FDA Finalizes Sweeping Rules Regulating the E-Cigarette Industry

After years of being largely unregulated, e-cigarette sales, production and marketing will now be overseen by the FDA

FDA Finalizes Sweeping Rules Regulating the E-Cigarette Industry
Image: Pixabay
May 5, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dealt a blow to the Wild West that is the e-cigarette industry by finalizing sweeping rules that would regulate the sale, marketing and production of vapor cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are now bound by the many of the same rules as traditional tobacco cigarettes, tightening up an industry that has seen very little regulation. The finalized rules ban the sale of e-cigarettes to people under 18 and requires producers of cigars and e-cigarettes to register with the FDA.

By registering, producers will be subject to FDA inspections and will have to provide the agency with product ingredients, manufacturing practices and scientific data. On the marketing end, companies can't give out free samples and can't market their products as light or mild unless OK'd by the FDA.

The FDA rules will take effect in 90 days.

E-cigarettes--also known as vapor cigarettes--have gone largely unregulated at the federal level since their entrance into the market less than a decade ago. States, however, have passed some of their own laws. In North Carolina, for example, e-cigarettes have been banned for sale to minors under 18 since 2013.

Supporters of e-cigarettes say that they're safer than traditional cigarettes and help people quit. Those on the other side say that while they might not have less chemicals than traditional cigarettes, they are nonetheless hazardous to a person's health. The science, however, seems to be mixed.

Opponents also point to the myriad of liquid nicotine flavors that are used with the cigarettes that make them appealing to teenagers who have flocked to the product in recent years. While the FDA did not put any flavor restrictions on liquid nicotine, earlier this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission was granted the authority to require bottles have child-resistant packaging.

As e-cigarettes have increased in popularity, so have the number of child poisonings. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 270 cases in 2011, but in 2014 that number exploded to 3,800.