The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and Public Health Officials have been consistent in their views on the use of electronic cigarettes, since they appeared on the market several years ago. The FDA’s legal battle to obtain the right to regulate the production and sale of electronic cigarettes in the USA under the provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act achieved some success in April 2011. The US Court of Appeals in Washington DC ruled in favor of the FDA’s Argument that electronic cigarette products can be regulated as tobacco products under the Act.
The FDA’s Arguments
The FDA’s arguments for regulations have centered around their concerns about the types of ingredients and the levels used in the production of the electronic cigarette. Secondly, the lack of control and regulations on the sale of electronic cigarettes in the USA, since they came onto the market several years ago.
• The FDA argued that until the electronic cigarette producers were obliged to provide evidence of their research and trials, the safety of the products remained in question. In particular, the lack of control measure on the amount of nicotine used and the mixture and strength of all the ingredients in an electronic cigarette were of great concerns. The level of what could be harmful ingredients in the product could vary significantly from one producer to another.
• The FDA argued that the methods used to promote and present e cigs to the public were misleading. They said that by providing various sweet or fruit flavors and color choices the cigarette producers were making the product more appealing to children. As there was no legal age limit preventing children from purchasing these products it was more likely that children would buy them. The fact that they claim to be more cost effective than regular cigarettes adds to the attraction for adults and makes them more in the financial reach of children.
• Due to the lack of relevant information many user’s may be under the misapprehension that electronic cigarettes are completely safe and non-addictive and are an aid designed to help them stop smoking regular cigarettes. Users need to be informed that the nicotine content can be addictive and the risks attached to any of the other chemicals used.
The Industries Arguments
The response from the electronic cigarette manufacturers was to defend their products and the way in which they are promoted and sold to the general public.
• They argued that the FDA had no right to regulate their product or the ingredients used, as it was not a tobacco related product. It was a battery operated piece of equipment, and although it was designed to look like a cigarette it does not contain tobacco.
• As a responsible manufacturer they advise their retail outlets, suppliers and customers that their products are marketed for use by adults over 18 years of age only.
• They argued that they take safety seriously and inform their customers openly about the nicotine content of their electronic cigarettes. They disputed the claim that some of the ingredients can be toxic to humans and point out that propylene glycol has FDA approval for use in many food products.
The US Court of Appeal in Washington DC ruled in favor of the FDA request to regulate electronic cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The FDA is currently working towards a strategy to implement regulations to cover the electronic cigarette industry.