Electronic cigarettes are handheld nicotine-delivery devices that, despite a devoted following, are currently swirling in controversy.
A new innovative device, called e-cigarettes have become an alternate drug to regular cigarettes. Advertised as cigarettes that are not harmful like tobacco ones, these e-cigarettes do not have the addictive chemicals regular cigarettes do. This has caused the e-cigarette companies to advertise them as a way to stop smoking. However, the FDA is cracking down on this illegal advertising of e-cigarettes and is looking to officially classify them as a drug as well.
New York is pushing to become the first state to ban the devices, which so far remain unregulated and mostly unstudied. With cutesy colors, fruity flavors, clever designs and other options, e-cigarettes may hold too much appeal for young people, critics warn, offering an easy gateway to nicotine addiction.
But there are still many smokers who preffer to smoke regular cigarettes like Camel cigarettes, Winston cigarettes or Red&White cigarettes.
But those criticisms clash with equally strong arguments for the value of e-cigarettes. The devices, which are tobacco-free, may be a safer alternative to cigarettes, say advocates, who point to testimonials from thousands of smokers who say they have used e-cigarettes to help them quit.
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration struggles to gain regulatory control, and as safety studies remain works in progress, the debate continues.
"There really are a lot of unknowns with respect to health," said Prue Talbot, a toxicologist at the University California, Riverside. "I don't know of any studies in the literature which are peer-reviewed. Almost all of the studies have been paid for by the e-cigarette companies.