Electronic cigarettes are devices designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to a user in the form of a vapor. Typically, they are made up of a rechargeable, battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge that may contain nicotine or other chemicals, and an atomizer that, when heated, converts the contents of the cartridge into a vapor which can be inhaled. These products often are made to look like cigarettes, cigars, or pipes and are often marketed as a substitute for these items.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has NOT evaluated e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness. What studies the FDA has done have focused on limited lab studies of certain sample products on which they found significant quality control issues in the way these items are manufactured. For example, the cartridges labeled as containing no nicotine contained nicotine and the amount of nicotine emitted in each puff was not consistent. The FDA has issued warning letters to five distributors for violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that monitors manufacturing processes.
Someday, the FDA may regulate electronic cigarettes to ensure they do what their manufacturers' claim including their potential role in smoking cessation, but for now, it is best to try FDA approved smoking aids such as nicotine gum, skin patches, sprays and inhalants. Experts are concerned that marketing of e-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people encouraging them to try other tobacco products.