On Thursday, April 24, 2014, the FDA plans to formally announce the first regulations on e-cigarettes. According to a report by NBC News this is just the framework for the coming regulations. The rule however, will immediately disallow sales to anyone under the age of 18 and will require makers of e-liquids to report to the FDA the ingredients that are used to make them.
“They would have to report to us the constituents of their products and also how they are making them,” said FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
For now, advertising on television commercials and selling on the internet will still be allowed.
“It’s like the wild, wild West,” Hamburg said. “Companies can do whatever they want and they can market however they want.”
There are still a lot of questions surrounding the e-cigarette industry as there is still a lot of research that needs to be performed. The American Heart Association weighed in with their opinion.
"The tobacco industry are very vigorously looking at alternative products to smoking tobacco and are betting a lot that this will be a product for them that will be viable in the future," said American Heart Association president Dr. Mariell jessup. "It’s being marketed a lot that the smoke is harmless and we don’t know that. We shouldn't be fooled by the promises that these devices, these nicotine delivery systems, are safe."
The main ingredient everyone seems to be concerned about is the nicotine that is contained in the e-liquid. There have also been questions about another ingredient propylene glycol. Since there has not been enough research conducted there are concerns about the long-term effects these ingredients have when inhaled repeatedly by those who are vaping e-cigarettes.
“We don’t know as much about the safety and risks of e-cigarettes and that is why we want to be able to regulate them,” Hamburg told NBC News. “The current situation is of great concern to us,’ she added. “It is an unregulated environment with respect to these products.”
There are also concerns that candy and desert flavors are being marketed to kids. “They are an easy way for kids to take up a nicotine habit and then go on to cigarettes and other tobacco products that we know carry very serious risks,” Hamburg said.
Announcing Thursday's proposal is just the start of the process for the FDA. Once the proposal is published the public and e-cigarette industry will have time to weigh in with comments and concerns. The FDA will then have to consider those comments before making a final decision. This is a process that could take several months or even years before the regulations actually go into effect.
“We want to move as quickly as we can but it is a process and it will take time,” Hamburg said. “We think the fact that we are beginning the process is important.”
The electronic cigarette industry has taken off in the past couple of years with sales hitting an estimated $2 Billion in 2013 and many analyst predict sales will surpass those of current tobacco sales in the next quarter century. It will be interesting to see what types of e-cigarette regulations will follow in the coming months and years.