FDA Proposes New Regulations for E-Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new regulations for electronic cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products including pipes, nicotine gels, hookah tobacco, and dissolvables. The regulations include banning sales of these products to anyone under 18 and requiring manufacturers to disclose their ingredients to the FDA. The proposal is subject to a 75-day public comment period before the FDA can make it final. Even then, it is expected to take a year or longer before the regulations can take effect.

“Tobacco remains the leading cause of death and disease in this country. This is an important moment for consumer protection and a significant proposal that if finalized as written would bring FDA oversight to many new tobacco products,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD in a statement. “Science-based product regulation is a powerful form of consumer protection that can help reduce the public health burden of tobacco use on the American public, including youth.”

The announcement has been expected ever since passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, when the FDA began regulating cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. Since then, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young Americans have increased their use of non-conventional tobacco products without significantly decreasing their use of cigarettes.

According to the CDC, the increase in the use of e-cigarettes and hookahs could be due to an increase in marketing, availability, and visibility of these tobacco products and the perception that they may be safer alternatives to cigarettes.

Data released by the CDC shows that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than doubled between 2011 and 2012. E-cigarettes often look like regular cigarettes, but they are operated by battery. An atomizer heats a solution of liquid, flavorings, and nicotine that creates a mist that is inhaled. Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavors. These products, as well as “little cigars,” allow nicotine and tobacco to be consumed with fruit and candy flavors that are banned from cigarettes because they appeal to youth. Little cigars look like cigarettes, but have been more affordable to teens because they are taxed at lower rates and can be sold individually, rather than by the pack.

“We are pleased the FDA has taken this critical step that will subject these products to standards for the protection of public health, including prohibiting sales to those under 18 and requiring manufacturers to disclose ingredients, said John R. Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in a statement. “However, without swift action from the administration to finalize the rule and take the necessary regulatory steps, many manufacturers of these products can continue to engage in practices, such as advertising and use of flavors, which make them attractive and accessible to youth.”

Youth and tobacco

Discouraging tobacco use among youth is important because studies show almost all tobacco use begins during childhood and young adulthood. The younger people are when they begin to use tobacco, the more likely they are to use it as an adult. According to the US Surgeon General’s office, if young people can remain free of tobacco until age 18, most will never start smoking. And people who start regularly using tobacco when they’re younger are more likely to have trouble quitting than people who start later in life.

Smoking causes serious health problems in children and teens, including immediate and long-term damage to the heart and lungs. Teenagers and young adults can become addicted to nicotine, which leads to continued tobacco use into adulthood. Chronic diseases associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, are more likely among those who begin to smoke earlier in life.

The American Cancer Society’s Guide to Quitting Smoking has many tools and tips to help smokers beat the urge to smoke and to help nonsmokers encourage loved ones to quit.

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