The Food and Drug Administration s proposed rules for regulating electronic cigarettes are fittingly modest. At this point, too little research has been done on the possible harms and benefits of the devices, which many people claim are helping them cut back on tobacco use.

E cigarettes deliver nicotine through a vapor, permitting smokers to bypass the toxins found in standard cigarettes. In that sense, they may be a much less harmful alternative for those who are hooked on standard cigarettes. Nevertheless, nicotine is addictive. Some studies have detected carcinogens in e cigarette vapor. Nicotine has also been linked to impaired neurological development in children.

The FDA has proposed a ban on sales to anyone under 18. It also would require warning labels saying that nicotine is addictive, and disclosure of the ingredients used in e cigarettes. Giving out free samples would be forbidden. These are reasonable steps.

To a degree, the agency is following the European Union, which in February approved even stricter rules. A ban on advertising the products will begin in the E.U. s 28 member nations in mid 2016. The amount of nicotine they contain will also be limited to ratios found in ordinary cigarettes. And products specifically aimed at children (candy flavored, for instance) will be forbidden.

The FDA appears to have sidestepped, for now, the contentious question of whether e cigarettes should be defined as tobacco products, and thus subject to the same stringent regulation. As more states have attempted to regulate e cigarettes, manufacturers, which now include large tobacco companies, have lobbied hard for an alternative definition. Just such an attempt prompted Gov. Lincoln Chafee to veto an e cigarette bill in Rhode Island last year. He was pressed by health advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society to do so.

A promising new bill before the General Assembly would bar sales to young people and enable the state to regulate e cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products, which includes taxing them.

So far, 33 states have prohibited e cigarette sales to minors because the FDA rules are unlikely to take effect for some time, Rhode Island should join them. Until more is known about the potential harms of e cigarettes, it is appropriate to keep them out of the hands of children. In the meantime though, the FDA has offered a sensible framework that gives the science on e cigarettes time to catch up.

E-cigarettes: big business, unanswered questions

Best cigarettes to buy

Often cheaper e cigarettes available at drug stores and gas stations often produce less vapor, Maynard said.

He said his customers quickly reduce cigarette smoking once they switch to e cigarettes. The trend is attributable to both the similarity to actual cigarettes and simply enjoying a good vape, Maynard said.

They would either quit smoking 100 percent and for the people that are smoking two packs a day they re down to like five cigarettes a day in a couple weeks, Maynard said.

Everybody s happy about it. Their sense of taste comes back. They re working out in the gym. So there s no negative side effects to it, he added.

Cary and Mona Lee own the Saginaw based Electronic Cigarette Stores, which has 15 locations including in Lansing and Ann Arbor.

The business No. 1 goal is to help people quit smoking, Cary Lee said. The business not only doesn t sell to minors, but shares horror stories of the harmful effects of smoking with them, he added.

The business has hired a lobbyist to convince Lansing lawmakers that e cigarettes are an effective tool to help people kick cigarettes for good.

Cary Lee said his business has helped about 20,000 people across Michigan quit cigarettes.

He said his stores handle customers with love, helping them find the perfect e fluid flavor to wean them off cigarettes.

That s what we do, Cary Lee said.

Maynard and Lee both said doctors refer patients to their stores to help them quit smoking.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data issued last month suggest e cigarette vaping does not promote good health, however.

The CDC study found the number of calls to poison centers involving e cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from once per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February of this year.

More than half of the calls to poison centers due to e cigarettes involved children under age 5. About 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older.

This report raises another red flag about e cigarettes the liquid nicotine used in e cigarettes can be hazardous, said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. Use of these products is skyrocketing, and these poisonings will continue. E cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.