The Future of E-Cigarettes
In 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. In 2014 the FDA proposed recommendations for e-cigarettes that would require FDA review of existing and future products, warning labels, and a sales ban to individuals under the age of 18.
The Problem with E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are promoted as the safer alternative to traditional tobacco products. As there is no regulatory process in place for most of those products, the validity of the claims is mostly unknown. Consumers and health professionals have no data to determine the risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes when they are used as intended. The amount of nicotine and other chemicals being inhaled when e-cigarettes are being used is unknown, as it varies from one manufacturer to the next. Potential benefits associated with using e-cigarettes is unknown. Finally, there is no data indicating the impact using these types of products may have on promoting the eventual use of traditional tobacco products.
States Moving to Regulate E-Cigarettes
While it appears that Congress will only be making changes to some aspects of e-cigarette regulations, many states have been more proactive. States are actively regulating taxation, packaging, smoke-free zones as they relate to the product, youth access, and additional retailer restrictions. Some states are also increasing the age at which individuals may purchase tobacco products of any kind, including e-cigarettes. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have begun introducing state legislation because of the increased legislation at the local level.
Concerns About FDA Proposals
While most people are in favor of limiting the exposure of youth to nicotine products, robust labeling, and more scientific information about e-cigarettes, there are others who are concerned about the new FDA proposals. One of the main concerns voiced has been the plan to require a review of all existing products. The review and approval process for new tobacco products is prohibitively exhaustive, and many worry that it could destroy the industry entirely. In April, an amendment was added to the bill to amend the date of review to new products introduced 21 months after implementation of the new regulations, instead of making it retroactive back to 2007. If Congress passes the bill, it will effectively grandfather in products already on the market.
Unfortunately, many consumers mistakenly believe that because the products are not currently regulated by the FDA they must be safe. There is a great deal of evidence that suggests this is not the case. While they may be safer than traditional tobacco products, there are still areas of concern. It will be interesting to learn if the health claims made by the e-cigarette industry end up being as inaccurate as those made by their predecessors in the traditional tobacco industry.