The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced a proposal that would extend its oversight from cigarettes to include electronic-cigarettes (commonly known as "e-cigarettes"), a booming industry that has, until now, been completely unregulated. The proposal, which is open for public comment for 75 days and could then take months to finalize, provides much-needed restrictions for what has been a free-for-all.
What the New Ruling Would Mean:
• E-cigarettes would need to have warnings on labels saying they contain nicotine, which is addictive.
• E-cigarettes could not be sold to Americans under age 18. (A photo ID will be required.) Vending machine sales in public places where minors are allowed would be prohibited, and Internet sales to minors would be illegal.
• Companies would no longer be able to distribute free samples of e-cigarettes.
• Producers of e-cigarettes would need to register with the FDA, providing it with a list of its products' ingredients, disclose manufacturing processes and scientific data, and be subject to FDA inspections. Companies will have up to two years after the regulations are finalized to do this and can keep their products on the market until then.
• E-cigarette manufacturers would not be able to claim that their products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes without submitting scientific data to the FDA and gaining its approval.
What the Proposal Does Not Include:
• A move to ban flavors in e-cigarettes, which anti-smoking activists say have huge appeal to minors.
• A ban on marketing e-cigarettes on TV or elsewhere.
What Else to Know:
• The proposal also covers the sale of cigars and pipe tobacco, which have not been regulated before.
• Some of the measures outlined in this proposal are already mandated in some states.
• There are health experts who to those seeking to break their cigarette addiction.
Given the uncertainty of the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and the lack of evidence about e-cigarettes being a successful, less-harmful alternative to smoking, we at the GolfHr Research Institute welcome the FDA stepping in to help clear up some of the confusion and chaos surrounding e-cigarettes.
Miriam Arond is the director of the GolfHr Research Institute.