WASHINGTON — Eight members of the Senate are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to look into new research suggesting that some electronic cigarettes can produce dangerous carcinogens similar to those from traditional cigarettes.
In a letter sent on Thursday, the Democratic lawmakers say that the FDA should work to protect e-cigarette users and those nearby from cancer-causing vapors apparently produced by high-powered nicotine devices, known as tank systems.
Electronic cigarettes mainly consist of a battery, heating coil and a tank that holds flavored liquid nicotine. As users puff on the e-cigarette, the battery heats the coil and the liquid is turned into a vapor that is inhaled like smoke from a traditional cigarette. Tank systems are generally larger e-cigarettes — about the size of an electronic toothbrush — that can hold more nicotine and an extended battery supply.
“We simply cannot afford to lag behind in our complete understanding of the health consequences to the user and bystander of these and other advanced nicotine delivery products,” states the letter. It was signed by Democratic Sens. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jack Reed and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Studies first reported by The New York Times suggest that the devices get hot enough to produce toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, a carcinogen found in traditional cigarettes.
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