The FDA is making proposals to regulate Electronic cigarettes, and – some people fear – would like to ban them altogether. Electronic cigarettes have been available to purchase since 2006, although only first became available in the US in 2008. They are manufactured in China by five major corporations who between them produce some 200 brands.
E-Cigs work by heating liquid nicotine which then becomes a vapor and is inhaled by the user. The big claim is that they are safer than tobacco cigarettes because they don’t contain tar and dozens of other harmful ingredients of tobacco.
Smokers have jumped on the bandwagon for this reason and only a few short years after their introduction there are millions of users worldwide.
However, the government now wants to prohibit their sale to minors, to ensure that E-Cigs come with health warnings and “appropriate” labeling, and, in particular, prevent manufacturers from claiming that they are healthier than tobacco products.
As the FDA sees it there is no scientific evidence that E-Cigs help smokers to cut down or quit smoking tobacco (which is what many smokers claim) and there is very little evidence that they are any safer. In fact, there is a concern that they may cause smokers to continue with their habit.
The other big worry with minors is that the advertising may cause young people to take up smoking E-Cigs in the belief that they are harmless and then lead them on to smoking tobacco products. Additionally, the cost of the nicotine liquid for E-Cigs is far less than that of tobacco cigarettes and may encourage people into the smoking habit for that reason as well.
The FDA wants manufacturers to be required to use health warning labels advising that nicotine is an addictive chemical, and also to register their products with the agency and disclose all of the ingredients. On top of that, it is planning to forbid the use of words such as “mild” or “light” in advertising.
In further proposed restrictions, manufacturers and distributors would be banned from handing out free samples and also from selling products in vending machines (which would mean that minors would be able to purchase them) unless those machines were only available to adults – for example, in a bar.
It seems that there is going to be a battle, for the E-Cig market has become very big very quickly. Total sales for 2013 were estimated at over $2 billion and rising rapidly. In the short term the industry will probably continue without too much in the way of restriction, but looming in the distance is the probability of action in the courts.