The FDA Thinks Electronic Cigarettes Are Tobacco Products

The FDA has proposed new rules that would bring electronic cigarettes under its regulations for tobacco products, even though that's not exactly what they are.

The proposed rules we first heard about last night bring electronic nicotine delivery systems aka e-cigs under the exact same stringent rules as Marlboros. The new rules are open for comment for 75 days. According to the release:

Consistent with currently regulated tobacco products, under the proposed rule, makers of newly deemed tobacco products would, among other requirements:

—Register with the FDA and report product and ingredient listings;

—Only market new tobacco products after FDA review;

—Only make direct and implied claims of reduced risk if the FDA confirms that scientific evidence supports the claim and that marketing the product will benefit public health as a whole; and

—Not distribute free samples.

In addition, under the proposed rule, the following provisions would apply to newly "deemed" tobacco products:

—Minimum age and identification restrictions to prevent sales to underage youth;

—Requirements to include health warnings; and

—Prohibition of vending machine sales, unless in a facility that never admits youth.

The proposed rules fall firmly in line with the thinking behind recent public vaping bans that have been enacted everywhere from New York to Los Angeles. Even though electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, regulators seem intent on treating them as regular cigarettes because they contain nicotine and are conceptually linked to regular smoking.

The FDA's request for comment however, seems to acknowledge that ecigs and cigarettes are not actually one in the same.

The FDA seeks answers to the many public health questions posed by products, such as e-cigarettes, that do not involve the burning of tobacco and inhalation of its smoke, as the agency develops an appropriate level of regulatory oversight for these products. The FDA seeks comment in this proposed rule as to how such products should be regulated.

Of course the distinction is that e-cigs do not contain all the the many carcinogens that are in that tobacco smoke, and existing evidence suggests e-cigs don't cause death quite the way other tobacco products do. Still, nicotine is a drug and regulating e-cigs makes sense, but treating them as tobacco products is a bit inaccurate. [FDA]