The Food and Drug Administration will include electronic cigarettes in its regulatory authority. (E-cigarettes are also known as vaping devices or “vape pens” because they emit a nicotine-laced vapor.) The proposed rules include a national ban on sales to minors and other requirements for manufacturers.
The popularity of e-cigarettes and “vaping” has exploded in recent years, but the market has been mostly a free-for-all. Some states and cities have banned their sale to minors, or passed regulations on vaping in public spaces. Neither Texas nor Houston have those regulations.
The proposed federal rules would create a national ban on sales of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18.
Electronic cigarettes turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user (FDA image)
In addition, manufacturers of e-cigarettes will have to register with the FDA and disclose ingredients of their liquid cartridges, plus other scientific data and information on manufacturing processes. The rules could apply to pipe and hookah tobacco, nicotine gels and “dissolvables,” and even cigars (although the final rules could include some exceptions for certain types of cigars.)
“E-cigarettes remain largely an unknown entity,” said Dr. Ernest Hawk, the vice president for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “They’re being sold at a tremendous rate, and there’s intrinsic public appeal to them.”
Hawk said he welcomes the move by the FDA because it errs on the side of safety, providing some controls and protection for minors until research can catch up.
Dr. Hawk says public health researchers are divided over e-cigarettes. Many say they function as an enticing new way to hook young people on nicotine and expand the market for all nicotine products.
Recent studies do show more children and teens are trying and using e-cigarettes.
But Hawk says e-cigarettes can also be used like nicotine patches, as a device to help smokers gradually quit tobacco cigarettes.
“So there’s a duality, there’s a potential both for harm as well as benefit. And, largely, the data doesn’t exist to confirm either of those suspicions.”
The public will have 75 days to comment on the proposed regulations, and then the FDA will finalize the regulations over the next few months.