FDA ruling sets sights on e-cigarettes

Published 8:26 pm Saturday, May 14, 2016

Electronic cigarettes, cigars and hookahs are now one step closer to being fully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, much in the same way as tobacco cigarettes have been regulated for years.

Increased regulations, which would regulated those e-cigarette and other products produced after February 2007, is an effort on the part of the federal government to regulate an industry some have called the “wild west.”

Sale to minors will be prohibited and those under the age of 26 will have to show identification before purchasing.

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Local retailer, Vapor World, already prohibits minors from purchasing or even sitting at the counter in their store.

“It’s not a state law, but it’s always been our company policy,” said Terry Freeze, one of the store’s owners.

He said most people in the e-cigarette business make it a practice not to sell to minors.

“That’s really not going to have any effect on our day-to-day operations because we weren’t doing that anyway,” Freeze said.

It is standard practice to have a free sample bar at vapor stores, but that won’t be allowed under the regulations unless it is at an adult-only location.

Kimberly Hughes, Mississippi government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, is concerned the use of e-cigarettes will change the cultural view of smoking.

“Widespread use of e-cigarettes has the potential to make smoking a socially acceptable behavior again,” Hughes said. “This could undo decades of public education and awareness efforts that have made smoking socially unacceptable, particularly among youth.”

The regulations also require health warnings be displayed on packages and in advertisements. Many of the e-liquids sold at Vapor World are already labeled with nicotine content on the bottle, but it has not been a standardized practice. The same goes for testing of the liquid.

“All the ones we sell, we require that they have laboratory testing and protocols in place,” Freeze said.

He said the manufactures’ practices might not be exactly what the FDA has now required, but there is a testing protocol already laid out by many manufactures that have the contents of the liquid evaluated.

“Most of the good players in the industry are already doing what the FDA is forcing everybody to do now,” Freeze said.

Hughes said the FDA regulations are critical for helping people quit smoking and for keeping the products away from minors. That is important, she said, because there are still so many unknown elements when it comes to the ingredients in the products and the long-term health impacts.

“The recent FDA rule is a great first step to allowing additional research and increased transparency for the products,” Hughes said.

She believes e-cigarettes could cause cancer.

“A 2009 study done by the FDA found cancer-causing substances in several of the e-cigarette samples tested. The FDA also found nicotine in some e-cigarettes that claimed to contain no nicotine,” Hughes said.

Most of the regulations, will impact the manufactures more than local retailers.

“Most of the stuff from the FDA dealt with the actual manufacturers of the e-liquid and the devices,” Freeze said.

Some say many of the smaller companies, and even some of the larger companies, that distribute e-cigarette products will be forced to shut down because they will not be able to afford to have their merchandise approved by the FDA. Freeze said the regulations would create less options and higher prices.

“The impact it’ll have over time, just to deal with these compliance issues, it will cause the cost to the user to go up because all the manufacturers will have to raise all their prices to satisfy all the compliance requirements,” Freeze said. “Some manufactures will leave the marketplace because they won’t have the resources to comply with all the regulatory requirements.”

He said the regulations become costly because manufactures have to file the products with the FDA and hire more employees to make sure regulation requirements are met.

Freeze said the biggest misconception is that people think e-cigarette proponents want no regulations on the product.

“We want there to be regulations so everybody’s protected and its safe,” Freeze said. “Nobody wants to serve anybody a harmful product.”

One thing that will not be restricted is the different sweet and fruity e-liquid flavors that some say are the reason why younger people get into smoking e-cigarettes.

“While this regulation represents an important step forward, the FDA must now use the full force of its authority to maximize our potential to reduce tobacco’s deadly impact. This includes addressing the egregious marketing practices and use of flavors in these products,” Hughes said.