FDA report spurs talk on e-cigarette regulations

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Are e-cigarettes safer than tobacco cigarettes? Their makers say yes, but the FDA isn't so sure.

The federal government wants to regulate the booming industry. Thursday, the agency released a 240 page report, outlining the new rules. The FDA wants to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and wants the devices to come with a warning label, saying there's a potential for addiction to nicotine. That's a regulation Utah Vapers doesn't entirely agree with.

"The product has not been studied up the point of its addictive properties at this stage," says Aaron Frazier of Utah Vapers--which is a Salt Lake City based company that calls itself a consumer advocacy group with a focus on tobacco harm reduction through the use of electronic cigarettes.

Frazier said he's happy the FDA is finally regulating an unregulated industry, but he's also protective over the criticism of e-cigs.

"Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. It's what keeps the tobacco industry in business, it's what keeps smokers smoking," said Adam Bramwell with the Utah Department of Health.

Under the proposed rules, manufacturers would be required to register their products and ingredients, makers would need scientific evidence before making claims that e-cigarettes are safer than other tobacco products, companies can't give out free samples anymore, and sales to minors is also a stipulation.

"We're all for labels on them," Bramwell said.

Health officials said it's important adults know what they're inhaling.

"We don't know what the long-term consequences of these inhalations will be,” he said. “One of the main ingredients is propylene glycol, and that's in a number of consumer products but is typically not inhaled in the lung a couple hundred times a day. What the long-term effects of that will be, unfortunately only time will tell."

"Is there toxic ingredients in the vapor, yes, but at such low levels it is not considered dangerous by the EPA or OSHA standards," Frazier said.

In the report, The FDA said it's unknown what the health risks are, how much nicotine or other chemicals are being inhaled, and if there is any benefit to them. A recent Centers for Disease Control report says as e-cigs have increased in popularity, so have the calls to poison control centers across the country. Of the 215 calls in February, 51 percent involved children.

The recommendations won't be finalized until a 75 day public comment period is done, and after that's over, e-cigarette makers will have 24 months to submit applications to allow their products to remain on the market.