FDA Releases Rule That Regulates E-Cigarettes, Other Tobacco Products

May 05, 2016|4:21 p.m.| Scott Briscoe

As of right now, in many parts of the country, a 15-year-old can legally go into a business establishment and fill his or her lungs with chocolate-flavored tobacco smoke from a hookah pipe. A 13-year-old could scrape together babysitting money and purchase watermelon-flavored e-cigarettes from one of those vaping stores popping up all over the place in suburban strip malls.

That changes in 90 days. Today the FDA asserted its authority over “all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco, among others.” People under 18 will no longer be able to purchase these products after the 90-day wait period and the new rule changes go into effect.

“ASTHO joins many in the public health community in welcoming FDA’s final rule today extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” says ASTHO Interim Executive Director Sharon Moffatt. “While there is much work to be done, the decline in smoking in the United States is a public health success story. Getting people addicted to nicotine via e-cigarettes or flavored tobacco products threatens to reverse the gains we have made, but the actions taken this week by the FDA and California will help us continue to write that success story.”

In an unrelated tobacco regulation event, yesterday California joined Hawaii as the only states that have increased the age at which people can purchase tobacco and related products (including e-cigarettes) to 21.

All of these actions are aimed at worrisome trends. While the smoking rate has been declining for several decades, there has been a rapid increase in the number of youth using alternatives to cigarettes. From 2011 to 2015, use of e-cigarettes among high schoolers surged from 1.5 percent to 16 percent—a 900 percent increase.

In addition to the age restrictions, FDA’s new rule also requires photo ID age verification, eliminates sale of tobacco products by vending machines except in adult-only facilities, eliminates distribution of free samples, and places testing and marketing restrictions on the newly regulated products (with exceptions for products that have been on the market since 2007).

Scott Briscoe is senior director, communications at ASTHO.