The looming regulation from the FDA for e-cigarettes is a double edged sword. While regulation stands to cripple the e-cigarette industry by placing lengthy and time-consuming regulation standards on the manufacturers; regulation also stands to help grow the industry, before the naysayers knock it down.
The World Health Organization came out recently with a report that encouraged regulation and favored bans on the use of e-cigarette devices. Currently, 42 states have passed bans on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Also, numerous counties, cities, and other municipalities have passed their laws banning the public use and in some cases even the sales of electronic cigarette devices.
What is happening is that everyone is scrambling to make laws and regulations that are clearly needed, and they are doing so without the help of the FDA. What this is creating is a society of questions and fear. With so many reports coming from so many different places, and reporters spinning the truth to encourage their agenda, people are forced to make their opinions on e-cigarettes off of uncertain and unreliable sources.
One benefit of regulation is a common and shared sense of what an e-cigarette is, how it can be used, what we really should be concerned with and who is allowed to by it. Without a clear consensus from a reputable source, e-cigarettes stand to be ostracized or even worse vilified, before regulation has even begun. How can we, as towns, as cities decide what regulations should be when even the FDA hasn’t yet?
One fact everyone can agree on is that more research is needed in the field of e-cigarettes. Since they are such a new device, the long-term studies simply do not exist. Without proof of its entire effects, it is hard to set restrictions for the product that clearly need to be regulated differently than a traditional cigarette.
There are other more pressing reasons why regulation simply cannot wait. Youth in 8 different states is still allowed to purchase e-cigarettes. In Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Oregon the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is not outlawed, though it should be noted that business owners can choose to restrict sales.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, commented on the need for common sense regulation. He claims the lack of regulation comes as these states “cannot bring themselves to craft a clean bill that bans sales to minors and does nothing more. Instead, anti-e-cigarette lawmakers have lauded their bills with extra language designed to broadly – and unwisely – crack down on e-cigarettes by confusing them with harmful tobacco products.”
This year Connecticut and Rhode Island passed new laws that banned e-cigarette sales to minors, but in their language they defined the products as “electronic nicotine delivery systems.” This shows an understanding of a significant point regarding e-cigarettes; they are not tobacco products, they are technology products. Also, when used as cessation devices, they are also anti-tobacco products.
Regulation does not necessarily scare e-cigarette manufacturers. However, many of the businesses manufacturing e-cigarettes do run a risk of being squeezed out when regulation hits. Smaller companies will find it more difficult to maintain the man power needed for products to go through the regulation process, and these businesses may suffer, or even close. Meanwhile their competition, big tobacco, will have the manpower and funds to cope when faced with the same regulation red tape. Still, the e-cigarette industry as a whole is eager for their product to be properly represented. Conley writes: “The industry — which is made up of small- and medium-sized businesses, many of which are family-owned – is eager to work with lawmakers and regulators to make sure they have the most accurate, up-to-date information available as the basis for smart, sensible regulation.”
Perhaps the problem is with the unprecedented growth of the e-cigarette industry. Their popularity has grown at such a pace that lawmakers and regulators simply cannot keep up. Without a strong common consensus on the effects of e-cigarettes the industry is becoming fed up with lawmakers and regulators who do not understand the how e-cigarettes work and are unfairly grouping them with tobacco products, when they are truly anti-tobacco devices if anything.
Lumping the e-cigarette with its combustible counterparts will make it harder for those looking for a tobacco substitute to cut down on their smoking, or even those looking to quit all together. Having e-cigarettes looked at as tobacco products will also hurt the small businesses, that will likely already be crippled by the needs of regulation. Regulations that will undoubtedly be lengthier and more intensive, if the e-cigarette is deemed a tobacco product, rather than a technology product.
Regulation is important for any product that is manufactured and distributed to the public, which is why organizations like the Federal Food & Drug Administration exist. Regulation is designed to improve our lives, and in a lot of ways, the regulation for e-cigarettes has the potential to do just that. By creating a common consensus of what an e-cigarette is, regulation could help to squash the outlandish reports and curb unnecessary bans, thus creating an environment where the technological device of an e-cigarette could grow. Also, regulation could also help ensure that there are the proper restrictions on youth use and inappropriate indoor use. However, if e-cigarettes are harshly regulated and grouped together with combustible tobacco products, the devices could become more expensive, more restricted, and more difficult to obtain even for those wishing to use e-cigarettes as a cessation device. The business of e-cigarettes is hinging on what the FDA will do next; we can just hope what they do is the right thing.
These bans are coming before there is significant evidence of the health effect, or lack thereof, of e-cigarettes being used in public places. The FDA is still struggling to regulate these devices, but that doesn’t stop people from getting on the negative bandwagon.