Some have described electronic cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, but many of the nation's top prosecutors want more regulations for the smoking devices.
Many have expressed concerns that the devices are being marketed to children in the hopes of hooking the next generation of smokers, but the owner of a Minnesota smoke shop said that's simply not the case here.
Currently, the billion-dollar electronic cigarette industry isn't regulated; however, since they claim to be tools to help people quit smoking, the FDA could step in. Now, more than three dozen attorneys general hope the agency will, especially in light of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the number of children who have tried e-cigarettes more than doubled in just a year.
At one of the newest shops in the Twin Cities, there's more than just excitement in the air.
"It doesn't let out an odor," explained owner Rebecca McMahon. "Lets off water vapor, but you get the same sensation you are used to with smoking."
Selling e-cigarettes isn't just a job for McMahon and her husband. The two say they are passionate about it because of their own personal progress.
"We were able to stop smoking traditional cigarettes and smoke electronic cigarettes," McMahon explained. "They also helped us step down our nicotine. It's a much healthier alternative for us."
Yet, not everyone is sold on the possible health benefits. That's why 40 attorneys general, including Minnesota's Lori Swanson, sent a letter asking the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way it does tobacco. They argue that without such restrictions, nothing will stop e-cigarette makers from advertising on television or marketing to children.
McMahon said her products off a variety of flavors designed to appeal to adult smokers who want something different, not children. She also pointed out that Minnesota is one of a few states that already bans stores from selling e-cigarettes to minors.
"I am hesitant to have them lumped in automatically with cigs and made into something they are not in makeup and purpose," she said of the push for regulation.
Yet, she said she would welcome the FDA's seal of approval if it doesn't make her 3-week-old store go up in smoke.
The FDA had already promised to issue proposed regulations on e-cigarettes by the end of October, but that decision has been delayed in the past. The letter from the attorneys general asks the agency to stick to their deadline, and the agency has said it will.