What is taking the FDA so long to make a decision on e-cigarettes?

man late looking to his watch
Oh God, I’ve finally resorted to using lame clip art. I’ve gone to the Dark Side.

The other day, I was wondering, “what the hell is going on with the Food and Drug Administration and e-cigarettes, it’s been forever since I last heard.”

So, a quick Google and found stories stating that I’m not the only one out there wondering, “what the hell?”

Over a year ago, the FDA released its proposed regulations for e-cigarettes. The agency received so many comments about the draft regs that the comment period was extended. Over a year later, we’re still waiting for a response.

TIME.com stock photos
TIME.com stock photos

The FDA did one right thing in its draft regulations, which was to ban all e-cig sales to minors (42 states have already banned e-cig sales to minors, but this is not slowing their popularity with kids.). However, in the draft regs, the agency completely punted on regulating sugary candy flavours for e-cigs (Even though the FDA banned sugary, candy-flavoured cigarettes) and ignored regulating e-cig marketing (Again … even though the federal government has strict guidelines for tobacco advertising, like no more Joe Camels.).

Many of the comments the FDA received were outrage over the lack of regs over flavourings and marketing. I’m not sure how to read the long delay for the final regs, I’d like to think it’s taking so long because they’re making a lot of changes, but I’m not that naive to think a federal agency is actually going to listen to the public.).

Last week, 31 public health organizations urged the FDA to stop dawdling and taking action. In the past year since the FDA has been working on the final version of the regulations, teen e-cigarette use has skyrocketed (It literally has more than tripled since 2013, which is hard to believe.). These groups agree that regs regarding marketing and flavouring need to be stronger than what was in the draft rules (I feel very strongly that the feds need to crack down on the out-of-control Joe Camelesque advertising for e-cigs, and I’m starting to feel more strongly about them banning the candy flavours, too.):

From a Time.com article:

The medical groups say cigar and e-cigarette brands are using marketing tactics that they feel appeal directly to young people, like promoting candy and fruit-flavored products, and they want regulations to put an end to it.

“It’s no wonder use of e-cigarettes by youth has skyrocketed,” the letter reads. “This process has already taken far too long. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to target our kids with a new generation of tobacco products.”

 

“My concern is always the first-time users,” says Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s bad it took so long to make a dent in [conventional] tobacco users, and we are now starting something else, and we are just waiting and waiting and waiting. We don’t have the data that e-cigarettes are a gateway [to other tobacco products], so we just wait. It should not be like that.”

Noted tobacco control advocate Stanton Glantz sounds like he’s in the same boat with me about the FDA, given the agency’s track record so far with tobacco. (The FDA gained regulatory control over tobacco products in 2009.)

“Given that the White House has blocked eliminating menthol from cigarettes for years despite strong evidence—including from the FDA’s own analysis that doing so would protect public health—I am not holding my breath,” Glantz said.

I mean, I expected the FDA to begin actually regulating nicotine when it took over tobacco regulation six years ago, and other than banning candy flavours  for cigarettes and bidis, it hasn’t done all that much with nicotine. This agency moves glacially slow. It’s frustrating.

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