Brain and Body

FDA Announces That E-Cigarette Products Will Now Be Regulated Like Regular Cigarettes

May 9, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Man vaping with an e-cigarette
Photo credit: Vaping360/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Big changes headed towards the vaping community.

Over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the world of unregulated e-cigarettes is coming to an end — now, the sale of vaping products will require clearer product labels, health warnings, and purchasers will have to prove they are at least 18 years old.

Further, manufacturers will have to submit their products for FDA approval. For the first time since e-cigarettes hit the market, officials will look into their ingredients and safety and emissions data.

"The actions being taken today will help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks," the FDA said in a press release.

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The new law will go in effect in 90 days, and these are some of the new restrictions as stated in the press announcement:

  • Not allowing products to be sold to persons under the age of 18 years (both in person and online)
  • Requiring age verification by photo ID
  • Not allowing the distribution of free samples

Further, manufacturers, importers, and retailers of tobacco products will now be required to:

  • Report ingredients, and harmful and potentially harmful constituents
  • Place health warnings on product packages and advertisements
  • Submit for premarket review and authorisation of new tobacco products by the FDA
  • No longer sell modified risk tobacco products (including those described as "light", "low", or "mild") unless authorised by the FDA

The entire 499-page document can be accessed here.

DON'T MISS: Could FDA E-Cigarette Regulations Help More People Quit Smoking?

This means that, “nearly every e-cigarette on the market - and every different flavour and nicotine level - would require a separate application for federal approval," USA Today writers Jayne O’Donnell and Laura Ungar explain. "Each application could cost $1 million or more, says Jeff Stier, an e-cigarette advocate with the National Center for Public Policy Research and industry officials."

The FDA says that limiting e-cigarette access to minors was particularly important, as reports have shown that vaping is a behavior on the rise among high school students — the number of young e-cigarette smokers has jumped from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015. USA Today reports that health officials estimate that about 3 million middle and high school students smoke e-cigarettes.

"Between 2011 and 2015, the percentage of high school students who smoked e-cigarettes has skyrocketed over 900 percent," informs Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

With the new regulations, hopefully we may see that number begin to drop again.

Unsurprisingly, the decision has sparked controversy, with arguments coming from both sides.

Vox’s Julia Belluz reports that many people who have been calling for stricter regulations on e-cigarettes for years have criticized the FDA for failing to adequately address the use of flavors, like lemonade, gummy bear, and bubblegum, which they argue are specifically targeting young people.

Additionally, there’s concern about the fact that it’s expected to take two to three years for the FDA to assess everything, so manufacturers can continue to sell the potentially harmful e-cigarette products in the meantime.

On the other side of the spectrum, many people are concerned that harsher regulations of e-cigarettes will make it more difficult for people trying to quit smoking regular cigarettes.

E-cigarette user and vaping store manager Russell Major told USA Today that e-cigarettes helped him kick a 13-year tobacco habit after nicotine patches and gum failed.

"Regulators need to watch out for intended consequences of overzealous regulation, such as ... making e-cigarettes more expensive and less attractive to smokers; and also avoid conveying a message that e-cigarettes are regulated as strictly [as] or even more strictly than cigarettes because they are as bad," clinical psychologist Peter Hajek from the Queen Mary University of London told Vox.

When it comes down to it, it’s simply too early to gauge just how harmful the chemicals in e-cigarette liquid are to our health, particularly with long-term use, because they’ve only been on the market for about 10 years. We’ll have to wait for long-term studies to build up more solid evidence on the lasting health effects of e-cigarettes.

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image source: Vaping360

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