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Warning letters sent to e-cigarette companies

September 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Thursday to makers of electronic cigarettes.Like most businesses these days, Maria Rogic's employer, has a strict non-smoking policy. So how does she get away with smoking at work?

"I can smoke it anywhere and no one can say anything to me about it," said Rogic.

That's because Rogic's cigarette is electronic. It's tobacco-less and runs on a battery. When she inhales, liquid nicotine and other chemicals from this cartridge are turned into a thick, odorless vapor.

For a pack a day smoker like Rogic who wanted to kick her 15 year habit, switching to an e-cigarette was life changing.

"My skin is better. I feel better," said Rogic. "I can go up the stairs and not be out of breath."

Sales of e-cigarettes continue to soar. But the FDA warned five different manufacturers their devices are being sold under unsubstantiated health claims.

Child health advocates also fear their various cotton candy and chocolate flavors are being marketed to underage smokers.

"We're deeply concerned that these products are being sold in shopping malls with flavors that directly appeal to kids," said Mathew Myers, head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Anti-smoking advocates say the $90 to $120 starting kit is too expensive for kids to buy. Other health advocates are more concerned that e-cigarettes may not have undergone rigorous safety evaluations.

"We don't know what is in these products," said Myers. "What we're urging is simply that anybody who wants to sell a product to help people quit smoking undergo rigorous testing for safety."

That's why the FDA is stepping in. Rogic says e-cigarettes are making all the difference in helping her quit.

"I was determined, and I knew I wanted to be a non-smoker so I just pulled through and did it," she said.

Oral arguments over how to deal with the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes are set to begin later this month. Sellers contend the products should not be regulated as drug delivery devices, but rather as a tobacco product.

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