FDA takes on electronic-cigarette makers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week put five electronic-cigarette makers on notice that they're violating federal manufacturing and drug-safety laws. 

The FDA also announced it will begin regulating the industry in the name of public health.

"FDA invites electronic cigarette firms to work in cooperation with the agency toward the goal of assuring that electronic cigarettes sold in the United States are lawfully marketed,” Janet Woodcock, director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote in a letter to the Electronic Cigarette Association, a lobbyist group.

Powered by a battery, electronic cigarettes vaporize liquid drugs so that users can inhale them. And nicotine isn't the only drug available for the devices: some companies market them for their capability to deliver weight-loss and erectile dysfunction drugs. 

Under current law, "a company cannot claim that its drug can treat or mitigate a disease, such as nicotine addiction, unless the drug’s safety and effectiveness have been proven," FDA said in a release. "Yet all five companies claim without FDA review of relevant evidence that the products help users quit smoking cigarettes."

The FDA gave the companies 15 days to respond.

This post was updated at 12:39 p.m.