Booming E-cigarette industry raises questions on safety, regulation

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by CBS News

KREM.com

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:17 AM

NEW YORK -- Late last year -- for the first time in over four decades -- cigarettes made a return to television advertising, when electronic cigarette maker NJOY aired a spot approved by cable networks.

NJOY CEO Craig Weiss told CBS News' Jeff Glor he hopes to distribute e-cigarette ads across prime time programming, as part of his mission to "obsolete cigarettes."

NJOY is the best-selling brand of e-cigarettes or "e-cigs," a battery-powered device that mimics the sensation of smoking a real cigarette by delivering nicotine through a smoke-like vapor. There is no tobacco or combustion, and when exhaled, no odor.

As NJOY's Weiss explained it, e-cigarette makers are aiming for a unique and improved sensation.

"It's not that I want to be as good as a cigarette. I'd like to be better than a cigarette," he said.

E-cigarettes have existed for nearly a decade but the industry has rapidly expanded within the last year.

In 2011, sales of e-cigs came close to $300 million. In 2012, sales had more than doubled, to $600 million, according to a June, 2013 report from Wells Fargo SecuritiesAnalysts say this year, sales will likely triple to over $1 billion.

And while traditional cigarette manufacturers will rake in approximately $80 billion this year, NJOY's Weiss says, he's confident "the good guys," -- in his mind, e-cigarette makers -- will ultimately come out on top.

"We feel it's a bit of a David versus Goliath battle. We're taking on big tobacco," Weiss told Glor. "They're a good public enemy to have."

Still, some in the medical community -- including Dr. Neil Schachter, a leading lung specialist at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital -- remain unconvinced that e-cigarette manufacturers are the so-called good guys.

"Patients have come in and say, 'Gee I've tried this new form of cigarette. Great. I'm smoking this non toxic form of cigarette.' I say to them, 'I don't know. I don't know if this is non toxic,'" Schachter told Glor.

The Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate e-cigarettes, therefore manufactures are not mandated to disclose the ingredients.

Most major brands boast a similar list of ingredients: Nictone, water, artificial flavoring, glycerol, and propylene glycol, the ingredient that creates the exhaled imitation smoke.

Click here to read more and watch the full report on CBSNews.com.

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