Well, this came a lot faster than I expected. I expected the announcement next week.
As fully expected, the Food and Drug Administration today announced that it intends to ban the sales of e-cigarettes to minors. The sales ban is part of a series of e-cigarette regulations proposed by the FDA. The regulations will be finalized after a 75-day comment period, but I expect few changes.
Here’s the upshot of the new regulations.
The big one. No more e-cig sales to minors under the age of 18. This is really important. Because e-cigs have been completely unregulated, “vaping” has become more and more popular with kids, because frankly, it’s a lot less hassle for kids to get their hands on a e-cigs rather than cigarettes. According to the CDC, the percentage of kids under 18 using e-cigs double from around 5 percent in 2011 to around 10 percent in 2012. That’s alarming. I’m guessing that number is approaching 20 percent today.
While e-cigs may not be as toxic as cigarettes, they still contain nicotine, which is incredibly addictive, so c-cigs, when used by kids as a substitute for cigarettes, are addicting kids to nicotine. E-cigs might be fine for someone trying to quit smoking, but not for some 16-year-old to use instead of tobacco.
Other new regulations are no more free samples, a ban on vending machine sales in any business open to minors, a mandated disclosure of all ingredients in e-cigs and a mandated warning label that nicotine is physically addictive.
The one disappointment to me is there are no proposed restrictions on e-cigarette advertising. I think the advertising has been fairly out of control similar to what was going on with cigarettes 30 years ago. E-cigs are being made to look cool and sexy to kids, and there have even been e-cigs ads using women’s panties and Santa Claus.
Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids issued a statement with understandably mixed sentiments, taking the FDA to task for taking so long to develop these regs (three years) and urging them to address marketing to kids in the future. However, CTFK is pleased that there is a ban for sales to kids.
However, I also acknowledge that restrictions on advertising may have run into some First Amendment issues. Perhaps the FDA didn’t want to deal with the headaches of First Amendment lawsuits. The FDA CAN enforce advertising restrictions for tobacco products because the tobacco companies agreed to those restrictions in the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. In that agreement, Big Tobacco agreed to not use cartoon characters (like Joe Camel … or Santa Claus, etc.) to promote its products. I honestly do not know how much power they have to restrict marketing of e-cigs.
Anyway, like I said, the big one is ending the sales of e-cigs to minors. That crap had to be cracked down on. We don’t need a new generation of nicotine addicts being created, no matter what the delivery system. The other big fear I have with e-cigs being sold to kids, and I wonder how often this has happened, is kids getting the bright idea to directly use the liquid nicotine that comes in vials along with the e-cigs. Seriously, I could just see 13- and 14-year-olds trying that. That liquid nicotine in its concentrated form is highly poisonous and powerful.