WASHINGTON (Reuters) Complaints of injury linked to e cigarettes, from burns and nicotine toxicity to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, have jumped over the past year as the devices become more popular, the most recent U.S. data show.

Between March 2013 and March 2014, more than 50 complaints about e cigarettes were filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to data obtained through a public records request. That is on par with the combined number reported over the previous five years.

The health problems were not necessarily caused by e cigarettes. And it is not clear that the rate of adverse events has increased. In 2011, about 21 percent of adult smokers had used e cigarettes, according to federal data, more than double the rate in 2010.

Still, David Ashley, director of the office of science at the FDA’s tobacco division, said the uptick is significant, especially in light of a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing an increase in the number of e cigarette related calls to poison control centres.

“Both together does suggest there are more instances going on,” he said.

The FDA is poised to regulate e cigarettes and other “vaping” devices for the first time, potentially reshaping an industry that generates roughly $2 billion a year in the United States. Some industry analysts see e vapour consumption outpacing that of traditional cigarettes, now an $85 billion industry, within a decade.

E cigarettes are battery powered cartridges filled with a nicotine liquid that, when heated, creates an inhalable mist. Little is known about the long term health effects of the products, which were developed in China and moved into the U.S. market in 2007.

“Some evidence suggests that e cigarette use may facilitate smoking cessation, but definitive data are lacking,” Dr. Priscilla Callahan Lyon of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products wrote in a recent medical journal article.

Contradictory findings from preliminary studies have become ammunition in the lobbying campaign around the devices, which allow users to inhale nicotine without the damaging tar produced by conventional cigarettes.

Public health officials have said the devices may encourage

nonsmokers, particularly young people, to try conventional cigarettes. E cigarette advocates have argued that they provide a safer alternative for smokers.

The FDA has sponsored research to try to answer safety questions, and it is examining its database of adverse events for any trends that might raise concerns.


The complaints from the public filed with the FDA cited trouble breathing, headache, cough, dizziness, sore throat, nose bleeds, chest pain or other cardiovascular problems, and allergic reactions such as itchiness and swelling of the lips.

One person told the FDA that while eating dinner at a restaurant a customer at the next table was smoking an e cigarette.

“The vapour cloud was big enough to come over my table and the e cig smoker was ‘huffing’ it voraciously,” the person, whose name was redacted, wrote. “I got dizzy, my eyes began to water and I ended up taking my food to go because of the intense heartbeat I began to develop.”

One woman wrote that her husband began smoking e cigarettes liberally in his car and home after being told they were safe and that the vapour was “just like water.”

“My 4 year old has had a raspy voice since he started but I really didn’t think anything of it till last night my husband was just puffing away on that thing for hours and I woke up wheezing and unable to breathe.”

Miguel Martin, president of Logic Technology, one of the biggest U.S. e cigarette makers along with Lorillard Inc and privately held NJOY, said the spike in adverse event reports reinforces the importance of regulation, especially in areas governing manufacturing practices and labelling, where standards can vary dramatically.

“Clearly, because of the business opportunities, you have companies in an unregulated environment that are importing without checks and balances,” he said, adding that while Logic pays attention to quality control, “some other companies just are not having the same diligence or focus.”


Most e cigarettes are made in China and sold under more than 300 brands in the United States, some through retail stores, others online.

The quality of the products is inconsistent, however, making it difficult to tease out the cause of any health problems.

One smoker began using e cigarettes following dental surgery after the dentist said quitting smoking would speed the healing process, according to a report filed last October with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that was forwarded to the


“It blew up in my mouth while inhaling, burning my stitches and gum, lip and fingers,” the report said.

Others complained of over heating devices.

“The electric cigarette gets hot when you use it and alters the taste buds,” wrote one consumer. “I just recently realized what was turning my taste buds black.”

It is not possible to draw general conclusions from individual case reports, but there is a growing recognition that the inconsistent quality of the devices, aside from any risk inherent in the inhalation of nicotine vapour, poses potential safety risks.

In a bid to address quality concerns, some e cigarette makers are beginning to make them, either partially or wholly, in the United States.

Reynolds American Inc, which began selling its Vuse e cigarettes in Colorado last July and expects to expand nationwide this summer, makes its products in Kansas and North Carolina, though it still imports its batteries from China.

The reason, Richard Smith, a Reynolds spokesman said, is that inconsistent quality is turning off potential customers.

“There has been a high level of trial among adult consumers but a low level of adoption,” he said.

While the cost may be higher than sourcing ready made products from China, the pay off, Reynolds is betting, will be customer loyalty. If a quality problem arises during the manufacturing process, Smith said, “we can identify and fix it.”

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington Additional reporting by Jilian Mincer in New York Editing by Michele Gershberg)

E-cigarettes as good as patches in helping smokers quit – nbc news

Camel filters cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes work about as well as nicotine patches in helping smokers kick the habit, researchers report. And e cigarettes helped people smoke fewer cigarettes overall, even if they didn t quit completely.

The study is the first major piece of research to show that the products, which deliver a nicotine mist using a cigarette shaped pipe, can actually benefit smokers.

The findings, published in the Lancet medical journal, are not quite enough to make public health experts embrace e cigarettes, which are not yet regulated and which are growing in popularity. But it s enough to make them look more closely at whether there may be some benefit to them.

You’re trading one addiction for another addiction, Dr. Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the anti tobacco Legacy Foundation, told NBC News. “(But) it may be that for some people, this will be a better way to quit, and there may be people who’ve tried other things and haven’t been able to quit who will quit with this.”

For the study, Chris Bullen of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and colleagues recruited 657 smokers who wanted to quit. They divided them into three groups, to get either 13 weeks supply of e cigarettes, nicotine patches or placebo e cigarettes that contained no nicotine.

After six months, 5.7 percent of the volunteers had managed to completely quit smoking. It was slightly more in the e cigarette group, but not in a way that was statistically significant, Bullen reported.

It s very difficult to quit smoking, but the e cigarettes also appeared to have helped people cut back on real tobacco. Bullen s team found that 57 percent of volunteers given real e cigarettes were smoking half as many cigarettes a day as before, compared to 41 percent of those who got patches.

While our results don t show any clear cut differences between e cigarettes and patches in terms of quit success after six months, it certainly seems that e cigarettes were more effective in helping smokers who didn t quit to cut down, Bullen said in a statement.

It s also interesting that the people who took part in our study seemed to be much more enthusiastic about e cigarettes than patches, as evidenced by the far greater proportion of people in both of the e cigarette groups who said they d recommend them to family or friends, compared to patches.

Healton said that was a provocative finding. It does also suggest consumer acceptability of the product is higher, she said.

U.S. health officials are very concerned about the rise in popularity of e cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration released a report on Thursday showing a doubling in the number of high school students who have tried them, to 10 percent.

More than 21 percent of adults have tried them at least once, but the CDC says they are addictive and may themselves be dangerous.

We don t know much about them, says Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health. But he says they could potentially be useful if tobacco companies would stop making products like cigarettes and make e cigarettes instead and if those e cigarettes did indeed turn out to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

Our nirvana is a world where nobody is dying from death and disease caused by tobacco, McAfee told NBC News. If you have a product that doesn t kill people, that is where the money should be going, that is where the promotion, the marketing should be going.

They are pricey an e cigarette product ranges from $10 to $120, depending on how many charges it provides. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of brands. FDA says some appear to contain carcinogens, and there is some evidence that nicotine is not only addictive, but may itself damage health.

They could have inherent dangers that are greater than using something like gum or the patch, Healton said.

CDC says tobacco is the leading preventable cause of dis ease, dis ability, and death in the United States, killing 443,000 people a year.

Public health experts are desperate for ways to help people quit smoking, but it is hard. The American Cancer Society says only 4 percent to 7 percent of people manage to quit on any single given try. Drugs such as Chantix or Zyban can raise this rate to 25 percent.

There s also counseling, nicotine gum and patches, hypnosis and acupuncture, and companies are working on anti nicotine vaccines.

Erika Edwards contributed to this report.