The FDA's electronic cigarette warning reads as follows:
"e-Cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans, and may contain other ingredients that may not be safe. Additionally, these products may be attractive to young people and may lead kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death."
"Because clinical studies about the safety and efficacy of these products have not been submitted to FDA, consumers currently have no way of knowing
- whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use,
- what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals are found in these products, or
- how much nicotine they are inhaling when they use these products."
The web page closes by urging smokers to use FDA-approved smoking cessation methods, such as nicotine replacement drugs.
The Rest of the Story
As a service to my readers, I will now provide a translation of what the FDA is really saying to U.S. smokers, using Google's convenient "lay person translation" application. Here is the translation:
"We urge smokers not to use electronic cigarettes because unlike regular cigarettes, it is not known whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use, it is not known what types of potentially harmful chemicals are found in these products, and it is not known how much nicotine they are inhaling when using these products. Thus, with electronic cigarettes, you get a bunch of unknowns. But with regular cigarettes, you get a sure thing. We know exactly how unsafe these products are for their intended use. We also know thousands of the harmful chemicals that are found in cigarettes. And to boot, the consumer knows exactly how much nicotine he or she is getting because those levels are tightly controlled by the tobacco industry.
We urge smokers not to take risks with their health. Don't substitute electronic cigarettes - with their many question marks - for the well-known and well-characterized risks you get with your normal cigarettes. Do you really want to be inhaling a vapor that could potentially contain some harmful chemicals, when instead, you could be inhaling smoke whose harmful constituents have already been neatly categorized and classified?
We also urge smokers not to take risks with the amount of nicotine they may be getting from electronic cigarettes. Why take a chance that you may be getting a lower amount of nicotine than you get with your usual Marlboros, Camels, Newports, Winstons, and Kools? With these tobacco cigarettes, you can count on the tobacco companies to provide you with a carefully regulated dose of nicotine in each puff. They have spent years perfecting the carefully titrated and consistent delivery of nicotine. But with electronic cigarettes, you're dealing with amateurs. They really don't know what they're doing and there's no way to be sure that you're getting the precise amount of nicotine that they say you're getting. Why take a chance when you can get a known amount of nicotine?
Additionally, there is the risk that electronic cigarettes may be attractive to young people and might lead kids to try smoking. With your regular cigarettes, it is a known fact that your using the product will attract kids to smoking. Why take a risk on an unknown when you can be sure that your smoking has known effects on the youth population?
While a preliminary clinical trial demonstrated a 22.5% six-month cessation rate among unmotivated smokers who used electronic cigarettes to try to quit, why take a risk that the true quit rate among highly motivated smokers is lower than that? Why not stick with the reliable and well-documented 8% long-term quit rate that has been demonstrated with the use of approved nicotine replacement therapy? And if you are one of the many electronic cigarette users who tried those products specifically because you failed with NRT, all we can say is: try and try again. Why take a risk on an unknown when you can use a product that has a very high known failure rate?"