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FDA proposes rules to regulate electronic cigarettes

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | APRIL 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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The federal government proposed regulating electronic cigarettes on Thursday after a long-awaited review. But those who research the issue, despite some gains, were disappointed the actions did not go far enough.

The Food and Drug Administration classified e-cigarettes under existing federal law, which then allowed it to propose a host of changes to how the nicotine-carrying cylinders are regulated.

Those proposed changes include:

• Banning sales to minors and requiring customers to show IDs;
• Requiring manufactures to include health warnings on their products;
• Manufacturers could only make direct or indirect claims about e-cigarettes reducing risks if the FDA finds research to back up the assertion and the “marketing the product would benefit public health as a whole”;
• Manufacturers would have to register with the FDA and report product and ingredient lists.

The proposed rules generated a lackluster response from three people who research the issue.

Chastising the FDA for not doing more to restrict advertising and flavors, which the researchers say are thinly veiled attempts to lure in young people.

Stanton Glantz, the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at University of California-San Francisco, said the proposal was “pathetic,” and the FDA consistently favored manufacturers over public health.

“It’s hard to believe on its own FDA recommended something this bad,” he said. “At each stage between pro-health and pro-business, the government sided with businesses.”

An expert who leads specialized research at Stanford into tobacco advertising said by not addressing advertising and flavor regulations now, the FDA is leaving numerous generations at risk.

“We can’t wait another three or four years to start to contain these things,” said Robert Jackler, a principal investigator at Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising.

Jackler said advertising appeals to young people, which then gets them hooked on nicotine and in turn stay addicted through their adult lives.

Central Iowa E-Cigarettes owner Corey Halfhill said banning flavors or advertising of e-cigarettes would be unfairly singling the product out when many alcohol products do the same thing.

Some stores in Iowa already restrict access to minors and ID anyone they think may be underage.

Halfhill said he put the policy in place for his three stores, because nicotine has detrimental effects on young people.

Both Jackler and Glantz said banning access to minors was a no-brainer and is something with wide support already.

Halfhill is also leading the push to enact legislation in Iowa. He has hired a lobbyist to represent Iowans For Alternatives To Smoking and Tobacco as House File 2109 moves through the statehouse.

The bill passed the Iowa House 76-22 on Feb. 11 and passed a Senate committee with unanimous support on March 13. Since then, numerous amendments have been proposed as Democrats push for the legislation to go ban e-cigarettes with and without nicotine.

The FDA’s proposal marks just the first step in what could be a long review process.  Glantz and Jackler also agree legal action will most likely happen after the 75-day comment period and resulting review process.

Glantz said given how long it will take for the proposed rules to go into effect, the best option remains at the state and local level.

“States should not end their efforts if they are pursing good legislation,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing if [various actions create a patch work of laws], because it’s better to have some parts of the country address this in a good way as opposed to having nothing at all.”


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