(ANTIMEDIA) As people have taken up vaping in droves, it was only a matter of time before the joy police pulled up and slapped rules on the electronic substitute. This week, the Food and Drug Administration did exactly that when it announced U.S. tobacco regulations will be extended to e-cigarettes.
The latest era of prohibition, aimed at the fast-growing vaping industry, not only signifies the end for thousands of small business, but is a slap in the face to e-cig users who are trying to reduce their risk of harm. Unsurprisingly, Thursday’s ruling has led to vaping advocates accusing the FDA of gifting the market to Big Tobacco.
The FDA states the historic rule helps implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which is intended to allow the agency to improve public health and protect future generations. Until now, the act gave the FDA the power to regulate the industry, but e-cigs and other tobacco related products were left out.
The new ruling now gives the agency jurisdiction over all tobacco products in the US — including the $3 billion e-cigarette industry, which wasn’t previously under its control.
In April 2014, when the first proposal to extend authority over the products was launched, it attracted over 100,000 comments, and the FDA was forced to include lengthy responses in the final rule. Consequently, the 499-page rule has been broadened to include hookah and pipe tobacco, as well as premium and small cigars (among other products); it also banned the sale of e-cigs to individuals under 18.
In a press statement, Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell said, “We have more to do to help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth.” She said that while cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products has taken a drastic leap.
The Vape Debate
No matter where you turn, the vape debate is conflicting. With hundreds of brands and thousands of flavours, the smoke-free, tobacco-free substitute is either hailed as a successful harm reduction tool or a looming public health threat. As with anything, the importance of establishing who is behind any research, statements, and articles can never be underestimated — but it’s safe to assume that the electronic devices are less damaging to smokers than conventional cigarettes.
“Some harm from sustained exposure to low levels of toxins over many years may yet emerge, but the magnitude of these risks relative to those of sustained tobacco smoking is likely to be small,” the Royal College of Physicians wrote.
The only thing for sure so far is that evidence is limited regarding the long-term effects of e-cigs. At the same time, it remains to be seen whether they help people to give up smoking altogether, or how they will affect the use of other tobacco products.
While anti-tobacco groups have welcomed the FDA ruling as a step forward, e-cig advocates warn it could lead to the end of small businesses. Within two years, companies must submit premarket tobacco application papers with the FDA at a whopping estimated cost of $1 million or more for each flavour, nicotine strength, and device. Once applications are submitted, there is no guarantee they will get the green light.
Unsurprisingly, the crackdown means the increasingly popular market is likely to undergo significant changes that will include price hikes, reduced choice, more research, and the potential of an emerging black market as prohibition drives vaping underground.
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