When the FDA said it would regulate e-cigarettes, the reaction was swift.

No more waiting for the federal government to act: Some states are banning electronic cigarettes in public places, saying that even though they're not traditional nicotine, they're still dangerous. (Jackie Kucinich and Theresa Poulson/The Washington Post)

Twitter never sleeps. So when the news broke in the dead of night that the Food and Drug Administration wants to regulate e-cigarettes, the response was swift.

 

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that contain nicotine, but not tobacco, and produce vapor instead of smoke. Some claim they are safer than regular cigarettes; others say they are dangerous for different reasons and a gateway to smoking the real thing. For the first time since e-cigarettes appeared in the U.S. in 2006, the FDA said Thursday that it will impose restrictions. The Post’s Brady Dennis has details:

The move would begin to place restrictions on e-cigarettes, a nearly $2 billion industry that for years has operated outside the reach of federal regulators. If adopted, the government’s plan would force manufacturers to curb sales to minors, stop handing out free samples, place health warning labels on their products and disclose the ingredients. Makers of e-cigarettes also would be banned from making health-related claims without scientific evidence. … Regulators at this point are not seeking to halt online sales of e-cigarettes, curb television advertising, or ban the use of flavorings such as watermelon, grape soda and piña colada — all tactics that critics say are aimed at attracting young smokers and that have been banned for traditional cigarettes.

The new rules will also regulate cigars, pipe tobacco and hookahs. But it’s e-cigarettes that are getting all the attention. You can tell from headlines how controversial this is going to be. This New York Times headline from Wednesday –  Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes – prompted this one from the tech Web site Digital Trends –  The NY Times is blowing smoke: Toothpaste poisons more people than vaping liquid. Earlier this week, a patient on oxygen at a Syracuse hospital caught on fire while puffing on an e-cigarette. Earlier this month, a study from the Centers for Disease Control showed a dramatic increase in calls to poison centers related to exposure to nicotine-laced liquid in e-cigarettes. Both sides are armed with statistics and studies but solid data on the subject is scarce and sometimes conflicting:

And there’s plenty of snark to go around:

Want more? Here are seven things you should know about e-cigarettes from the Post’s Lenny Bernstein.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.

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Lindsey Bever · April 24, 2014