The U.S. Food and Drug is no longer willing to let e-cigs and other electronic delivery vehicles go unregulated, and proposed today to ban their sale to minors, require federal approval prior to going to market, and the inclusion of warning labels.

E-cigs

After three years….

Today’s announcement comes three years after the FDA said that they would regulate e-cigarettes. In addition to regulating e-cigs, the FDA is looking to add regulations to cigars, pipe tobacco, hookahs, and other products that deliver nicotine such as dissovable tobacco. The FDA already regulates cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other smokeless products as well as “roll-your-own” tobacco products.

For now, the administration won’t get in the way of advertising unless health claims are made, and it won’t ban the use of flavors, such as chocolate or cherry, that many believe are marketed to children.

“This is an important moment for consumer protection,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, noting tobacco remains “the leading cause of death and disease in this country.”

E-cigs are not traditional cigarettes

As a smoker who has cut down considerably through the use of “vaping,” it’s great to see action that doesn’t ignore the positives of these products. The rules will require manufacturers to disclose ingredients and obtain approval. Additionally, the FDA would ban vending-machine sales and free samples.

The rules are sure to hurt upstart and smaller producers who have until this point been able to go to market without government approval of their product. Something that can both take time and cost quite a bit of money that they might not have.

“Some of these regulations will be very restrictive,” said Ray Story, founder of industry group TVECA (Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association).

The debate over whether or not e-cigs will help smokers quit or simply provide an addictive chemical to adults and children alike will continue to rage for some time. I’ll add, in a nation with an obesity epidemic is the vaporizing of an appetite suppressant (nicotine) the worst thing?

Back in 2008, the FDA was looking to regulate e-cigs as drug-deliver devices. This changed in 2010 when a federal judge ruled that that would only be allowable if the manufacturer made therapeutic claims. Consequently in April 2011, the FDA changed tack and decided that going forward it would regulate e-cigs as tobacco products since nicotine is derived from tobacco leaves.

“It’s taken more than three years to issue a proposed rule, which we think is inexcusable,” said Vince Willmore of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-smoking group. “It’s allowed a Wild West marketplace with irresponsible marketing and no control over the product.”

That’s all well and good, but if I can slowly kill myself as an adult buying perfectly legal traditional cigarettes, why should I be forced to wait because groups like his insist on replacing parents?

The new regulations face a 75-day public comment period and further review.