Assortment of electronic cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes have been ruled in federal court to fall under the heading of Tobacco Product in the FDA classification scheme. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Electronic cigarettes have been classified by the Food and Drug Administration as a tobacco product, keeping them from harsher regulation as drug delivery devices. The devices give people the sensation of smoking by a nicotine and flavor infused vapor that users inhale like an actual cigarette. Critics believe they are technological wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Drug delivery device status would have meant certain doom

A federal court has just issued a ruling concerning electronic cigarettes, also referred as e-cigarettes, e-cigs or vapor cigarettes. An appeals court, according to Bloomberg, ruled that the Food and Drug Administration does have the authority to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. However, the FDA was seeking to be able to regulate them as drug delivery devices, which the Court of Appeals has quashed for the moment. The FDA does not plan to appeal the ruling, at least for the time being. What incensed the FDA was claims made by some electronic cigarette companies that their products were effective smoking cessation aids, and regulation as such would have kept them off the market for years while extensive testing was done. The devices are used by some as a nicotine replacement therapy.

Ruling benefits manufacturers

The ruling by the Court of Appeals benefits the manufacturers of electronic cigarettes more than those who would have them regulated. Manufacturers would have otherwise had to have kept their products off the market for years while the FDA evaluated claims that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking cigarettes. The FDA can issue a warning that electronic cigarettes are not proven to help people quit smoking, according to the Los Angeles Times, but since they are primarily marketed as an alternative to smoking rather than a surefire way to quit, they have been classified as a tobacco product. The nicotine contained in the liquid that is vaporized is derived from tobacco. The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, a trade organization of e-cig manufacturers, has always wanted it that way, according to Reuters.

Conflicting evidence

Electronic cigarettes have not been proven conclusively to be effective in helping people quit smoking, but there have not been extensive rigorous studies as the product has not existed for a decade yet. According to Wikipedia, the American Association of Public Health Physicians have supported the proposition that electronic cigarettes are safer than actual cigarettes, and a study was released in 2010 by the Boston University School of Public Health asserted that e-cigs are safer than regular cigarettes and could aid in helping smokers quit smoking actual cigarettes. However, other studies have found trace amounts of carcinogens at varying levels of concentration. The American Pulmonary Association and American Heart Association have both called for a ban, but among the most common scientific conclusions is that not enough is known yet.

Sources

Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-25/fda-to-regulate-electronic-cigarettes-as-tobacco-products-1-.html

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-electronic-cigarettes-20110425,0,1387834.story

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/us-fda-tobacco-idUSTRE73O5KK20110426

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_cigarette

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