ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES have the potential to improve public health if adults use them instead of regular tobacco — but not if they end up hooking young people on nicotine. Unfortunately, the ambiguous regulatory status of so-called e-cigarettes makes it possible for manufacturers to run marketing campaigns clearly aimed at young Americans. If federal regulators can’t or won’t make sure these products don’t end up creating more smokers than they cure, states like Massachusetts should.
E-cigarettes are reusable devices that deliver nicotine in vapor form, but not other carcinogens found in traditional tobacco products. Their manufacturers tout them as a tool to help smokers quit. It’s noteworthy, though, that one of the country’s three largest tobacco firms is among the leading makers of e-cigarettes, the other two tobacco giants plan to enter the market, and promotional efforts in this area have a distinctly youthful tone.