FDA on Its Way to Regulating the $2 Billion Electronic-Cigarette Industry


Electronic cigarettes are taking the world by storm. Everywhere you look, someone is “vaping.” But with the FDA’s recently published document in the Federal Register, the agency is working to regulate the booming industry.

Not only is the FDA planning to regulate electronic cigarettes, it is also looking to include an “array of other products such as cigars, pipe tobacco and hookahs” as tobacco products under their new proposal, according to the Washington Post.

The regulation, if adopted by the government, would prohibit the sale of “covered tobacco products” to minors under the age of 18, require the display of health warnings on products’ packages and advertisements and demand disclosure of the ingredients, as written in the Federal Register. The $2-billion electronic cigarette industry, which has operated outside any federal regulations, could soon be deemed a “tobacco product” and therefore, subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

But the FDA’s proposal, which was published on Thursday in the Federal Register, falls short when it comes to stopping online sales and regulating television advertising, nor will it put a ban on flavored electronic cigarettes such as watermelon and grape, which many “tobacco-control advocates” said attracts young smokers. 

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices of the same size and shape of traditional cigarettes, which use a heating element to vaporize a liquid solution made from nicotine and other flavorings, which is then inhaled. While the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes are highly debated, many doctors and scientists believe they carry the risk of nicotine addiction along with other possible health risks such as cancer because of the toxins present in the liquid solution.

Since little was being done at the federal level up until Thursday and because of the possible health risks, many states acted alone in past years to ban e-cigarettes. And in 2013, New York City, New Jersey, Arkansas, Utah, North Dakota and California were among the states that banned the use of e-cigarettes in bars, restaurants, parks and many other public places where smoking is prohibited as a way to help protect people from the dangers of secondhand smoke.


While the FDA’s proposed regulation is the first of its kind at the federal level, the agency believes it is the first step in creating a “foundation for broader regulation in the future,” according to the Washington Post.

“It creates the framework,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a Washington Post article. “We’re calling this the first step…for the first time, there will be a science-based, independent regulatory agency playing a vital gate-keeping function.”

What will happen to this $2 billion industry?

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