CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials with the Food and Drug Administration are working to expand the FDA’s authority and regulate additional tobacco products like electronic cigarettes along with cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, water pipe or hookah tobacco and dissolvables.
A public comment period on that proposed regulatory expansion for the evolving tobacco marketplace continues through July 9.
“None of these products are currently regulated by FDA. The only tobacco products that we regulate are cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll your own,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Policies, told MetroNews.
“We are proposing to regulate those products and make it illegal to sell any of these currently unregulated products to kids, make it illegal to sell any of these products in a vending machine — unless the vending machine is in an adult-only establishment. We’ve also proposed a series of health warning labels depending upon the category of product.”
With FDA regulations, the age limit to buy e-cigarettes and the other tobacco products could be set at 18 at least. Individual states could choose to implement a different age limit.
Manufacturers would also have to register their products and ingredients with the FDA and undergo a full FDA review before marketing new products. Currently, Zeller said there are many questions about what health risks e-cigarettes and the other products pose and, in some cases, how much nicotine or other chemicals are being inhaled.
Between 2011 and 2012, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the use of e-cigarettes among high school students more than doubled — from 4.7 percent to ten percent.
Zeller said the additional FDA regulatory authority is overdue.
“Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States and, especially in a state like West Virginia — where the smoking rates are way, way above the national average — this remains a major health problem,” said Zeller.