Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The FDA Bans E-Cigarette Sales to Minors

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized new rules that lump e-cigarettes in with tobacco products, in effect giving the FDA full regulatory authority over e-cigarettes. As a consequence of that change, sales of e-cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 will now be banned. The new rules take effect in 90 days.

E-cigarettes don't contain tobacco. Nevertheless, health authorities have long argued that because they contain nicotine and other toxins they are not completely safe, and in any case they should not be available to children. Calling e-cigarettes tobacco products for purposes of regulation was an interesting move, because in addition to the ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, it means that manufacturers will be prevented from making misleading claims about their products and will need to disclose all ingredients to the FDA.

E-cigarette use among persons under 18 has risen dramatically in the past few years. Over the same time period the use of tobacco cigarettes by persons under 18 has declined slightly. Cause-and-effect? No one knows for sure, but there is some tantalizing evidence to suggest that it might be. One study reports that there was a small but statistically increase in smoking among underage teens in states that banned e-cigarette sales to minors, compared to states that have not banned e-cigarettes.

So, are e-cigarettes a good thing, or a bad thing? If they help current smokers to quit and/or reduce the rate at which young people begin smoking, that would be good. If they lead to a whole new generation of nicotine addicts or if we find that e-cigarettes' other ingredients are harmful to human health, that would be bad. It may be a few more decades before we know for sure

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