The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is spending $270 million on e-cigarette-related research that aims to determine the risks associated with smoking, and will be used to draft rules for regulating the device.
The research will include assessing the risk of e-cigarettes by counting the number of puffs volunteers take, combing through Facebook posts to see how people are talking about the device, measuring minors' level of influence based on promotions of the device, along with 45 other tests.
"They want data, and they wanted it yesterday," Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, leader of four of the 48 studies from Yale University, told Reuters.
Researchers said the final results of these studies won't be available until 2018. This gives e-cigarette makers a timetable to sell their products with little to no challenge from any regulatory agency.
Studies independent of the FDA are also underway, and the agency plans to factor in those results before they take any action. The 48 projects funded by the federal agency will address questions that are central to future regulations of the product.
Wells Fargo Securities estimated the e-cigarette industry will make $2 billion in global sales this year alone, while manufacturers of the device have asked the federal agency to wait for research results before regulating their products.
E-cigarettes have been used by more than 14 million U.S. adults and nearly two million teens. The usage rate of high school students was alarming as it doubled from 2011 to 2012 based on the latest data available.
"The FDA will always make regulatory decisions based on the best available science," an spokesperson from the agency told Reuters.
The missing science includes questions such as the chemical compounds present in the vapor produced by e-cigarettes, the impact of flavors such as butterscotch and bubblegum on children using e-cigarette, and whether e-cigarette use reduces the number of smokers or makes millions of new nicotine addicts.