Electronic cigarettes reentered the world market in 2004 when a Chinese company named Ruyan began manufacturing a electronic delivery system for nicotine. The products come in various designs; some look like cigarettes, some look like ball point pens, some resemble cigars or pipes. These devices cannot be sold in the United States at this time.
Electronic cigarettes are smokeless. They contain a mouthpiece with a cartridge that has a liquid containing nicotine and other flavorings, a battery section, and an atomizer section that heats the liquid. The liquid comes in various “flavors” including chocolate and various brands of cigarettes or tobacco.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has declared that such devices are drug delivery and a drug, thus under its control. Currently these devices cannot be sold in the US, and the FDA is bringing legal action against five companies they believe have been selling the devices on line.
A court action has been brought against the FDA from manufacturers and in January 2010 they won their case, with a federal judge siding against FDA and its view that these devices must be controlled by the FDA. In March 2010, an appeals court overturned this ruling, and the FDA announced they would begin regulating electronic cigarettes.
In July 2010, new regulations took effect from the FDA strictly prohibiting the marketing of electronic cigarettes to children. It limits the purchase of such products to adults only. It also prevented the selling of electronic cigarettes in vending machines and restricting advertising
In 2009, the FDA completed some initial testing on two types of electronic cigarettes. The FDA announced its results. If found the cigarettes delivered uneven amounts of nicotine and that the cigarettes contained TSNAs in all cartridges in one brand and two cartridges of the other brand. TSNAs are one of the worse cancer causing substances of cigarettes. The manufacturers dispute this results citing a small sample size and limited number of brands tested.
The FDA remains concerned about the influence these products might have to cause people to take up smoking again. They are also afraid very young people would take up smoking because of the flavorings of the nicotine. Many health organizations and practitioners feel that the electronic cigarettes are a better alternative than cigarettes. They have less carcinogens and no second hand smoke. They may also be less addictive than cigarettes, since the addition is a product of the effect of nicotine and some chemicals used to process the tobacco, which are not used in preparing the nicotine liquid solutions.