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Scientists Comb Facebook to Understand E-Cigarettes

The FDA is funding studies to comb Facebook and count the puffs e-cigarette users take to better understand the new nicotine delivery system.

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By Bryan Le

07/07/14

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is spending $270 million on almost 50 projects to determine the risks of e-cigarettes, including studies that count the puffs taken by "vapers" and combing Facebook to find out how teens are modifying their vaping devices to pack a bigger punch.

"If it turns out that people are tinkering with the electronics to increase the voltage of e-cigarettes, and FDA regulations limit the maximum voltage, that's useful to know, since it may justify a requirement that the devices be tinker-proof," said toxicologist Robert Balster.

"They want data and they want it yesterday," says Dr Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin of Yale University, who is leading four of the 50 research projects.

Unfortunately, final results of these multitude of studies won't be available until about 2018, which means e-cigarette companies will have virtual free range until the FDA reaches conclusions. However, the $2 billion-a-year global e-cigarette industry also stands to benefit from the FDA's studies, as state or local governments have already been regulating their product based on unfounded fears and could potentially run manufacturers out of business.

"There shouldn't be regulations akin to those for cigarettes without evidence of similar health impact, especially since the preliminary evidence is positive for the industry," said Bryan Haynes, an attorney for e-cigarette manufacturers.

More than 14 million adults in the U.S. and nearly 2 million teens have used e-cigarettes.

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