e-Cigarette Rules on the Way

Electronic cigarette manufacturers, health professionals, and users are anticipating the release of Food and Drug Administration guidelines regarding use of the products. In 2009, Congress delegated power to the FDA to govern tobacco products. While the agency now has the authority to require warning labels and ingredient lists to be placed on packaging, the law did not assign the FDA power to place an outright ban on tobacco products. Despite growing concerns that e-cigarette devices may contain harmful chemicals and that advertising may target teens, the expectation is that the FDA’s first ruling will not be strict.

Those who favor stricter regulation of the electronic smoking devices argue that failure to enact regulations in earlier years has resulted in the market growing in an uncontrolled manner, which has led people to use the products to continue smoking instead of quitting the harmful habit.

Now, more than 250 brands of e-cigarettes are available. The devices work by heating up a mixture of water, propylene glycol, nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals. Manufacturers are currently not required to list the ingredients included in their products. As a result, most experts are hopeful that the FDA will at least require that all ingredients be listed on product packaging. Other items on health professionals’ wish lists include a ban or limitation on ads, especially those that target teens and children, and a minimum age requirement of 18 years for purchasing e-cigarettes.

The FDA previously attempted to place limitations on the devices by labeling them as medical devices. However, tobacco companies challenged the regulation in court and won in federal appeals court. As a result, e-cigarettes are regulated as tobacco products.

As of 2013, e-cigarette sales reached approximately $2 billion. The price of the products ranges from approximately $10 to $20, with some products lasting for more recharges than others. Although some studies suggest e-cigarettes may be used to help smokers quit, the overall findings are still inconclusive. A representative from the World Lung Foundation commented that if manufacturers believed e-cigarettes could help smokers quit smoking, they would have marketed their products as effective smoking cessation aids from the beginning.