FDA Proposes E-Cigarette Regulations
Opponents of the increasingly popular devices worry about their impact on children
The FDA is basing its proposed regulations on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 and gave the agency oversight of tobacco products.
The FDA said the public, the electronic cigarette industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposed regulations. Then the agency will review those comments before issuing a final rule.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that turn nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled. Most are designed to look like a tobacco cigarette, but some look like pens, USB drives or other everyday objects.
The devices are advertised on TV and the Internet, and come in sweet flavors like green apple, watermelon and bubble gum.
Erika Sward, the American Lung Association's assistant vice president for national advocacy, applauded the FDA's proposal.
"It would give FDA authority over all unregulated tobacco products," she said. "That would be e-cigarettes, but it also would be cigars, little cigars, hookah-type tobacco and any other products that aren't currently under the FDA's authority now."
Such regulations would close a huge loophole that allows children to freely purchase e-cigarettes and little cigars in many parts of the country, according to proponents of stricter regulations.
E-cigarette use more than doubled among middle and high school students from 2011 to 2012, with more than 1.78 million students nationwide inhaling nicotine-laced vapor from the devices, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year.
"What's concerning is that high rate of rise," said Dr. Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine and director of the tobacco treatment service at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Who knows where it will be next year, or the year after that? Everyone agrees that's not a good thing. The least amount of regulation has to close that hole, so children can't get access to them as easily."
The drive for regulation is also being fueled by a dramatic increase in the number of calls to poison centers involving nicotine poisonings from e-cigarettes, according to federal health officials.