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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Electronic Cigarettes: Q&A

FDA proposes to crack down on e-cigarettes, other tobacco products.


Q: What don't the new rules cover?

A: The new rules do not ban online sales, TV ads, or flavored e-cigarettes. Zeller says once the rules are finalized, the FDA could propose separate rules for those areas. It's yet to be decided if cigars that are ''premium" -- hand-rolled with a tobacco leaf wrapper -- will be included. The FDA is seeking comments on that question, Zeller says.

Q: Why didn’t they include the flavors and the marketing?

A: The AHA and the WHO are urging the FDA to ban flavors and curb marketing of e-cigarettes.

Public health advocates worry that the sweet flavors of e-cigarettes will continue to attract teens, along with marketing.

But CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, said in an interview with NPR that rules in those areas could be challenged in court.

"One of the challenges that the FDA has is the balance between stringent regulation and regulation that will stand up to a court challenge,” Frieden told NPR. He noted that the e-cigarette industry has already won one court case against the FDA.

“It is a real balancing act between how effective regulation can be and how sustainable it will be in court.”

Q: What other products are included in the new rules?

A: Besides electronic cigarettes, the proposed rules also cover cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, water pipe tobacco, and hookah tobacco.

The FDA already regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco.

Q: When do these rules take effect, if finalized?

A: The 75-day comment period on the rules began in April. It's tough to estimate how long it will take to review those comments and issue a final ruling, says FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Once that happens, the ban on sales to minors and from vending machines goes into effect in 30 days. For the rest, companies will have 24 months to meet the new rules. They can continue marketing their products during that time.

Q: Who is using e-cigarettes?

A: "At this point we have far more questions than answers about who is using e-cigarettes and how they are being used," Zeller says. There is some evidence, he says, that hard-core cigarette smokers may turn to e-cigarettes when they can't light up.

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