The Disturbing Truth About E-Cigs
So what happens next? A lot of that depends on the FDA's newly proposed plan for how it will regulate the emerging e-cig industry. This proposal would allow e-cigs to be regulated like traditional tobacco.
Initially, the FDA tried to regulate them as drugs, like nicotine patches or other nicotine-replacement products, but the courts have not allowed this. As long as e-cig makers are careful to avoid claims that their products have health benefits (for instance, that they help people quit smoking), they can't be regulated as drugs (drug regulations are much stricter than tobacco regulations).
Under these new regulations, vapor liquids would be classified as tobacco products. As with regulation on traditional tobacco products, the proposal would require e-cig manufacturers to:
- Not distribute free samples
- Register with the FDA and report product ingredients
- Only make claims of reduced risk if the FDA confirms that scientific evidence supports the claim that marketing the product will benefit public health
- Only market new products after FDA review
- Put health warnings on the label
- Require minimum age and identification restrictions to prevent sales to kids.
This proposal still has to go through a number of steps before it is approved. In fact, it could be years of lobbying for the FDA and Congress. The FDA stated in 2011 that it planned to regulate e-cigs as tobacco products, but there haven't been any rules or regulations issued since that time. Now with the new proposal to crack down on regulating these products, it still may be a couple more years before anything happens.
While the FDA and Congress hash out this new proposal, state legislatures are pursuing their own regulations. Several states have sided with the American Lung Association by including e-cigs in indoor smoking bans. Many others have restricted sales of e-cigs to minors, and many require purchasers to provide identification.