FDA To Regulate E-Cigarettes

The FDA has announced its plan to extend tobacco regulations to include e-cigarettes as well as other tobacco products such as hookahs, pipe tobacco, little cigars and premium cigars. Previously the laws only enforced the regulation of traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

The new rule will not come into effect immediately as companies require a grace period in which to comply with the new stipulations.

“This action is a milestone in consumer protection — going forward, the FDA will be able to review new tobacco products not yet on the market, help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, and communicate the potential risks of tobacco products,” says Dr Robert Califf, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA’s Investigation Period

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The FDA’s investigation period included the hosting of three public workshops in order to collect data regarding the possible health impact of these devices on the public. The workshops aimed to identify the possible risks and health benefits of e-cigarettes when correctly utilized. They focused specifically on an analysis of the number of chemicals and nicotine that are inhaled during use. The period for public commentary closed on 2nd July 2015, after which the agency conducted a review of 130 000 comments in order to inform their final rule.

Health Studies Conducted on E-Cigarettes:

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The Royal College of Physicians published a study in 2014 which suggested that e-cigarettes were an effective and affordable alternative to regular cigarettes which could reduce the harmful impacts of smoking.  The American Lung Association responded by announcing e-cigarettes as a long sort after step in the interests of protecting public health.

However, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concerned that e-cigarettes have become a gateway to real cigarettes in minors. While e-cigarette use amongst adults had gone up 12,6% by 2014, it has tripled among teens in the last year alone. Research has also found that teens who use e-cigarettes are three times more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes a year on. This problem is magnified by the fact that not all American states forbid the sale of e-cigarettes to, as the current laws do not prevent this – something which the new regulations aim to fix.

Child-Resistant Packaging:

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The new regulations will also enforce child-resistant packaging. This comes after the CDC condicted research in 2104 which indicated that the number of calls to poison centres about e-cigarettes has increased exponentially, with the majority of calls concerning incidents which involved children under the age of five.

“At last the Food and Drug Administration will have basic authority to make science-based decisions that will protect our nation’s youth and the public health from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah,” Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the association, said in a statement.

This could possibly bring about changes to those products which advertise kid-friendly flavours such as gummy bear and cookies and cream.

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The new regulations will also allow the American government to monitor what goes into the products. This will give the government the authority to create laws mandating that manufacturers must tell you what you are inhaling when you purchase one of their products – something which has not yet been implemented.

“This important final regulation puts several strong provisions in place that will serve to protect the public health and rein in an unscrupulous industry,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “There are thousands of products on the market.

Will E-cigarettes Be Regulated in South Africa?

We spoke to professor Michael Herbst, a health specialist representing CANSA, to find out whether or not the regulation of e-cigarettes is in the works in S.A:

“We are awaiting the new Regulations on Tobacco Products to be promulgated by the Minister of Health. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) has lobbied the Minister to treat e-cigarettes and hookah pipes exactly the same as other tobacco products.”

“Nicotine has already been classified as a Schedule 3 medicine under the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act. This means that e-cigarettes may only be sold in pharmacies and  on prescription of a medical practitioner. However, South Africa is known as a country with the most up-to-date legislation – BUT lacks the ability (and sometimes political will) to adequately implement and police such legislation,” says Professor Herbst.

“Tobacco products may also not be advertised – however, I am sure that many people have been into a café where the most elaborate advertisements for cigarettes don the surface area of the serving deck. There is no one to police this and the tobacco industry gains in the process,” explains Professor Herbst.

Will South Africa regulate e-cigarettes? – yes, we are certain that the Minister of Health will eventually promulgate the new regulations. Whether it is going to happen soon, is another question. There are local authority elections scheduled for 3 August and one is not sure whether the Government is prepared to announce some ‘unpopular’ regulations immediately before the elections,” he says.