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Doctors Say E-Cigs Not as Safe as Promoted

Updated: 03/19/2014 7:16 PM
Created: 03/19/2014 6:47 PM KAALtv.com
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) --  It's "Kick Butt" day in Minnesota, a campaign put on by the group "Quit Plan" to get college age groups to stop smoking. There have been many rumored reports that e-cigarettes may be a safer alternative in that quest to quit, but doctors say, that hasn’t been proven.

"They started out hot..." said Ari Kolas at Apollo Liquor/Smoke Shop.

They've been marketed as the new, safer alternative with slogans that read, "Don’t Quit, Switch," and "Green Smart Living," but Dr. Richard Hurt with Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center says there's no proof e-cigarettes help you quit. "We've been concerned about e-cigarettes since they've began to be popular because they haven't been proven to be safe nor have they proven to be effective in helping people to stop smoking," said Dr. Hurt.

In fact, they have yet to be approved by the FDA. "These products are totally unregulated," said Dr. Hurt. He tell us most of the juices have so much nicotine, they're potentially lethal. "There can be 30- 60mg of nicotine in a little container and 60mg is what we call the ‘lethal dose’ to 50% of the people if they were to be exposed to that entire vile," said Dr. Hurt.

The Minnesota Department of Health backs up his arguments. They say e-cigarette poisonings are “10 times more common among kids and teens.” "If a young person, particularly a child, were to get into one of those and drink the whole thing, that can be really serious," said Dr. Hurt.

Yet, they're marketed to the younger generation, with fun flavors and flashy logo's. "Younger people definitely want to try new things," said Kolas.

So, what are they really smoking besides nicotine? "The basic product is propane glycol and nicotine, now propane glycol is a kind of chemical that's a distant cousin of anti-freeze," said Dr. Hurt.

We're told with the hundreds of products out there and no regulations, who knows what concoctions are being sold. "Ultimately someone has to regulate these products because they are made by over 350 companies and the juice is just all over the map as far as chemicals in it, so someone has to step up to do that. Right now, the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to do it but they don't have the political will to figure out how to do it," said Dr. Hurt.

There's a bill at the state capitol looking to ban e-cigs in places where you already can't smoke traditional cigarettes. Dr. Hurt says he supports that legislation.