FDA Extends its Tobacco Oversight to All Products, Including E-Cigarettes

Written By:Stacy Simon

New packaging will have harsher warnings.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today took action to expand its authority over tobacco to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco, and more. The new provisions will go into effect in 90 days. The rule that was finalized today helps implement the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

The actions are designed in large part to limit access to all forms of tobacco by young people. Until now, there was no federal law stopping retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, or cigars to people under age 18. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), middle and high school students are increasing their use of e-cigarettes and hookahs.

Under the new changes:

  • Tobacco products may not be sold to anyone under 18, in person or online
  • Photo ID will be required to verify age
  • Free samples may not be distributed
  • Sales of tobacco products covered by the rule may not be sold in vending machines unless they are in an adult-only facility.

Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, praised the new regulation. “We’re particularly pleased that the FDA decided to regulate increasingly popular tobacco products such as cigars, electronic cigarettes and hookah. In addition, we’re also encouraged that the FDA decided to regulate so-called premium cigars as these products pose no less health risk than other cigars,” he said.

Today’s actions will also impose new requirements on manufacturers of the newly regulated tobacco products. The requirements will give the FDA the ability to evaluate ingredients, product design, and health risks of all tobacco products, as well as their appeal to youth. Products that were already on the market as of February 15, 2007, are not subject to the new regulations.

The new requirements for manufacturers, importers, and retailers include:

  • Registering manufacturing establishments and providing product listings to the FDA
  • Reporting ingredients, and harmful and potentially harmful constituents
  • Requiring premarket review and authorization of new tobacco products by the FDA
  • Placing health warnings on product packages and advertisements
  • Not selling modified risk tobacco products (including those described as “light,” “low,” or “mild”) unless authorized by the FDA

These requirements have been in place for other tobacco products the FDA has regulated since 2009. Under staggered timelines, the FDA expects that manufacturers will continue selling their products for up to 2 years while they submit – and an additional year while the FDA reviews – a new tobacco product application.

Youth and Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. Public health advocates are especially interested in keeping young people from smoking because studies show that approximately 80% of adult smokers first tried smoking by the age of 18.

“We have more to do to help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth. As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an important step in the fight for a tobacco-free generation – it will help us catch up with changes in the marketplace, put into place rules that protect our kids and give adults information they need to make informed decisions.”

According to the Surgeon General, parents can take steps to help keep children free from tobacco:

  • Set an example by not using tobacco yourself.
  • If you use tobacco, you can still make a difference. Your best move, of course, is to try to quit. Meanwhile, don’t use tobacco around your children, don’t offer it to them, and don’t leave it where they can easily get it.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of tobacco.
  • Tell your children you expect them to never use tobacco – or if they’re already using it – to quit.
  • Be aware of what your children are doing and who their friends are.
  • Network with other parents who can help you encourage children and teens to refuse tobacco.
  • Encourage your children’s schools to enforce tobacco-free policies.
  • Enforce movie age restrictions and discourage teens from playing video games that feature smoking.

If you smoke and want to quit or know someone who does, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or read our Guide to Quitting Smoking. Research shows that getting help increases your chances of success.

Anna Simon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. Her daughter helped care for her during her treatment.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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