The federal government on Thursday banned the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 and required manufacturers to disclose their ingredients and submit their products to the government for approval.
The Food and Drug Administration’s action, which represents the first time the government has regulated the booming market of e-cigarettes, seeks to clamp down on devices that have become increasingly popular, especially among young people, even as they have been subject to almost no oversight.
The agency, which first said it intended to regulate e-cigarettes in 2014, also imposed the regulations on cigars, hookahs and pipe tobacco.
The effort is a response to long-standing concerns about what health experts call a “Wild West” atmosphere involving the multi-billion dollar e-cigarette industry. The battery-powered devices heat up flavoured, nicotine-laced liquid, turning it into a vapour that the user inhales, or “vapes.
Not very surprising, because the absence of the dead hand of government regulation on the emerging vaping industry has long irritated governments, both in Washington, across the states and abroad.
Why should they steal customers from big tobacco and yet not kneel before the powers that be in Washington so that they can get their slice of the relatively lightly regulated and taxed vaping pie?
I smell the stale stench of big tobacco in this as well, for the vaping culture has cut into their US revenues and both big tobacco and local and state governments are losing out.
- The new regulations generally require manufacturers whose products went on sale after Feb. 15, 2007, to get approval from the agency to continue selling their products. These reviews will allow the FDA to scrutinize ingredients, product design and health risks, the agency said. It added that it will allow the companies to keep selling their products for two years while they submit their applications and then for an additional year while the FDA reviews the submissions.
- The rules also ban the distribution of free samples. Officials suggested they might eventually consider banning flavours in cigars and e-cigarettes, but said the topic needs more research. [JG - Let me guess...Cannabis flavour perhaps??]
- In recent weeks, the e-cigarette industry has gotten support from some public health experts. In late April, a group of tobacco-control experts, writing in the journal Addiction, urged the FDA to be “open-minded” about e-cigarettes, saying that the products can result in a reduction in traditional smoking. And recently, the Royal College of Physicians concluded that e-cigarettes were likely to be beneficial to public health in Britain.
The long and the short of it is that by medicalising vaping they can put the brakes on an industry that they feel is under-regulated and under-taxed, and in so doing, slow down tax loses from tobacco revenues and appease the lobbyists of big tobacco.
This is all very well and not very surprising, but the problem with vaping is that the key ingredients of vaping fluid are fairly common-place, essentially propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine for the liquid, diluted nicotine and flavouring.
So excessive government intervention at this stage could probably lead to the entire industry going underground as home-made or black market manufacture. Given the pressure on tax revenues and from tobacco lobbyists I suspect that draconian is going to be the way to go for quite a while…