Tobacco Prevention and Control:
Electronic Cigarettes

What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale vaporized liquid (e-liquid), which may contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals.

E-cigarettes come in disposable and reusable varieties. Some may resemble conventional cigarettes or common household items, such as pens or USB memory sticks. E-cigarettes and e-liquid are also sold in a range of dessert and fruit flavors, and many brands allow users to refill e-liquid with store-bought or homemade versions.

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Are e-cigarettes safe to use?

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, and there is no body of evidence proving that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking or that their vapors are safe to inhale. It cannot be assumed e-cigarettes are safe to use.

Vapors from some e-cigarettes contain chemicals known to cause cancer, as well as nicotine. Nicotine, which is highly addictive, may harm pregnant mothers and their babies, and damage adolescent growth and brain development.

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Are kids using e-cigarettes?

E-cigarette use among middle and high school students is rapidly increasing; the number of students who use e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.

E-cigarettes appeal to young people.

  • E-cigarettes are available for purchase online.
  • E-cigarettes are available in flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy; flavored tobacco products appeal to youth.
  • E-cigarettes are often cheaper to buy than conventional cigarettes.

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How might e-cigarettes harm kids?

E-cigarette use may lead to nicotine addiction and increased tobacco use among youth; e-cigarettes may serve as a gateway for kids to try conventional cigarettes and other tobacco products known to cause disease and lead to early death.

Children are also at risk for nicotine poisoning from e-cigarettes.

  • E-cigarettes and e-liquid are available in kid-friendly flavors, and without child-resistant containers or warning labels.
  • Nicotine affects the body immediately; in high doses it may be extremely toxic or even fatal.3
  • There is risk for severe illness and death if e-liquid containing nicotine is swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
Minnesota child poisonings related to e-cigarettes increased sharply from 2011-2013. Symptoms have included nausea and vomiting.

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Can e-cigarettes help people quit smoking?

E-cigarettes are not FDA-approved smoking cessation aids, and there is no body of evidence that proves e-cigarettes help people quit smoking.

FDA-approved cessation aids, such as patches, gum, or lozenges, provide specific levels of nicotine. Without regulation there is no way to know how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes. Some e-cigarettes have been shown to contain nicotine despite being labeled as nicotine-free.

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Why are there concerns about e-cigarettes?

  • E-cigarette vapors have not been proven safe to inhale.
  • E-cigarettes have not been proven as a safe alternative to smoking or to help people quit.
  • There is no way for users to know how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals they are inhaling.
  • E-cigarette use is rapidly increasing; use among youth more than doubled from 2011 to 2012, and the number of adults who have tried e-cigarettes has nearly doubled since 2010.
  • E-cigarettes are easily accessible, may be enticing to youth, and may serve as a gateway for young people to try conventional cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  • E-cigarettes may renormalize tobacco use. E-cigarette ads encourage people to use them in places where smoking is not allowed, and e-cigarette use may be indistinguishable from the use of conventional cigarettes.
  • Some e-cigarettes are manufactured by tobacco companies like Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard; the tobacco industry has deliberately misled the public on the risks of smoking cigarettes.

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How does Minnesota law treat e-cigarettes?

Under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA) e-cigarettes are subject to the same prohibitions and restrictions as smoking in some schools, universities, and government and health care facilities. More details on e-cigarettes and the MCIAA can be found here: Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act

Additionally, retailers selling e-cigarette are required to be licensed, must keep e-cigarettes behind the counter, and are subject to annual compliance checks. E-cigarette sales from kiosks are prohibited as of:

  • Aug. 1, 2014, for any contracts entered into after May 1, 2014.
  • Jan. 1, 2015, for contracts in effect as of May 1, 2014.

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, e-cigarette liquids sold in Minnesota will also require child-resistant packaging.

Minnesota law also requires that e-cigarettes are taxed as tobacco products, and retailers in Minnesota cannot sell e-cigarettes to minors.

Minnesota cities and counties may adopt additional e-cigarette provisions within their communities. Cities such as Duluth, Ely, Mankato, and Waseca, as well as Beltrami County, have adopted local ordinances to prohibit e-cigarette use within indoor public places.

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This information is also available in PDF form: Electronic Cigarettes (PDF: 256KB/2 pages)

For more information:

E-Cigarettes: A presentation on the latest research and discussion of the clinical practice implications
ClearWay Minnesota
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Updated Friday, June 27, 2014 at 03:19PM