advertising, set product standards, or do anything to ban the wide array of flavors used in the vapor.
Public health advocates worry the flavorings are being used to target children.
"There is strong evidence to show that minors are using e-cigarettes extensively and in increasing fashion," said Amit Narang of the group Public Citizen.
Local e-cigarette salesman is not worried
"At this time being, I don't see it hurting us yet," said Jimmy Payne, operations manager at Esvape, a business on Eureka Road in Southgate.
It sells electronic cigarettes and the liquids that create a flavored mist. Payne is keeping an eye on the actions at the FDA, but doesn't see them affecting his business directly, at least not yet.
When it comes to selling to minors, Payne says his shop already bans the sale to customers under 18 years old.
"When they walk in, we usually card them right away, especially if they look like they're under 25," he told Ruth to the Rescue.
Health hazard debate
Hanging over the entire e-cigarette debate are questions about whether the product is hazardous to your health. Some believe they are healthier than regular cigarettes, including Payne.
"I used to play sports and smoke cigarettes and I can tell a huge difference from when I switched over. I am able to run a lot faster," he said.
However, most experts are calling for more research.
"The bottom line is that we don't know what the short, or the long, term health consequences of e-cigarette use is," said Erika Sward of the American Lung Association.
The FDA said the public, members of the industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposal. The agency will evaluate those comments before issuing a final rule but there's no timetable for when that will happen. The regulations will be a step in a long process that many believe will ultimately end up being challenged in court.
E-cigarettes are plastic or metal tubes, usually the size of a cigarette, that heat a liquid nicotine solution instead of burning tobacco. That creates vapor that users inhale.
Smokers like e-cigarettes because the nicotine-infused vapor looks like smoke but doesn't contain the thousands of chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes. Some smokers use e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking tobacco, or to cut down.
However, there's not much scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers quit or smoke less, and it's unclear how safe they are.
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