Jul 02

Special Two-Part Briefing on E-Cigarettes: Part I

Provided by:    Office of National Drug Control Policy

E-Devices and e-liquids are techy and trendy and are perceived as safer than traditional cigarettes by some

     E-cigarettes and vapor pens are battery-powered vaporizers that heat liquid nicotine (aka e-liquid, e-juice, or smoke juice) to a temperature that causes the liquid to vaporize; the vapor is then inhaled in the same fashion as tobacco smoke.1 The main components of an e-cigarette are an atomizer (a metal chamber with a micro-heater that vaporizes the liquid), a cartridge containing the liquid, and a small sometimes rechargeable battery. When the user inhales, the atomizer is activated and the liquid is vaporized. E-cigarettes are either disposable or rechargeable, and some use separately purchased pre-filled or refillable e-liquid nicotine cartridges. Vapor pens are similar to e-cigarettes; however, instead of a liquid cartridge they include a refillable reservoir where liquid drops are added.2 Vapor pens allow the user to vaporize various liquid products from the same device and are more easily used to vaporize higher potency marijuana extract concentrates like THC oil, hash oil, and marijuana wax.

Most nicotine liquids are a mixture of food-grade propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, water, and flavoring. They often are packaged in eye-dropper bottles. The strength of nicotine liquids typically range from 0 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid (nicotine free) to 36 milligrams per milliliter (strong). For comparison, the average tobacco cigarette contains nine milligrams of nicotine. The use of drip-type e-liquids (usually in vapor pens) is referred to as “dripping.”3

E-devices have surged in popularity due to perceptions by some members of the general public- both users and non-users that vapors from e-devices are less harmful than traditional cigarette smoke. The vapors from these devices are usually perceived as less invasive and less offensive by non-smokers compared to traditional cigarette smoke. This allows e-device users to smoke their products in areas often off limits to traditional cigarette smokers.  In a recent review of e-cigarettes conducted by scientific researchers, a Drexel University professor stated that “current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern”4 however, there is a lack of long-term research about this subject.

The E-Cigarette Industry is booming with Big Tobacco investing heavily

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently developing regulations for the e-cigarette industry to apply the same restrictions as those placed on traditional tobacco products. The proposed regulation of e-cigarette products in the same manner as tobacco products requires that manufacturers disclose e-liquids ingredients, and restricts sales to minors.5 The FDA currently regulates e-cigarette devices and liquids in the same manner as tobacco products only if the manufacturer includes therapeutic claims, such as marketing the device or liquid as a nicotine cessation product. As of December 2013, 26 states have banned the sale of e-cigarette devices to minors.6 It is unknown if the e-cigarette industry will face federal regulation.

Prior to the end of 2013, many industry insiders predicted that sales of e-cigarettes would reach $1.8 billion by the end of the year, while sales of traditional tobacco cigarettes would continue to flatten.7 By the end of 2013, open source reporting reflected that annual e-cigarette sales ranged from a low of $1.5 billion to a high of $2.5 billion. Some experts predict e-cigarette sales could surpass those of traditional tobacco cigarettes by the end of the next decade.8 In response to these forecasts, tobacco companies have aggressively moved to enter the e-cigarette market.


1. http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/electronic-cigarette1.htm.
2. http://www.electroniccigarettevaporizers.com/e-cigarettes-v-vaporizers/.
3. http://www.provape.com/The-ProVape-How-to-guide-s/35.htm#.
4. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/12/health/e-cigarettes-debate/.
5. http://www.consumerreprots.org/cro/news/2013/11/why-are-electronci-cigarette-regulations-taking-so-long/ index.htm#.
6. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/12/19/survey-finds-support-for-banning-e-cigarette-use-by-kids.
7. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-fda-rules-could-impact-e-cigarette-market-2013-11-08.
8. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-fda-rules-could-impact-e-cigarette-market-2013-11-08.