SAN FRANCISCO — A California health watchdog put e-cigarette manufacturers on alert on September 2, warning them that if they don’t recall the products they have sold on the California market within 60 days, they could be sued.
The action follows independent lab tests by the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) of e-cigarettes manufactured by 24 companies; 21 of them had products that have high levels of one or both of the cancer-causing chemicals, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, said Charles Margulis, media director at the center.
The CEH found that most – 50 of 97 products examined – contained high levels of one or both chemicals.
Vapor4Life and R.J.Reynolds, two manufacturers listed among the companies whose products were tested by CEH, did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Brought on the U.S. market eight years ago, and promoted as a lot less hazardous than conventional cigarettes, e-cigarette manufacturers have been recommending them as a quitting aid for smokers.
The product is also known as a personal vaporizer, or electronic nicotine-delivery system, among other names. Some look like a regular cigarette, others come with a pocket-size vaporizer and nicotine-juice cartridges.
Critics said that in many respects it is not that different from the conventional cigarette. A drag from its mouthpiece gives the person a genuine nicotine fix.
Research findings reported in The New England Journal of Medicine state that “like conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes may function as a ‘gateway drug’ that can prime the brain to be more receptive to harder drugs.”
Because major tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds have gotten involved in the e-cigarette market, health and environmental groups grew suspicious of claims that e-cigarettes are “healthier than smoking,” and that they contain “harmless water vapor.”
“These cigarettes are promoted as safe and as only containing water vapor, which is a lie,” asserted Dr. Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco and director of the school’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
Glantz accused California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris as being lax in enforcing issues around e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
“She’s been asleep at the switch on this,” he asserted, noting that just last week she “quietly settled” with some e-cigarette manufacturers in California for violating a consent decree with the state that they would stop selling flavored e-cigarettes.
In the 60-day notice sent out Sept. 2, the CEH is not only demanding a recall of products already sold, it wants manufacturers to provide “clear and reasonable warning” for products sold in the future, plus pay an appropriate civil penalty for violating the state’s Health and Safety Code.
CEH executive director Michael Green said his agency’s legal action aims to force the industry to comply with the law and create pressure “to end their most abusive practices.”
photo credit courtsey of PR News Wire.