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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.
WebMD Health News

Editor's note: This story was updated on Aug. 26, 2014.

April 25, 2014 -- The American Heart Association is urging the FDA to avoid delay in imposing regulations on e-cigarettes proposed in April. Those rules include banning the sale of e-cigarettes to kids under 18.

That ban would go into effect 30 days after the rules are approved. But it could take more than 2 years for many of the other rules to go into effect. The association is asking that all rules be in place by year’s end.

“Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could renormalize smoking in our society,” says Nancy Brown, the association’s CEO, in a statement. “These disturbing developments have helped convince the association that e-cigarettes need to be strongly regulated, thoroughly researched and closely monitored.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) also released a report on e-cigarettes Aug. 26, calling them an “evolving frontier filled with promise and threat for tobacco control.” Regulations are needed to address the health concerns they pose, the organization said.

E-cigarettes have a nicotine solution that is heated to create a vapor the user breathes in, or “vapes.” Before the FDA’s announcement in April, no federal rules existed to regulate what’s in them, who they can be sold to, or how they are advertised.

Here are some details from experts about e-cigarettes and the proposed rules.

Q: In addition to banning sales to minors, what else do the proposed rules do?

A: Makers of the tobacco products that would come under the FDA’s new rules would have to:

  • Register with the FDA
  • Provide a list of ingredients
  • Seek FDA approval to market their products
  • Seek approval to make direct and implied claims of reduced risk
  • Include health warnings

They could not distribute free samples or sell products in vending machines (unless the facility never allows people under 18 to enter).

Right now, "We can't even tell you what compounds are in the vapor," says Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, who spoke at a press briefing about the new rules.

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