SIDEBAR: Expect Questions About E-Cigarettes 

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E-cigarettes are in the news, in advertising, and in stores, and because their public use is still largely unregulated, they may be in your face. Being prepared to answer questions about their use may help patients make wise decisions.

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, as defined by the FDA, “are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.”

Are e-cigarettes harmful to users?

E-cigarettes do not appear to be as harmful as conventional cigarettes, but because they are largely unregulated, what they contain is not really known. As mentioned above, they do contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Other chemicals that have been reported include acetaldehyde and benzene. Also unknown is what chemicals are used in the flavorings added to e-cigarettes.

Are e-cigarettes harmful to bystanders?

Currently there is not evidence of harmful effects caused by second-hand vapor from e-cigarettes. “Certainly there is no comparison with conventional cigarettes,” said Dr. Prokhorov.

Are e-cigarettes regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration?

The FDA regulates e-cigarettes only if they are marketed for therapeutic purposes, and there are currently no electronic cigarettes that are FDA-approved for therapeutic purposes. “Further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products,” according to n FDA spokesperson.

Consumers may submit voluntary adverse event reports to FDA for electronic cigarettes through the MedWatch program at ■

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