by Rob Stein (NPR) and Rachel Dornhelm
The Food and Drug Administration Thursday proposed regulating e-cigarettes for the first time.
The agency unveiled a long-awaited rule that would give it power to oversee the increasingly popular devices, much in the way that it regulates traditional cigarettes.
“It’s a huge change,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters in a briefing before the official announcement of the agency’s plans. “We will have the authority as a science-based regulatory agency to take critical actions to promote and protect the health of the public.”
The proposal will be subject to public comment and further review by the agency before becoming final. But once that happens the rule would impose new restrictions, including:
- A ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors
- A prohibition on distributing free samples
- A ban on selling e-cigarettes in vending machines unless they are in places that never admit young people
- A requirement that e-cigarettes carry warnings that they contain nicotine, which is addictive
- E-cigarette manufacturers would be required to disclose the ingredients in their products
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), who has asked for congressional hearings on the topic, called the regulations today “long overdue.” In a statement today, she said she wants to see wider governmental control of the $2 billion industry, especially provisions that govern advertising to minors and former smokers.
“Although the proposed rule does make long awaited changes such as restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, there are important pieces missing — such as child-proof packaging. Too many children have ended up poisoned by the devices,” Speier said.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer also immediately responded to the FDA’s move and called for further action.
“Now it is time for the Administration to take the next important step by banning the outrageous marketing of e-cigarettes to our kids, including the use of candy flavors and cartoon advertisements that are shamelessly designed to lure and addict them,” Boxer wrote in an email statement.