E-Cigarettes Face New Regulations

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COLUMBIA - E-cigarettes are facing age and health regulations from Missouri lawmakers and the FDA.

E-Cigarettes have become a growing product since 2006, and the industry made about $2 billion in sales in 2013.

The industry is not just about selling the product but also about the culture of the product. Some people who use e-cigarettes will use it as a socializing opportunity, and many vapor stores even have lounges for their customers.

The e-cigarette is a battery operated product that is shaped like a real cigarette but larger. When someone puffs the product, the air flow coming in triggers the LED light in the tube that heats up and vaporizes nicotine and substances like vegetable glycerin.

E-cigarettes are sold to be a healthy alternative to real cigarettes and help people quit smoking. The nicotine levels in the liquid can be lower or higher depending on the customer's preference, and they can choose the flavor as well.

The e-cigarettes are said to be very convenient and help hit all the addiction triggers like nicotine, the action of holding something and the vapor smoke.

While e-cigarettes are said to be healthy by some, lawmakers are still skeptical. This Missouri House passed a bill in April that restricts the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Some stores already have this regulation in place.

"Our stores have always self-regulated and not sold to minors. We do not sell flavors that are designed to attract minors like bubblegum or candy flavors, and I think the legislation is a good thing," Jay Yeager, co-owner of Aqueous Vapors, said.

Talks about taxing these e-cigarettes also arise in the House, however, nothing regarding taxes was passed on this product. Store owners agree the tax would raise the prices, but their products are still cheaper than real cigarettes.

"It will depend on the customer and their willingness to spend, it's still going to be cheaper than cigarettes, that's all around and it's healthier so the benefit is your liveliness," Kevin Osterberger, Aqueous Vapors store manager, said.

Missouri lawmakers are not the only ones trying to regulate these products, the FDA is in the works of regulation as well.

On April 24, the FDA released a 200-page document regarding e-cigarettes, and the FDA's desire to stop the sale to minors and require health labels to be placed on the product.

Doctors and the FDA say not enough research has been done on this product to verify what store owners are saying about the benefits.

The FDA said they do not know all the risks or harmful chemicals in the product and if it really has any benefit for people wanting to quit smoking.

The FDA will have a 75 day public comment period before the regulations are put into place.

Even with the Missouri and FDA regulations, e-cigarettes are continuing to grow. Aqueous vapors have opened seven stores in the past year in mid-Missouri, and the owners do not have plans to slow down production.

(Editor's note: This story has been edited to fix spelling and grammar mistakes.)