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June 16th, 2009:

How Tobacco Ages

Try this- see how you age by smoking Take a look at how you will look after a few too many cigarettes. This computer simulation will let you upload your own picture and add the realistic effects of smoking

FDA Wrinkles Its Nose At Electric Cigs

BY MATT EHLERS, –  Tue, Jun. 16, 2009

As the government tightens regulations on tobacco and smoking, some people have found a new way to get their nicotine fix without smoke and ash: electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine that users inhale along with a nearly odorless vapor-mist that mimics smoke, are practically unregulated and have not been rigorously tested in the United States. That doesn’t faze users such as David Moss.

Moss, 55, smoked traditional cigarettes for 40 years, but quit about six months ago after discovering a battery-operated version that provides the nicotine his body craves without the tar-filled smoke.

Moss, who lives in Durham and once smoked three packs a day, wasn’t bothered by the lack of studies on the e-cigarette.

“It’s unproven,” he said, “but I have no fear because I’m not smoking cigarettes.”

E-cigarettes are available online as well as in a number of gas stations and at least one mall in the Triangle.

Earlier this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began cracking down on the import of the devices, stopping shipments at the border. Most e-cigarettes are manufactured in China.

“Basically, we don’t have any data on these products,” said Karen Riley, an FDA spokeswoman.

E-cigarette starter kits can cost $100 or more. The cigarette, which is legal to possess, is often made of three pieces: a replaceable nicotine cartridge, an atomizer and a rechargeable battery. The cartridges come in a variety of flavors, including strawberry cheesecake, chocolate and tobacco, and nicotine-free versions are available. The atomizer, or heating element, warms when the user inhales and uses propylene glycol, a liquid used in theatrical smoke machines, to create the smokelike vapors.

The odor, nearly undetectable, is not immediately offensive to those nearby, the way cigarette smoke can be to nonsmokers.

Does FDA have a say?

President Barack Obama has said that he will soon sign legislation to give the FDA power to regulate tobacco. But that new law includes no guidance specific to electronic cigarettes.

North Carolina lawmakers recently passed their own smoking law — a ban on smoking in most bars and restaurants, starting next year.

N.C. Sen. William R. Purcell, who sponsored the legislation, said that he had not heard of e-cigarettes until last week. The law defines smoking in part as “any lighted tobacco product,” so Purcell thinks the new law, which takes effect Jan. 2, would not apply to e-cigarettes.

Former smokers such as Moss and his friend Wes Clark of Morrisville like the way e-cigarettes provide an experience akin to smoking a regular, or what they call an analog, cigarette. Nicotine gums and patches deliver the nicotine, but without the routine that comes with traditional smoking, said Clark, 37. After years of smoking, the behaviors that go with it, including stepping outside for a cigarette or watching the exhaled smoke, become a big part of the habit.

Unlike nicotine gums or patches, e-cigarettes have not undergone the clinical testing required for FDA approval. The agency thinks that e-cigarettes are a “drug-device combination product” and fall under its regulation, said Riley, the FDA spokeswoman.

One of the biggest American e-cigarette importers recently sued the FDA in an attempt to loosen the import restrictions.

For smokers only

Matt Salmon, a former Arizona congressman and current lobbyist who serves as president of the Electronic Cigarette Association, emphasized that his group specifically markets its product to committed smokers and only as an alternative to traditional smoking. Although some smokers say e-cigarettes have helped them quit smoking, the ECA does not claim its products can help people kick tobacco.

But “it’s clearly a product that doesn’t carry the known carcinogens that are in combustible tobacco,” Salmon said.

Jed Rose, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research, said his lab has done some testing of e-cigarettes that focused on the way they deliver nicotine. E-cigarettes don’t deliver all the cancer-causing agents that tobacco cigarettes do, but it’s not clear exactly what they put in the user’s body.

When asked whether e-cigarettes were safer than tobacco-filled ones, Rose said the required studies have yet to be done: “That’s a tough question to answer without safety data.”

Moss and Clark met at a coffee shop last week with a couple of other e-cigarette fans to swap flavored nicotines and discuss their hobbies. Both men are concerned that e-cigs might eventually be taken off the market.

Moss said he used to spend more than $600 a month for cigarettes for himself and his wife. The e-cigarette habit costs only about $150. And because the vapor has almost no smell, he has smoked his e-cigarette in a movie theater as well as on an airplane.

If e-cigarettes are declared illegal, he said, “we’ll go underground like anything else.”