ORLANDO, Fla. - It's not smoking, it's "vaping," and it appears the popular smoking alternative that fuels e-cigarettes has at least one import claiming FDA approval to fool consumers into buying their brand.
The Chinese import is being sold with a counterfeit FDA seal in Central Florida flea markets, raising serious questions about rogue products infiltrating the industry and getting into the hands of unsuspecting kids and adults.
The FDA has never approved the product and is actually calling for sweeping regulations of tobacco alternatives including e-cigarettes and e-juice, the oil heated and inhaled or "vaped "by users.
FDA Director Mitch Zeller says regulations are needed because e-cigarettes could present both "harm and good."
Zeller is aware of the stories of long time smokers using the e-cigarettes to kick the habit, but he's concerned that underage kids will start using the flavored vapors and move up to tobacco as they chase higher levels of nicotine.
The Florida Health Department agrees and recommends not using e-cigarettes until scientific studies are complete.
An investigation by Local 6 found e-cigarette shops in Altamonte Springs and Winter Park were only selling flavored e-juice with or without nicotine, from the United States and the United Kingdom.
During a random check of e-juice products Local 6 found no implied government approval or labels at any shop or mall kiosk selling e-cigarettes.
Every owner we spoke to refused to sell the equipment or e-juice to minors.
The e-cigarettes seem to be most popular with the 20-something crowd but vaping knows no age limits and it appears smokers and non-smokers alike are trying it.
Sergio Mellenberndt, owns the Totally Wicked shops in Altamonte and Sanford. The former 2 pack- a -day smoker says e-cigarettes offer a safe alternative to smoking.
"You're not getting all of the carcinogens caused by the burning of tobacco, it's vapor," Mellenberndt said.
Mellenberndt says there are four basic ingredients in e-juice: propylene glycol, vegetable glycol, nicotine and flavoring.
The China import is something Mellenberndt has only seen once or twice still he supports the idea of moderate regulations to provide checks and balances." I want this to be a safe alternative."
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