HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Electronic cigarettes continue to rise in popularity, but they could soon be federally regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
As of now, "e-cigs" are not regulated, which means the packages do not have labels for health warnings or product ingredients. A main concern of the FDA is the uncertainty of what is in an e-cig, including the amount of nicotine.
"Basically you don't have the smoke, but you're just taking the nicotine, so that's not good either," said Forrest General oncologist Dr. Mike Cheng.
Vapor stores have popped up across the country since the rise of the e-cig market. When federal regulations are placed on the industry, it is uncertain how that will affect businesses.
"It's hard to say or speculate what they're up to," said Vaporized owner Bill Wikstrom. "They keep that stuff pretty close to the chest, so all we can do is sit and wait and see what their rulings are going to be."
One of the regulations most anticipated by the FDA is to completely ban the sales of e-cigarettes to those under 18. Wikstrom's store has already prevented those sales and has a sign on the front door that states those under 18 are not even allowed inside.
"They can't go into a tobacco store," said Wikstrom. "I'm not going to let them in here, because we have nicotine as well."
E-cigs look similar to traditional cigarettes. It's a cartridge filled with "e-juice," which is made up of glycerine and propylene glycol. Even though some consider e-cigs a safer option, Cheng said his message to patients remains the same.
"I tell them to stop smoking, period," said Cheng. "The problem is there is no standardized e-cigarette, so any company could put any different amount of nicotine with different chemicals in the e-cigarette."
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Public Health Policy states that available evidence shows e-cigs to be "much safer" than tobacco cigarettes. Wikstrom says he wants to help those that want to kick a habit of smoking tobacco.
"We've had several customers who've come in and said, 'Bill, I enjoyed your business. Thank you, you helped me get off cigarettes, now I'm done with vapor, and that's it. I'm off.'," said Wikstrom.
It is uncertain when the FDA will make regulations. According to Bloomberg,the industry could reach $1.5 billion in sales in the U.S. this year and overtake that of traditional tobacco products within 10 years.