FDA Continues Work To Develop E-Cig Standards
Earlier this spring, the Food and Drug Administration released details on their plans to regulate electronic cigarettes. This week, the FDA’s tobacco chief said they are still hard at work developing appropriate e-cig standards to protect public health. The FDA has a challenging task ahead to determine regulatory standards that can withstand potential legal challenges.
The Center for Tobacco Products director, Mitchell Zeller, said the FDA is focusing on three key areas to develop appropriate standards. They are most interested in toxicity, addiction, and product appeal. While some have speculated that the FDA would be sluggish in implementing any changes, Zeller said that regulating ecigs is one of his division’s major priorities.
Zeller told the American Legacy Foundation that the FDA has to really examine the potential consequences of any nicotine delivery device. “It’s not the nicotine that kills half of all long-term smokers, it’s the delivery mechanism,” he said. “We have to recognize some of these realities and figure out how they can impact regulatory policy.”
Based on the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, the FDA has full authority to ban or restrict e-cigs as long as they can support the decision with scientific evidence. In the previous announcement of upcoming regulation, the FDA said they would ban ecig sales to minors and require companies to undergo intense product approvals to guarantee they met appropriate safety standards. At this point, the FDA does not intend to restrict e-liquid flavors or ban advertising and online sales.
Zeller emphasized that it’s important to have “an open mind” in regards to electronic cigarettes and any other emerging technology. “We share the concerns about marketing of e-cigarettes to kids,” he said. “We share the concerns that flavors certainly look like they would be appealing to kids; but let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture here – tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease principally because of the ongoing use of products that burn tobacco.”
For now, e-liquid flavors are here to stay, but Zeller hinted that the FDA is considering a menthol regulation in the future. He insisted that the agency takes great consideration of comments from the public when making any decisions. “We are seriously considering all the comments as we consider our regulatory options. We can only go as far as the science will take us.”
So far, the FDA’s position on e-cigarettes appears to be somewhat lenient on the surface, but vague language could open doors for major crackdowns in the future. We will keep you posted as regulations develop.