FDA Coughs Up New Regulations Governing e-Cigarette Industry

Source: Thinkstock

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed new rules that expanded its regulatory authority from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes for the first time. E-cigarettes, initially lauded as a tool to help smokers ween themselves off nicotine, has garnered significant attention lately on account of new studies indicating that e-cigarettes are leading to less people quitting, not more. Now, it is clear that the FDA is ready to exercise some regulation over e-cigarettes. Up until now, the e-cigarette business has been conducted with virtually no federal oversight or protections for American consumers, but that’s all about to change.

According to The New York Times, the FDA’s new proposed rules would ban the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco to Americans under 18, and also require that people buying them show photo identification to prove their age. The regulation has been in the works for four years now, ever since Congress passed a major tobacco-control law in 2009, but the FDA still has a far way to go, as federal officials and advocates expect it to take at least another year for the rules to take effect.

Still, the FDA released its regulatory blueprint on Thursday: it is 100 pages long and recognized the day as an important step in the process to eventually tightening up the rules surrounding e-cigarettes. David B. Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder National Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the Legacy Foundation, an antismoking research group, seemed optimistic about the new pending regulation. He said to The New York Times, “You won’t be able to mix nicotine in your bathtub and sell it anymore.”

Source: Thinkstock

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is in favor of the new e-cigarette regulation, and one group that has been vocal in its disdain of the new regulation is the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, an e-cigarette industry trade group. The New York Times reported that the group held nearly 50 meetings with congressional officials in November to help them “learn more about the negative impact inappropriate regulation could have on this nascent industry.”

The current rules governing the e-cigarette industry are so lax that it is not unexpected that the big names in the business are now working to ensure that regulation is here to stay. While adolescents have to be 18 years old to buy cigarettes, the lack of regulation for e-cigarettes makes them a good alternative, and studies show that minors are abusing them while keeping the e-cigarette industry alive. The FDA’s new proposed regulation would extend the number of tobacco products that it has authority over — power that it enjoys from a 2009 law — and it would allow government officials to prohibit sales of e-cigarettes and cigars, along with all other tobacco products, to minors.

As highlighted by the Times, the other big change proposed by the FDA involves the requirement that producers of cigars and e-cigarettes register with the FDA and provide the agency with a detailed account of their products’ ingredients, as well as a disclosure of their manufacturing processes and scientific data. The banning of certain flavors of e-cigarettes and cigars was not included in the blueprint provided Thursday, but the FDA maintains that the current regulation on the table is just the first step to further federal rule-making.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: