A Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes
2003: The electronic cigarette is first developed in Beijing, China by Hon Lik, a 52 year old pharmacist, inventor and smoker. He reportedly invents the device after his father, also a heavy smoker, dies of lung cancer. The company Lik worked for, Golden Dragon Holdings, developed the device and changed their name to Ruyan, which means “like smoke.”
April 2006: Electronic cigarettes introduced to Europe.
2006-2007: Electronic cigarettes introduced to the U.S.
March 2008: Turkey’s Health Ministry bans the sale and importation of e-cigarettes. Health Ministry Drugs and Pharmacy Director, Mahmut Tokaç, claims electronic cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes. The vice president of the Foundation Combating Smoking in Turkey, Kıyas Güngör, claims that “nicotine is the most dangerous element among 4,800 poisonous chemicals in cigarettes.”
September 2008: The World Health Organization (WHO) proclaims that it does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate smoking cessation aid and demands that marketers immediately remove from their materials any suggestions that the WHO considers electronic cigarettes safe and effective.
October 2008: In a study funded by Ruyan, Health New Zealand conducts a detailed quantitative analysis and concludes that carcinogens and toxicants are present only below harmful levels. On the basis of the findings, the e-cigarette is rated several orders of magnitude (100 to 1000 times) less dangerous than smoking tobacco cigarettes. The nicotine dose is comparable to that of a medicinal nicotine inhaler. Overall, the product tested was deemed a “safe alternative to smoking.”
January 2009: Australia bans the possession and sale of electronic cigarettes which contain nicotine, citing that “every form of nicotine except for replacement therapies and cigarettes are classified as a form of poison.”
January 2009: Jordan’s Ministry of Health bans the import of the electronic cigarettes, citing World Health Organization’s health concerns. In a February 2012 review of the ban, Malek Habashneh, director of the ministry’s awareness and communication directorate, claims that “e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that cause more health problems than the nicotine in normal cigarettes.”
March 2009: FDA adds electronic cigarettes to Import Alert 66-41 and directs the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reject the entry of electronic cigarettes into the United States.
March 2009: Canada bans the sale, advertising and import of electronic cigarettes. Health Canada advises Canadians not to purchase or use them, claiming they contain a “known irritant” (propylene glycol.)
March 2009: Hong Kong Department of Health bans electronic cigarettes. The maximum penalty for possessing or selling e-cigarettes is a HK$100,000 fine and two years’ imprisonment. Since smoke-free tobacco is prohibited in Hong Kong, the ban on e-cigarettes continues to leave high-risk cigarettes as the only legal tobacco product available.
March 2009: FDA notifies electronic cigarette company “Smoking Everywhere” that its shipments have been refused entry into the U.S. The FDA maintains that electronic cigarettes “appears to be a combination drug-device product” that requires preapproval, registration and listing with the FDA.
May 2009: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) files a petition to the FDA, calling for FDA regulation of electronic cigarettes.
April 2009: Smoking Everywhere files a federal complaint seeking an injunction against the FDA with respect to the FDA’s attempts to ban the import of Electronic Cigarettes. Smoking Everywhere contends that the FDA has no authority over electronic cigarettes, as they are a “tobacco product” and the FDA’s attempt to regulate them infringes on Congress’s intent to withhold FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products. They contend that electronic cigarettes are not “drugs,” “drug delivery systems,” or “drug device combinations” under 21 U.S.C 321(g).
May 2009: NJOY (Sottera) joins Smoking Everywhere lawsuit against FDA.
May 2009: The Electronic Cigarette Association (ECA) is formed. The ECA (now defunct) is a trade association made up of electronic cigarette producers, distributors and retailers; whose aim is to speak on behalf of the electronic cigarette industry, especially in response to health concerns, and to help institute industry standards. The group is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its president and spokesman is former United States congressman Matt Salmon.
May 2009: FDA tests 2 brands of electronic cigarettes, NJOY & Smoking Everywhere. 18 cartridges are tested. Tests reveal trace amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) in the liquid in levels comparable to those found in FDA-approved nicotine cessation products. The liquid of one cartridge is found to contain a non-toxic amount (approximately 1%) diethylene glycol. TSNAs nor diethylene glycol is detected in the vapor. Some cartridges labeled as 0mg nicotine are shown to contain trace amounts of nicotine.
June 2009: President Obama signs into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act 18, giving the FDA the power to regulate the tobacco industry. Although nicotine and cigarettes as a whole cannot be banned outright, flavoring such as fruit or mint can. Additionally, new tobacco products seeking to enter the market will be required to meet FDA pre-market standards, which could affect electronic cigarette regulation.
June 2009: Panama bans the importation, distribution and sale of electronic cigarettes.
July 2009: FDA files a supplemental brief in the Smoking Everywhere lawsuit referencing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The FDA contends that it still has authority over electronic cigarettes and FDA stand behind the decision to label it a drug-device combination. “FDA found, after examining the product, the claims made in the product labeling, and information SE submitted to FDA, that SE’s product met the definition of both a drug and device under the FDCA.
July 2009: Two months after testing, the FDA issues a press release discouraging the use of electronic cigarettes and repeating previously stated concerns that electronic cigarettes may be marketed to young people, lack appropriate health warnings and that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze. The FDA did not reveal that the carcinogens found were similar to those found at the same levels in FDA-approved nicotine cessation products, nor that the amount of diethylene glycol found would not be toxic. The FDA also did not disclose that neither substance was found in the actual vapor to which the user is exposed.
July 2009: FDA’s May 2009 study is reviewed by scientific consulting firm Exponent, Inc., in a report commissioned by NJOY. Some of the criticisms of the FDA study, as set forth in Exponent’s report, are poor standards of documentation and analysis and failure to perform relevant comparisons to FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy products, which Exponent claims contain TSNA levels comparable to those of electronic cigarettes. The study concludes that the FDA’s claims of potential adverse health effects were not supported by the study.
July 2009: Israeli Health Ministry bans e-cigarette sales and importation.
August 2009: In a Washington Times op-ed, Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, calls the FDA press statement about electronic cigarettes “distorted, incomplete and misleading” and meant to “scare Americans” to stay “away from these newfangled, untested cigarette substitutes — better to stick with the real ones.”
August 2009: The State of Oregon files two settlements that prevent two national travel store chains, Pilot Travel Centers and TA Operating, from selling NJOY electronic cigarettes. In addition, the company must give the Attorney General advance notice that they intend to sell electronic cigarettes in Oregon, provide copies of all electronic cigarette advertising, and provide copies of the scientific studies they maintain substantiates their claims. NJOY voluntarily stops all sales in Oregon.
August 2009: Oregon Attorney General John Kroger files a lawsuit against Smoking Everywhere, alleging that the Florida-based “electronic cigarette” company made false health claims about its nicotine delivery device and targeted children with sweet flavors. Smoking everywhere refuses to settle.
August 2009: Brazil bans the sale, importation and advertisement of electronic cigarettes.
August 2009: Suffolk County, NY passes first legislation banning indoor use of electronic cigarette in areas where smoking is also prohibited and bans sales to minors.
August 2009: Saudi Arabia bans sales of electronic cigarettes based on the statement made by the US Food and Drug Administration which had said [e-cigarettes] “contain harmful carcinogenic and toxic substances, notably diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze.”
September 2009: California passes a bill to ban the sales of electronic cigarettes in the state. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoes the bill stating, “If adults want to purchase and consume these products with an understanding of the associated health risks, they should be able to do so unless and until federal law changes the legal status of these tobacco products.”
October 2009: Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) forms and board members elected. The organization is made up of both consumers and retailers, with the mission to ensure the availability of effective, affordable and reduced harm alternatives to smoking by increasing public awareness and education; to encourage the testing and development of products to achieve acceptable safety standards and reasonable regulation; and to promote the benefits of reduced harm alternatives. In order to ensure CASAA is first and foremost a consumer-based organization, the number of vendors elected to the board is limited so that consumer board members control a super majority.
October 2009: UK ASH recognizes that products should be made available that deliver nicotine in a safe way, without the harmful components found in tobacco, but those attempting to quit should use conventional NRTs.
October 2009: Amazon.com prohibits sale of electronic tobacco products on its website.
October 2009: PayPal freezes accounts of electronic cigarette vendors in the U.S. and prohibits them from using the service; however, vendors outside of the U.S. are allowed to continue using PayPal for electronic cigarette sale