Federal regulations pertaining to e-cigarettes and other tobacco products go into effect today. Among other things, the new rules should make it more difficult for minors to vape.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations cover electronic cigarettes, as well as cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco. Starting today, merchants will be prohibited from supplying free samples or selling these products to children under the age of 18. They will also have to request ID from customers who appear to be under the age of 27. E-cigarette sales via vending machines are also prohibited, unless they are located in an adult-only facility.
Any e-cigarette product marketed since 2007 will require FDA approval. Manufacturers can keep selling their products for two years while they prepare their applications. They’ll have an additional year’s reprieve while their products undergo review.
E-cigarettes have been available since 2007, and their manufacturers often market the devices as a way to help smokers kick their habit. The battery operated devices create an aerosol that delivers nicotine and flavorings to the user. However, critics say that vaping also deliver a mix of toxic chemicals, and they question manufacturers’ smoking cessation claims.
In 2009, the FDA revealed that its e-cig tests had detected “levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges.” More recently, a study published in Environmental Science and Technology discovered two additional carcinogenic chemicals in e-cigarette vapors.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use among high school students grew from 1.5% in 2011 to 16% in 2015. It is estimated that as many as 3 million middle and high school students use the devices.
“This final rule is a foundational step that enables the FDA to regulate products young people were using at alarming rates, like e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah tobacco, which had gone largely unregulated,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, said in May when the new rules were first announced.
While the FDA’s new regulations have been widely praised by the American Lung Association and other public health groups, e-cig manufacturers are less than enthusiastic. They have challenged the FDA in court, and are warning of the imminent demise of the industry.