FDA Reveals Plans to Regulate Electronic Cigarettes

We’ve known it was coming, but it is still a little shocking to finally see the FDA make an official move towards regulating electronic cigarettes. For months, the FDA has promised new ecig regulations, but each time a date was announced, the day came and went with no changes. This week, we finally got a glimpse at the FDA’s plans when they released a 214-page proposal on how they will deal with the growing ecig industry in the United States. In some ways, the new rules are not as harsh as expected, however there are a few proposed changes that could be problematic for the vaping community. Here is a closer look at what the FDA is planning for the future of ecigs.

First, the FDA will require all e-cig companies to submit applications for any products that were released or updated since February of 2007. Essentially, that means almost every ecig will have to be submitted for approval. Ecig manufacturers will have two years to submit the necessary paperwork and then the FDA will begin conducting reviews to determine which products are approved and which products are denied. This is perhaps the most intimidating portion of the regulation proposal because it creates a mountain of red tape for ecig companies.

With so many applications pouring in at once, it will likely be years before the FDA can sift through them all and begin to give approval to the technology that has been around for 7 full years already. This could bring ecig technology to a standstill. Companies will likely be hesitant to invest money into new research and development until they know with certainly that their current product line is going to be approved. So while the FDA isn’t banning ecigs, it could be paralyzing the industry for several years.

Second, the FDA will require new product labeling for electronic cigarettes. All companies will be forced to disclose a list of chemical ingredients and add a warning label that openly states that nicotine can be addictive. Some companies already disclose the ingredients on ecig packaging, but others will have to change their current labels in order to comply. This will create additional expenses for manufacturers, but overall, it is a positive step for a transparent vaping industry.

In a surprising twist, the FDA decided that e-cig companies could only make health claims if they have scientific evidence as proof.  With ecig research abounding, this is a positive step for the industry because it could potentially allow ecig brands to market their products as safer than cigarettes. At this time, companies cannot claim that ecigs are useful for smoking cessation. But under the new regulations, such claims are totally acceptable as long as there is research to back it up.

Another big change is that the FDA will ban ecig sales to anyone under age 18. This is a positive step for the industry and it will remove some of the negative stigma that is currently hampering the vaping movement. Critics have often alleged that ecigs are too accessible to teenagers because there is no official law barring kids from purchasing ecigarettes. Under the new regulations, that will change and hopefully, it will appease ecig critics, at least in this one area of concern.

The FDA also plans to ban free ecig samples. Some companies distribute free samples at marketing events in order to draw in smokers and show them how ecig technology works. The FDA wants the free samples to stop so companies will have to figure out another way to entice smokers into trying their tobacco-free products.

While the FDA will enforce several major changes, they have decided not to ban ecig advertising or Internet sales. This comes as a shock to many that speculated that ecig advertising would be the first thing to go. Over the past year, ecig advertising has grown to epic proportions with ad spots appearing on television, radio, and in multiple media outlets. The FDA has no plans to stop the advertisements, but only requires that any health claims be backed with scientific evidence. The FDA also chose not to ban flavored e-liquids so you can continue vaping your favorite flavors without any worry for the future.

Overall, the FDA’s proposed ecig regulations are not exactly what most were expecting. While there are definitely some troublesome areas, there are several promising allowances too. What do you think of the regulation proposal? Is it balanced or do you think the FDA is still acting too harshly?

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Author Focus: Katie Bercham
Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 2 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community... Read Full Profile >