Though it took awhile to get there, electronic cigarettes now will be regulated much like other tobacco products and their sale to children, one of the largest markets for e-cigs, will be banned.
The new federal rules, which have been in the works for more than six years, were announced last week and require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve all tobacco products, including hand-rolled cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco, and prohibit the sale of those products to people 18 or younger.
Adults younger than 26 will be required to show a photo identification to purchase them.
Much of the news has focused on e-cigs, which have been gaining in popularity the last several years, especially among young people as manufacturers churn out liquid nicotine in flavors such as bubble gum and chocolate chip cookie dough. A National Institutes of Health report says e-cigs have surpassed the popularity of traditional smoking among teens. And figures for Hoosier youth are even higher than the national average.
Despite the product being peddled as a less dangerous alternative to traditional cigarettes, little is known about the possible long-term health effects of vaping. Now, manufacturers will be required to disclose the ingredients in the juice. And they must allow government review of how the devices are made before they can be sold to adults in the United States.
The rules, which also prohibit the sale of e-cigs and other tobacco products in vending machines, fall short in some areas. The FDA chose not to limit flavorings right now, saying it would address that issue later.
And legislation working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives seeks to change the effective date so more e-cigarettes would be grandfathered in. Stores will be given three months to begin complying with the new rules.
Someday in the future researchers may determine that e-cigs are much safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. Until then, we must stick with what we do know: e-cigs contain an addictive substance (nicotine) that’s been linked to heart disease — and that is generally considered less safe for children and adolescents than for adults. For kids’ sake, that’s reason enough to cheer the new FDA rules.