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E-Cigarette Industry Faces Increased Regulation as Profits Soar

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The electronic cigarette industry is booming as public health officials move toward tightening regulations. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

The electronic cigarette industry is booming, with sales reaching just under $2 billion last year.

Talia Eisenberg, of Henley Vaporium & Premium Vapor E-Cigarette Company, says the industry is the result of grassroots efforts.

"This industry was started by independent business owners, basically the American dream. We have propelled the industry with new product innovation," Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg owns Henley Vaporium, one of the few places e-cigarette users are still allowed to freely vape in the city since use of the product in public places was banned.

While she disagrees with that law, she's supportive of the Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to regulate the e-cigarette industry.

"We're all for transparency of ingredients, we're all about child-proof caps. The minor ban is OK because nicotine is an addictive substance," she says.

The regulation would prohibit false or misleading labeling, manufacturers would have to provide a full ingredient list to the FDA and all products would be subject to an inspection and approval process.

Vapers or liquid nicotine users argue their product shouldn't be lumped into the tobacco regulatory process because—for starters—they're inhaling only a handful of chemicals, versus the thousands you'll find in cigarettes.

"It's nicotine, flavoring, water, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin," says Eisenberg. "All of those ingredients have been separately approved."

While the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes is extracted from tobacco plants, Eisenberg says lumping the products in with Big Tobacco would price out the small guys.

Meanwhile, public health officials are focused on the unknown: the effect e-cigarette chemicals have when inhaled together.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair is wary of the vapor.

"Until we know that these products are safe. As a non-smoker, I don't want to be inhaling that product. I don't want my kids to be inhaling that vapor," he says.

During a meeting of the Big Cities Health Coalition last week, officials urged the FDA to go even further and place stringent limits on e-cigarette marketing, which they say is geared toward kids.

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett echoed Choucair's sentiments.

"We have a big problem on our hands. We are very worried about the extension of nicotine addiction to young people," Bassett said.

The open comment period for the proposal ends July 9.

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