What they are: electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are a tobacco free alternative to cigarettes. They consist of three parts; a battery, a charger and a cartridge containing water, flavoring, and nicotine. They emit no smoke, but only water vapor. Since they deliver nicotine, many use the devices as a bridge to quit smoking and to spare others their second hand smoke.
The argument for regulation: the fear is that kids will get a hold of these devices, and that it will be a gateway to smoking cigarettes. The cartridges come in favors such as piña colada, chocolate, bubble gum, and soda, as well as others which taste like tobacco. The worry is that such devices have a "cool" factor which will encourage nonsmokers to start, especially kids. If a non smoker uses the device, they can become addicted to the nicotine.
The argument against regulation: nicotine, while highly addictive, is safe. Your typical cigarette contains tar and about 1000 chemicals, many of which are cancer causing. E cigarettes contain only six basic ingredients, none of which cause cancer. Thus, the devices have the potential to save lives. Cigarettes also smell and emit dangerous second hand smoke. E cigarettes emit water vapor, which is odorless.
Misc info: currently, the FDA does not regulate electronic cigarettes due to a 2010 federal court ruling. They are, however, trying to find legal grounds to do so.
Smoking cessation products (gum, pills, etc) are a multi billion dollar industry. Thus, there is quite a push from the pharma lobby to have e cigarettes heavily regulated and taxed.
Sweden has the lowest incidence of tobacco related illness in the western world. National studies attribute this to the popularity of a product called "snus," which is a tobacco derivative, cleaned of most it's cancer causing agents, which delivers nicotine by being placed in a pouch under the user's lip.
What do you think?