IT was last year that the FDA first introduced their proposal for regulation of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Ever since that time it seems that people are scrambling to enforce regulations, bans and restriction on the use and sale of electronic cigarettes. Just recently, for instance, the Bay Area Rapid Transit in the San Francisco has announced their ban on the use of e-cigarettes on their trains. The state of Connecticut is now discussing regulation on e-cigarettes as well. In fact currently 42 states have passed bans or some sort of regulation in relation to e-cigarettes. In addition, numerous counties, cities and other municipalities have passed their own laws banning public use and in some cases even the sales of electronic cigarette devices. But if the FDA still hasn’t released their requirements, why is there such a rush to regulate e-cigarettes?
More often than not, most regulation for items we ingest, like food, medicines, or traditional cigarettes, come from the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Their guidelines are what lead the manufacturers into safe practices that exist for the benefit and safety of the consumer. These regulations are what put those Surgeon General’s Warnings on that old cigarette pack, or that safety tamper seal on your bottle of aspirin. They are in general, things that help keep us safer, and it would be nice if e-cigarette regulation could do that as well.
The problem is, the scientific information needed to justify regulation and warning labels is simply not there. When the FDA enacted their regulation over cigarettes in 2009, it was already well established what the dangers of cigarettes were. Even in 1965 when cigarettes were first required to print Surgeon General’s warnings on the packaging, the research was already solid. Bans and further regulation came years later, as we began to understand the risks that were possible with first and second hand smoke.
In the rush to regulate, many states, cities and counties are supposing what they believe to be the truth about e-cigarettes, perhaps just hearing the word “cigarette” is what misleads people. E-cigarettes are naturally grouped with their combustible counterparts, but they are in fact so very different. E-cigarettes offer a much lower risk, perhaps no risk at all, alternative to smoking that still delivers nicotine to the user in an enjoyable way. That does not a cigarette make, however, many still see the devices, see the vapor, and think well if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck. Vapers, however, know the difference.
Unfortunately, e-cigarettes seem to just get vilified as if they are the worst invention since the cigarette itself. Many critics attempt to claim that e-cigarettes are gateway devices, using their attractive flavors to lure teens into vaping and eventually turn them into smokers. This has forced some pretty serious reaction from many youth center groups and organization. Some schools are now even treating e-cigarettes as if they were drug paraphernalia, handing down the same harsh punishments for having a vaping device as they would for having a marijuana pipe. There is so much fear that children will begin vaping that many critics would even go so far as to say they would want to remove the devices from the market altogether.
Studies are showing, however, that while youth use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, kids aren’t at all interested in the flavors. The rise in youth use can be simply attributed to the rise in overall use of the devices. As vaping stores crop up on corners all over the country and use continues to grow it is only natural to see the use rise in teen and adolescents, in fact the number of smokers of traditional cigarettes is also on the decline, suggesting that many are simply vaping instead of smoking. While no one wants kids to use any sort of nicotine, the fact that smoking is down is a positive side effect that cannot be denied.
The rush to regulate is tied almost inextricably to the youth issue. There are 8 states that do not have regulations in place regarding youth purchasing e-cigarette products, though many stores in these states still reserve the right to restrict sales to minors. Many states that have passed regulation have combined bans and restrictions which causes a certain discord for voters. Most will feel strongly that there should be an age restriction in place, therefore whatever regulations are tied to the age issue generally get passed with the youth restrictions. In combination with whatever various bans have been enacted in different cities and counties all over the country, these regulations create a sizable headache for the e-cigarettes industry and for e-cigarette users as they try and navigate a world where vaping rules change depending on where you are standing.
That is one of the reasons why FDA regulation is so vitally important. With FDA regulation we may be able to halt the countless efforts of different regulation from various sources and create one overall standard for the entire industry. This would help the states from feeling rushed to make their own restrictions, and helping voters from feeling they have to pass other restrictions they may not agree with.
While FDA regulation does stand to create a mountain of paperwork for the industry manufacturers, it could also help to tame the Wild West atmosphere that the lack of regulation creates. It was April 2014 that FDA first proposed e-cigarette regulation and in the meantime they have been facilitating a variety of workshops and groups as well as gathering research and creating a comprehensive collection of studies to aid in their efforts to create the proper regulation standards.
Even though regulation stands to cripple many smaller companies with their massive paperwork requirements, perhaps there is a benefit to stopping all the craziness that has come with no regulation from the FDA at all. However without the extensive research that is necessary to enact fair regulation it is unclear how the FDA’s regulations really will affect the industry in the long run. In a perfect world, all the research needed to prove the safety of long-term e-cigarette use would be available, however since it is not we can only hope that the FDA remains open and fair, but only time will tell.