FDA to Regulate E-Cigarettes and Ban Sales to Minors
You know those little electronic cigarettes people are puffing on? Well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally took the first step toward more regulation of the devices, which have boomed in popularity despite the lack of research about the health risks or any oversight of their contents.
Many e-cigs look like traditional cigarettes but they contain a replaceable cartridge of liquid nicotine that, when heated, turns into a vapor that’s inhaled by the user. The end of the device sometimes glows and using an e-cigarette is commonly called “vaping.”
Some people even pull them out in places smokers fear to tread, like restaurants and parties. Actress Katherine Heigl famously lit one on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in 2010 and, last summer, The New York Daily News sent a pair of vapers around New York City to see where they could smoke (answer: bars, a dry cleaner, and a grocery store).
Many states already enforce e-cigarette bans for minors and have extended indoor smoking bans to include e-cigs, but for the first time, the FDA has proposed to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under 18, and require health warnings on the devices for the older folks.
And that’s not all. The FDA may also muscle in to regulate other tobacco products including cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookah tobacco (you know, the flavored stuff used in those fancy water pipes you’ve seen in Middle Eastern lounges). But keep in mind that this is just a proposal (it's open to public comment for 75 days) and will take months to go into effect—even longer if tobacco interest groups sue the FDA, according to the New York Times.
Currently the FDA only regulates cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. The FDA first announced that it would regulate e-cigarettes nearly 3 years ago, in April 2011.
So what can you expect? Well if you buy e-cigs, prepare to get carded. Anyone purchasing these products would need to show photo I.D. to prove their age. And you know those warning labels on regular cigs? They’re coming to e-cigarettes too—so you can’t say you didn’t know they contain nicotine, which is addictive. The FDA says its it’s not clear how much nicotine you’re taking in (or what other chemicals are hitching a ride).
Under the rules, producers of e-cigarettes and cigars would have two years to apply for FDA approval to market their products, and they must also disclose ingredients, outline the manufacturing process, and be subject to FDA inspections. Companies can't make claims about reduced health risk without submitting scientific evidence to the FDA, nor can they provide free samples or sell their products in vending machines in places where minors are allowed.
“Tobacco-related disease and death is one of the most critical public health challenges before the FDA,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a news release. “The proposed rule would give the FDA additional tools to protect the public health in today’s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace, including the review of new tobacco products and their health-related claims.”
This announcement comes two months after tobacco became a national conversation when drugstore chain CVS announced that it would stop selling tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco by October 1.