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FDA Extends Its Authority Over Tobacco Products & E-Cigarettes, Leaving Loopholes

Statement of ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new rules that will extend its regulatory authority to include electronic cigarettes as well as cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, water pipe tobacco and hookahs.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) applauds the FDA’s action in taking this critical step. The FDA’s proposal extends regulations to prohibit free samples, vending machine sales, and outdoor advertising to all tobacco products. The proposal also prohibits sales of electronic cigarettes to those under 18 and would require producers to disclose ingredients, manufacturing processes, and data to the FDA. This step will provide the FDA and the tobacco control community with important information that will help determine the health effects of electronic cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes have grown immensely in popularity in recent years and have not been subject to federal regulation. While the FDA proposal is an important step, ASH is disappointed that the proposal does not include the regulation of the marketing of e-cigarettes nor the banning of flavors, such as bubble gum, that specifically target young people. Even if electronic cigarettes prove to be an effective tool for adults who are trying to quit, they should not be marketed to children. ASH urges the FDA to put these important regulatory issues back on the table.

Greater federal regulation of non-cigarette tobacco products is also long overdue. As society has worked to reign in the devastating health impact of cigarette smoking, the tobacco industry has used legal loopholes to addict new generations of nicotine addicts through small cigars, nicotine-containing candy, and other tobacco products. These loopholes must be closed, and ASH urges the FDA to leave no exemptions, such as the proposed exemption for premium cigars.

The FDA has given 75 days for public comment on these proposed rules. We can be sure that the tobacco industry and their allies will be working hard to blunt FDA’s attempt to fight the tobacco epidemic. ASH urges public health groups and anyone concerned about tobacco and nicotine addiction to make their voices heard.