Cigarettes and the effects they have on smokers have been controversial for years. But now, electronic cigarettes are also a concern. The devices use a heating element to vaporize a liquid solution and some release nicotine.
Vermont banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. But Attorney General Bill Sorrell is one of 40 attorneys general nationwide calling on the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes and prohibit sales to minors. Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions preventing minors from buying e-cigarettes.
"The problem is A, it's still addictive. And B, it can start you on the way with your addiction to smoking cigarettes. And then C, there are things in it that we really don't know about," said Dr. Harry Chen, the Vermont health commissioner.
From 2008 to 2010, the FDA stopped e-cigarettes from entering the U.S., ruling they were "unapproved drug/device combination products," but the decision was later overturned.
Vermont Vapor Incorporated is the only maker of the liquid used inside e-cigarettes here in the Green Mountains. And they say while e-cigarettes do have nicotine and other chemicals, they are still much less dangerous than regular cigarettes with tobacco.
"Nicotine's a stimulant, propylene glycol is in asthma medications that people inhale, same thing with glycerin, they're in all sorts of things and they're considered extremely safe," said Adam Tredwell, the president of Vermont Vapor.
But the amount of certain ingredients in e-cigarettes is not regulated, causing concern among health officials.
"Nobody really knows what to do with them," Chen said. "And while we're sitting here wondering, confused what to do with them, the kids that are smoking them are doubling, so I think it's really incumbent on us to take action."
One local store says it's up to them to do the research on which e-cigs they sell.
"Even though vaporizing something is a lot less damaging and less carcinogenic than smoke, you still want to pay attention to what goes into it because you are still ingesting it," said Robert Ronci, a store clerk.
Tredwell has been smoking e-cigs for years. He claims his product is safe and says getting hooked on e-cigarettes is better than tobacco cigarettes.
"Pretty much everybody I've ever met who used one used it to stop smoking or to cut down on how many cigarettes they smoke," he said.
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 2 million middle and high school students tried electronic cigarettes in 2012 and many youth face the risk of addiction. But until the FDA steps in, it is still unclear how e-cigarettes may be regulated in the future.
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