Sale of e-cigarettes spark debate about product's legality

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Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Brandon Walker | Categories:
Sales of electronic cigarettes are on the rise nationwide and while manufacturers say the product could help cigarette smokers quit, the Food and Drug Administration has accused them of blowing smoke. Our Brandon Walker breaks down the debate. LATHAM, N.Y. -- It looks like a cigarette, puffs like a cigarette but it comes with a charger? "(This is the) actual piece that lights up. This piece is the cartomizer that gives you the nicotine and the mist," said Bonnie H., manager of Smokers Paradise in Latham. There is no need for a lighter to create a spark and the nicotine inside comes in the form of a liquid. "Screw them together and have a drag," Bonnie said. Smoker's Paradise began stocking electronic cigarettes about a month ago and sales lit up almost immediately, making them part of a growing industry. Websites like E-Cigarette Direct tout supposed health benefits, claiming their cigarette alternative is safe to smoke indoors because it doesn't contain tobacco and even helping some quit the habit altogether. But the Food and Drug Administration isn't buying it. It sent out letters to five companies accusing them of making unsubstantiated claims and poor manufacturing practices. E-cigarette Direct fired back on its website, saying, in part, "The FDA decided to pursue five small companies while leaving the large ones to conduct business as usual." Now, the FDA says it’s interested in working with those companies to test exactly how helpful e-cigarettes truly are. But in the meantime, "You can use them in a restaurant, in a bus station, a library. Wherever you're not allowed to smoke, you can smoke these," Bonnie said. It could take years for alleged benefits of e-cigarettes to be proven one way or another, but their profitability is no smokescreen. "We're a business, customer demand," Bonnie responded. Which means Smokers Paradise and others will continue to stock them until profits burn out.
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