Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, have been growing in popularity, advertised as a “safer alternative” to smoking cigarettes, but experts disagree; there’s not enough science, they say, to back up those claims. The e-cig industry is unregulated, and it’s estimated that there are more than 250 different e-cigarette brands for sale in the U.S. Today.
Because of this lack of regulation, Terry Tolliver, deputy director for consumer protection in the Indiana Office of the Attorney General, said manufacturers are not being held accountable for potential health risks.
“It’s similar to what had been going on with tobacco in years past,” Tolliver declared. “In many ways, the arguments are the same and then the same issues are popping up again. It seems like we’re just going back in the past, so all the changes that were made for tobacco just really need to be applied to these e-cigarettes.”
According to Consumer Reports, sales of e-cigarettes hit $1.5 billion in 2013, nearly triple the previous year’s total sales.
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule that would allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes as they do tobacco products.
Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society, said a tobacco cigarette contains thousands of chemicals, dozens of which are carcinogenic. And he said that while e-cigarettes should be considered less harmful, there is little research about the effects of the chemicals in them.
“Propylene glycol is the chemical in e-cigarettes that makes the vapor that comes out of them. While that has been approved by the FDA for use in food, we don’t know what the long-term effects of actually inhaling propylene glycol is.”
A law was passed last year in Indiana banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and Tolliver advised all other Hoosiers to use caution with these products.
“With e-cigarettes being imported from who-knows-where and not knowing what’s going on in those factories, consumers just need to be aware of what they’re getting themselves into.”
Tolliver said that if consumers have concerns about e-cigarettes they can file a complaint at IndianaConsumer.com.