Saying that electric cigarettes are "highly addictive" and are marketed to minors, a group of attorneys general called for the FDA to begin regulating the product.
Attorney General Martha Coakley co-sponsored a letter signed by 39 other attorneys general, dated yesterday and sent to the Food and Drug Administration.
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In the letter, Coakley and the other prosecutors urged the FDA to regulate popular e-cigarettes as "tobacco products" because they heat liquid nicotine into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. They also expressed concern because of a "lack of regulation" and that the battery-operated product is being marketed to children.
"People, especially kids, are being led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative, but they are highly addictive and can deliver strong doses of nicotine," Coakley said in a statement. "We urge the FDA to act quickly to ensure that these products are regulated to protect the public, and are no longer advertised or sold to youth."
The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association estimated that more than 3.5 million Americans use e-cigarettes and that total sales are expected to hit $1.7 billion by the end of the year.
The FDA said on its website that the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes has not been fully studied and it is not known if they lead to young people trying other tobacco products.
The agency has set a deadline at the end of next month to issue proposed regulations regarding e-cigarettes.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.