PORTLAND -- In the world of tobacco, smoking, and nicotine use, there’s only one thing currently regulated by the federal government: cigarettes. The Food & Drug Administration says that needs to change.
The FDA is trying again to regulate electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products.
E-cigarettes use a nicotine infused liquid that gets vaporized and inhaled.
It's a booming business that's quickly grown into a $2-billion a year industry without much oversight.
"Some have characterized it frankly as the wild, wild west," says FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
The FDA proposal would require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients of their products, which contain at the very least nicotine and water, along with any number of other unknown chemicals.
An e-cigarette industry spokesman welcomes quality control regulation of liquid nicotine ingredients, saying it would make a better, safer product.
"You find companies now basically mixing this product in the back rooms of their shop and they don't have the proper settings to do so," says Ray Story of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.
The regulations would prohibit sales to kids under age 18, but do not halt online sales, television advertising or flavors some say are attractive to children.
At Escape Vapor Lounge on SE 82nd Avenue in Portland, employees say the new rules are just fine by them.
“To me that’s great,” said Sopon Muanthrasaittivej. “You should be able to know what you’re initially inhaling.”
Escape already prohibits sales to anyone under 18, and requires purchasers to show their ID.
Customers say they enjoy all the flavors available for their e-cigarettes, which are known as “juices.”
And there’s another big benefit, they say. E-cigarettes, or “vaping,” help them stop smoking. Many credit vaping with helping them reduce their nicotine intake.
Critics of e-cigarettes say the products have not been studied, so possible health effects are unknown. Usage has exploded in the past year, particularly among young people, including many in high school.
Those same critics say the fruit and dessert flavored juices attract young users.