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Growing push for the FDA to regulate use, sale of electronic cigarettes

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Health experts around the country and in Central Indiana are sending a warning about the potential risks of electronic cigarettes. Many doctors also are sending a message to lawmakers, pushing for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the sale and contents of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes use a battery to vaporize liquid nicotine. Manufactures say they’re a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes and a way to help smokers quit.

However, there’s growing concern about the health effects of e-cigarettes.

Dr. Michael Busk, a pulmonologist with the St. Vincent Health, Wellness and Preventative Care Institute in Indianapolis, said he stands with The American Lung Association’s statement about electronic cigarettes. He said there really is no safe way to use nicotine.

“We don’t know if they’re safer than real cigarettes. You’re still inhaling vapors and we know there are carcinogens in those vapors and then you’re exhaling those out,” Dr. Busk said.

Lindsay Grace with The American Lung Association and the former campaign manager for Smoke Free Indy said e-cigarettes are banned at all businesses included in the Indianapolis smoking ban ordinance.

That puts Indianapolis on par with about 100 other cities that have already included electronic cigarettes in smoking bans.

Right now, there are no federal regulations on who can buy e-cigarettes, making them an easy purchase for young people. Research from the CDC shows a 50 percent increase in e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students  from 2011 to 2012.

Busk see that as a dangerous trend for the future.

“We know the statistic that 90 percent of smokers start at less than the age of 18,” he said.

Busk said the lack of regulation combined with the lack of research on e-cigarettes means they could pose the same problems as traditional cigarettes. The CDC reports smoking as the cause of one in five deaths in the United States.

The FDA has the legal authority to label e-cigs a tobacco product which would pave the way to age restrictions, sales restrictions and warnings similar to the Surgeon General’s warning on traditional cigarettes. The agency is working on regulation legislation, but there’s no word on what the proposal specifically contains or when it could move through the legislature.